For the third consecutive season, we are proud to introduce the Deadspin Baseball Season Previews. Yes, baseball is awfully close now; it's spring training, after all.
Every weekday until the start of the season, a different writer will preview his/her team. We asked a gaggle of writers, from the Web, from print, from books, to tell us, in as many or as little words as they need, Where Their Team Stands. This is not meant to be factual, or dispassionate, or even logical: We just asked them to riff on why they love their team so much, or what their team means to them, or whatever.
Today: The New York Mets. Your author is Jason Fry.
Jason Fry co-writes the Mets blog Faith and Fear in Flushing and The Daily Fix, The Wall Street Journal Online's daily sportswriting roundup. His words are after the jump. His words are after the jump.
You see? I knew there was a reason to be paranoid.
What I didn't know — and praise Jesus for that bit of mercy — was that the Mets' 2007 season should have been sponsored by Ipecac. They started playing poorly in June, but for a while dwelling on that seemed awfully pessimistic — they were still comfortably in first place, after all, and they'd turn on the jets once the playoffs began, right? But things didn't improve, and by the end of the summer a lot of Met fans were confronting an inconvenient truth: We didn't like this team much. They played a lot of stupid, listless baseball, and seemed way too pleased with themselves on those increasingly rare nights when they didn't. In late September, when key veterans admitted they got bored and careless out there, the surprise wasn't what they'd said, only that they'd been dumb enough to say it.
But by then the Mets weren't bored — they were terrified. With Phillies in the rearview mirror even closer than they appeared, the Mets were spitting the bit against the Nationals and the Marlins. And on the final day of the season, with the Mets and Phils tied atop the division, Tom Glavine turned in this performance: walk, fielder's choice, single, single, double, single, walk, single, HBP. Glavine, in a classic bit of tin-eared athlete dimwittery, said he was disappointed but not devastated by his third of an inning, because "devastated" was a word for more important things than a game. (He's now back in Atlanta, where I guess I don't actually hope he gets hit by a bus.) The Phillies won and the '07 Mets were done — they'd blown a seven-game lead with 17 to play, a 500-to-1 shot that let the '64 Phillies off the historical hook, and they'd deserved every crappy thing that had happened to them.
To add insult to injury, the Mets then followed that with an offseason apparently designed to torture us. They gave an insane four-year deal to Luis Castillo, a slap-hitting second baseman with diminishing range and bad knees, and traded Lastings Milledge, a talented 22-year-old (though plagued by bouts of childishness and poor wardrobe choices, for a catcher who can't hit and a platoon outfielder. Sure, the Mets said the right things about an offer for Johan Santana, but we knew they weren't trading Jose Reyes and the farm-system cupboard was bare. So there wasn't much left to do but argue whether Santana would go to the Yankees or the Red Sox, brood over the Worst Collapse in Baseball History, and brace ourselves for happy talk from Omar Minaya about how Livan Hernandez or Kyle Lohse or Bartolo Colon was a Veteran Who Really Knows How to Pitch.
And then, somehow, everything changed. The Red Sox didn't want to give up what the Twins wanted for Santana, the Yankees didn't want to give up what the Twins wanted for Santana, and the Yankees weren't going to change their minds if the Red Sox stayed out of it and the Red Sox weren't going to change their minds if the Yankees stayed out of it, but Johan had had enough of the whole thing and all of a sudden, incredibly, Johan Santana was a New York Met through 2013. And Omar hadn't even given up all that much: four prospects, none of them an unqualified blue-chipper.
And so, instead of six weeks of reporters asking the same questions about the Worst Collapse in Baseball History and players taking things for granted and Jose Reyes sulking and Milledge's exile and whether Willie Randolph needs to be a disciplinarian and how Jimmy Rollins backed up his words and 7 up with 17 to go, it'll be six weeks of reporters asking about Johan Santana and what it'll be like going to the National League and if he's excited about Citi Field and if he can hit .275 and whether he's a leader in the clubhouse and what it's like being on the same staff with Pedro and what he can teach Oliver Perez and John Maine and Mike Pelfrey. Which will be as inane as the other questions that would have been asked, except this new drip-drip-drip of journalistic water torture will merely bore the Mets silly instead of sending them out into a new season with 800 pounds of rotting gorilla on their backs. So here's to boredom! Our trust in Omar is restored, the Worst Collapse in Baseball History was ages ago, and with Johan on the hill the Mets will lay waste to the National League and even win a game or two against whatever better team represents the AL in October. Woooo!
Except there's still that whole thing that happened in September 2007 — and the fact that June, July and August kind of sucked too. (The Mets were 54-56 after Memorial Day.) You can interrupt a doleful February by spending a boatload of cash to take your imploding family to the Bahamas, but that in itself isn't going to make the kids forget you and mom screaming and throwing glassware at each other — or stop them wondering what will happen when everybody gets home and has to get back to what wasn't working so well before. And that's the danger.
There's not much point to scouting the Mets: They've got a scary lineup, a solid rotation and a pretty good bullpen — and with the happy exception of Santana replacing Glavine, they're not all that different than the 2007 team. But that will only mean more pressure in April. If Johan is Johan, Wright and Reyes and Beltran hit, and the rest of the Mets act like they actually give a rat's ass, all will be forgiven. And if not, the final year at Shea will get awfully ugly pretty early.