By Mike Steffanos
With reality a mere three days off, there is a division among the faithful between those who feel truly sanguine about the Mets' chances entering the season and those who look at our pitching staff with a deep sense of impending doom. I've made no secret of the fact that I'm one of the "silver lining" folks, but I have a great deal of empathy for those of you who aren't buying into the optimism. After all, I've been doing this for 38 years now, and dread is a much more familiar feeling for my Mets musings. Optimism still feels like an oddly-cut suit of clothes that I am trying on and not completely comfortable with.
Comments and emails I have received on this site range from those from Mets fans who are even more optimistic than I am to those from fans on the other side of the spectrum expressing varying degrees of bewilderment. I have enjoyed some interesting exchanges with nice people who wonder when looking at the dark side fell out of vogue for Mets fans. They have serious questions about the team and have real misgivings about our chances. They look at the serene confidence of many of their fellow blue and orange brethren with the same mixture of horror and skepticism with which they view an Oliver Perez start. If you're in that category, I understand. It's the sign of drastically changing times in Mets fandom when the predominant emotion of Mets fans isn't anger and/or resignation.
I look at some of the recent developments, particularly the loss of Duaner Sanchez for most of the season, and won't profess that there's no cause for concern. I can't pretend to have a crystal ball that allows me to predict what John Maine, Oliver Perez and Mike Pelfrey might do over a full season in what looks to be an extremely competitive National League east. I could easily see a scenario where the Phillies or Braves get off to a hot start while the Mets flounder a bit as they try to sort everything out in the bullpen. I certainly don't see the Mets as a sure thing in 2007.
With all of the uncertainty, however, I like the direction the Mets have chosen. They're willing to take a chance with young players who show great promise rather than leaning on mediocre veterans with a track record. While there is certainly real risk with this approach, there's reward, too.
Moreover, while I like the club's chances this year, I appreciate the fact that they seem to be making moves that will allow them to be competitive going forward. There have been too many lost seasons in Queens as the result of short-sighted management decisions of years gone by. In reality, I think you have a better chance of winning a championship by being competitive year after year rather than rolling the dice for one or two seasons.
After last year's anticlimactic cakewalk to an NL east title, I'm looking forward to a real race in 2007. It was nice to see the Mets win after so long, but September just felt wrong last year. The natural rhythm of a baseball season was missing. I understand that real pennant races carry the possibility of my team missing out, but I'm willing to risk that for a true pennant race. As I said, there is no sure thing this season, and that's fine by me.
Still, if your glass is half empty, I understand. I know that feeling all too well. Whether we choose to wrap ourselves in dark clouds or silver linings, I'm sure there is one thing we could all agree on: Let's Go Mets. Let's get this party started.