By Mike Steffanos
I had an "interesting" experience yesterday.
Over the past couple of years Lisa and I have purchased a number of pieces of furniture that had to be assembled. You're probably familiar with the type -- they use cam-type fasteners to go together. It's a pain in the a** to do it, but you get a pretty sturdy piece of furniture out of it when you're done.
We recently bought a new large screen tv for the living room and the one that it replaced wound up in the bedroom, along with the old home entertainment center unit. Lisa hated it in the bedroom, so last week she purchased a smaller one at the local Target store.
I finally got around to putting it together this afternoon. While I am no master carpenter I have reasonably solid skills, and I'm fairly quick at throwing these things together. This one was a nightmare, though, and I knew once I had everything laid out I was in for a long one. I wasn't impressed with the overall quality of the thing, and the instructions weren't the greatest, either.
While I was performing tedious tasks like driving literally dozens of screws I got to thinking about our New York Metropolitans.
If there is one early theme emerging from spring training, it's that this year's club already seems to be building a nice chemistry. Chemistry was a big part of the 2006 club, something forgotten by all those people calling for the Mets to blow everything up and start all over again. WFAN's Mike Francesa spent much of the winter bloviating on this subject.
Chemistry is a funny thing, and somewhat overrated in sports. It comes and goes. It isn't really about everyone on the club liking each other, it's just about whether there is a positive energy around a team and a feeling that they can win together.
The club's chemistry was certainly off two years ago. There just didn't seem to be a sense of urgency to win the division, but rather a sense of entitlement that it would be theirs. I remember reading quotes over and over again from the players that the Mets were a "great team", even as they floundered playing .500 ball for months. It made me wonder what their definition of great was.
As much as so many try to make 2008 out as a replay of 2007, I really don't think anyone who followed the Mets seriously last season would agree. What last year's chemistry desperately needed was a bullpen that could finish games. I actually give them a lot of credit for coming back again and again from brutal losses that the bullpen gave away.
They competed well after the managerial and coaching changes, about as well as could be reasonably hoped. If Billy Wagner stayed healthy and pitched decently they probably win 3 or 4 more games and make the playoffs.
A player who contributed a lot to the 2006 chemistry, Jose Valentin, is back for one more grab for the brass ring. As much as I loved him 2 years ago, I suspect a full year out of the game, being 39 years old, and his .209/.283/.310 lifetime batting line as a right-handed hitter will offset his terrific leadership skills and work ethic. Chemistry can only take you so far when your bench is crying out for the contributions of a productive right-handed hitter.
As I pondered the vagaries of chemistry I continued assembling that tv stand. I began to have serious doubts about the quality of the thing, but I pressed on because I had so much time invested in it already. I was about 4 1/2 hours into the cursed thing when one of the drawer slides literally fell to pieces and I had to admit it was time to tear the whole thing down and return it to Target.
It was the right decision, but only because it was clearly inadequate for the job. I suspect the 2009 Mets will fare better than that tv stand, but only time will tell. As for the question of chemistry, I suspect a stronger season from the bullpen will be just what the doctor ordered.