By Mike Steffanos
When I decided to start blogging again early last month I felt that my starting point would have to be the Mets' bizarre hot stove strategy of allowing almost all of their targeted free agents to sign with other teams at relatively low cost. The things that the Mets did and didn't do this winter will certainly prove to be a huge story as this season plays out. If I didn't write about that, what am I even doing here?
It seemed to me that there was something strangely cynical when Mets management is insisting to fans that the team was going to go all out to win in 2010 and then failing to make at least a couple of relatively low cost moves to address starting pitching and bullpen concerns. Because of that, most of what I wrote in February had a more negative tone than my typical blogging over the years. I was even accused by one commenter of not being a "true Mets fan" and (for some reason) borrowing my thoughts from the negative stuff others were writing.
The plagiarizing thing was fairly ridiculous. I have many faults as a person, but one of them most decidedly isn't an inability to form my own opinions and then express them. I spend a lot of time thinking about the Mets, even during periods like last year when I didn't have much time to blog.
There was a lot the Mets did (and didn't do) this winter that would lead anyone following the club to come to certain logical conclusions, and I think many of us who blog or write or talk about this team came to many of the same conclusions, and had many of the same questions about what happened. Still, any opinions expressed by me on this blog are most decidedly my own.
I do think there is some tendency in segments of the Mets blogosphere and especially the local media to embrace a style and tone that is cynical and sarcastic and critical of everything. Maybe that's why over the years my tendency is to lean towards the optimistic and find something good to write about. I know a lot of my regular readers appreciate that, and I appreciate that my writing contributes even a minute amount to your fandom of the Mets and baseball.
My primary purpose for anything I write, however, is not to set a certain tone but to share a truth as I see it. I've always considered one of the biggest insults to a reader's intelligence is to tell you what I think you want to hear, either positively or negatively, or write something that I didn't absolutely believe to be true just to elicit a reaction and artificially build my readership.
If you find something useful from what I do here you will continue to come back and read my words. In turn, having a decent sized audience does provide a little more incentive to do what I do as well as I can, which satisfies me. I do appreciate you giving me some of your valuable time to read what I have to say. The reason I'm back at all is because of you guys.
On the other hand, if you're that (unfortunately) not uncommon reader who gets mad and likes to toss accusations around when someone isn't telling you what you want to hear, why don't you just move on? There are many different voices in the Mets blogosphere.
Anyway, now that we have taken what I believe to have been a fair look at what went down this winter, we stand at the start of spring training games and just over a month away from real games. As a fan, my natural instinct is to look to the positive now and to root for my team.
I'm not going to pretend that the Mets are favorites to win the series, and I'm not going to credit ownership or manager Jerry Manuel with genius every time they don't do something stupid. But I'm also not going to spend a spring and summer alternately whining about and making snarky remarks over everything that happens. I think it's possible to be honest without being overbearingly down on everything.
When I was a kid in the early 70s I rooted for some Mets teams that were inept offensively. They had no power, couldn't get on base and couldn't score any runs. Other than that, they were great.
Yet somehow, thanks to the optimism of youth, I could convince myself that guys like Dave Schneck, Teddy Martinez, Benny Ayala and Bruce Boisclair were on the verge of breaking out as superstars. I believed in a team where Ken Boswell managed to earn almost 250 plate appearances in 1974 with a batting line of .216/.277/.279. You could cheat and add all three numbers together and barely come up with an acceptable OPS.
The kind of optimism it took to believe in such miracles is long gone, so I'm thankful that I root for a Mets team that, despite all of its flaws, requires much less self-delusion on my part to picture a happy outcome to the season.
This is the time of year that I am happy to put aside much of my skepticism. In a baseball season, March and April are always about hope, at least to me. Even in years where the team isn't very good you hope that they will play hard, acquit themselves well and maybe even win a few more games than expected. You hope a young player comes along that you can root for, and your team takes a step closer to being a real competitor.
For all of the flaws of this 2010 edition of the Mets, they are a team with a real chance to compete for something. David Wright and Jose Reyes are two of the finest position players the Mets have ever developed and Johan Santana is as good as any pitcher not named Seaver the Mets have had. If they can stay healthy and be as productive as they were in 2008, who knows?
John Maine and Oliver Perez are question marks, but they both have managed to put together seasons in a Mets uniform that are what I would hope for this year. Let them both win 15 games and stay fairly consistent as they did in 2007 and this team has a chance.
For all the questions about the bullpen, there were at least as many going into the 2006 season, and that bullpen held up fine.
If I was to put forward my own definition of a "true Mets fan", it wouldn't be someone who blindly believes because he or she is somehow "supposed to", but rather someone who chooses to believe because that's part of the fun of being a baseball fan.
Yesterday was the first day in over a week where I live that the temperature got over 40 and the sun shone for most of the day. Jose Reyes hit a triple in his first AB in the intersquad game. This afternoon there is a game on tv. That feels like spring, and spring feels like hope. My head may not be totally buying into this, but I'm looking for 90 wins and the playoffs.
By the way, if you're looking for tickets for a game that sells out early (like vs. the Yankees or those "other" NL east teams), remember my friends at Ticket Solutions have single-game Mets Tickets available for virtually any game.