Today I’m going to write about baseball. Why? Because I’m hopeful. Normally I’m only hopeful just before the Spring training games. Because it’s after that, at least over the last decade, or so, that things tend to go downhill for my team. You see, I’m a New York Mets fan. The first step, as I’m fully aware, is admitting you have a problem.
Normally I don’t get excited at this time of year. I’ve learned to temper my enthusiasm. Just when we think things might be looking up, BOOM!, down comes the hammer of doom.
Jose Reyes wins the batting title, then they trade him. Great.
And then there was Jason Bey. Remember him? He was going to be tremendous. He couldn’t hit the side of a barn. He seemed like a nice enough guy, but that was of little use to anyone.
Johann Santana pitches the first no-hitter in Mets history, then suffers a career-ending injury. That was a heartbreaker.
And then, of course, there was Ike Davis not living up to his expectations, which was reminiscent of, you guessed it, Jason Bey.
In 2013, some kid from the minors named Matt Harvey seemingly came out of nowhere to become one of the best pitchers in baseball. And then, guess what? He needs Tommy John surgery and is out for the entire following season. Fantastic.
David Wright signs a seven-year contract, ostensibly meaning that he will, like a certain shortstop in a stadium not far away, begin and end his career with the same team. That’s a rarity these days. But, then, he spends the season slumping, finally announcing what fans knew all along — that he had been playing injured for months. What the shoulder injury means for our captain, only time will tell. It’s not surprising though, this is how our luck seems to run.
Given our track record, I hope you will indulge me for having just a tad of hope for next year. We’ve got some talent, folks. Barring injury, managerial idiocy, or Sharknado, there’s a good bet that the boys in orange and blue can make a run for it. While that last thing is unlikely to happen, don’t count out the other two. You can never count out injury or bad decision-making when it come to The Mets.
We just signed outfielder Michael Cuddyer, a former batting champion. He won’t put up the same numbers as he did playing in the “hitter’s park” that is situated a mile above sea level in Colorado, not in CitiField, but he should make a contribution in the batter’s box — a contribution we sorely need. I don’t want to jinx anything, but I can’t help but think that Cuddyer could go the way of Jason Bey. I hope not, but anything is possible. These are The Mets were talking about.
If Cuddyer doesn’t pull a “Jason Bey”, Daniel Murphy and Lucas Duda won’t be the only two guys in the line-up who can hit. That’s a relief, for them and for us.
And while it pains me to say this, as he is one of my favorite players, Curtis Granderson has a little Jason Bey in him, too. I’m hoping that we can get a little more production out of Grandy next year. I really am. Like I said, he’s my favorite player. I mean, come on, his smile could light up a room. He’s a cutie patootie. Still, he needs to hit a little more. Or, you know, just get on base for crying out loud.
Centerfielder Juan Lagares won a Gold Glove this year. He deserved it. Centerfield at CitiField when Juan Lagares is out there has become the place, as Mets announcer Gary Cohen so eloquently put it, “where baseballs go to die”. Lagares covers more ground more quickly than just about anyone I’ve ever seen play the position. He is a pleasure to watch. Exciting, too. While he’s no Curtis Granderson, he’s not too hard on the eyes, either.
And then there’s Jacob deGrom, who began the year in AAA, but still managed to throw 140 innings, put up a 2.69 ERA, and win the coveted Rookie of the Year award. He baffled hitters — good hitters, great hitters. That’s saying a lot considering he doesn’t have a fancy delivery and, up until the end of the season, relied mostly on his fastball. They knew what was coming and they still couldn’t hit it. Yeah. He was exceptional. So exceptional that we almost forgot about Matt Harvey. Almost.
Harvey will be back next season, as will deGrom, and Zack Wheeler. Jonathan Niese and Dylan Gee will likely round out the rotation. Bobby Parnell will be returning to the bullpen, as will Jenrry Mejia, who did a fine job closing games in Parnell’s absence, although Mejia could benefit from some humility on the mound. If he can’t keep himself from celebrating his saves, I hope that he invests in some dance lessons in the off-season. Vic Black should be back as well. I hope so, anyway. He appears to have reigned in the control issues that plagued him in the past. That makes him a keeper. Carlos Torres is a keeper, too. He proved that he could go the distance, pitch in long relief, when necessary. That’s just the kind of flexibility we need in the pen.
Sure, there are still some question marks. Can Eric Campbell be an every day third-baseman if Wright’s injury proves more serious than expected? And what’s going to happen at short?
The shortstop position will, likely, be our Achilles’ heel. We could use a power-hitting shortstop, but so could the rest of the league. For now I’ll settle for one who can turn a routine double-play, one who doesn’t cost us runs. Whether they stick with Tejada or give Wilmer Flores a real shot at the job remains to be seen. Either way, I suppose we could do worse.
Our catcher, Travis d’Arnaud, after a brief foray in the minors, came back with a new swing and demonstrated not only that he had power, but also that he could hit in clutch situations. He still has some work to do in terms of throwing out base stealers at second, but I’m confident that he can get that together, too.
For all of these reasons, I’m hopeful much earlier than usual this year. I’m hoping they are, too.