The Emptiest Day of the Baseball Season

It happens every year. The World Series ends, forcing me to endure a year of hearing these guys, or those guys, or, worst of all, that team again referred to as World Champions. I put that aside and start the countdown. There are some distractions of course. Football and hockey and off-season moves and debates about whether Fearsome Hitter or Guy That Just Knew How To Win belong in the Hall of Fame (they don’t). But really the only thing that matters is this: how many days until Opening Day?

Football ends, and then we get serious. Pitchers and catchers report. Optimism abounds. Pitcher has been working on New Pitch over the off-season. Player shows up to camp In The Best Shape Of His Life. Games featuring minor league guy are played. Slowly, the regulars play deeper and deeper into games. You know it’s right around the corner when there’s speculation that Journeyman Relief Pitcher might play a key role in the bullpen because he’s given up one run in five innings of Grapefruit League ball. A couple of real games are played in the middle of the night. Teams stop playing each other and start playing younger versions of themselves. The first game in New Stadium gets the attention for one day, and then it’s here.

Opening Day.

The bunting is up. Aces are warming up in the pen. The starters line up along the baselines. Play ball.

Happy New Year.

Ace is back from injury, and pitches a solid five. Remaining Star drives in New Guy to take the lead. Revamped Bullpen brings locks down the victory. Taking care of business. Undefeated. First place. Tied at least. Everything is right in the world. Except . . . Except . . .

THEY DON’T PLAY TOMORROW! After all the waiting, after all the build up, after all the predicting, it’s all a tease. They play on Opening Day and then they have a scheduled day off. And just like that, it’s winter again.

Opening Day: the inner inner dialogue of a Mets fan

Opening Day! After a long, cold winter, it’s finally here! Instead of following trade rumors and free agent negotiations and news stories about guys in “the best shape of his life” we have actual games to look forward to. And for Mets fans it’s going to be so sweet. We got kicked around last year, but it’s a new year and everybody is tied for first! Hey, we even won our first game of the season. 1-0! We’re on our way back to the top of the National League! That Johan Santana pitched great today!

Yes, Santana will be good, but do you know who starts on Wednesday? John Maine, who missed half of last season with injury, and when he did pitch, he alternated between competent and awful. He’s followed up by Ollie Perez, who also missed half of last season with injury. That was the productive part of his season. Jonathon Niese has eight starts in his major league career and will probably be the team’s second best pitcher.

Oh, but don’t forget Mike Pelfrey! He was a first round draft pick and is a real up-and-comer! He’s a ground ball machine!

Exactly, he’s a ground ball machine. Unfortunately, there’s nobody in the infield to pick up those ground balls. With Mike Jacobs, Luis Castillo, and Alex Cora forming 3/4 of the infield, those ground balls aren’t going to be outs. They’re going to be singles. Get ready for runners on first-and-third all the time, and innings that last 45 minutes.

That’s ok because Casillo and Cora are character guys. They’ll make up for it in the clubhouse! And Jacobs has 30+ home run potential!

Honestly, I would prefer it if Castillo and Cora would stab somebody in the neck. Then at least they’d have to be good at baseball to stick with the team. Jacobs was also released by the Royals. The worst team in the majors, both on and off the field decided that Mike Jacobs was not good enough to be on their team. He was the opening day starter at first base for the New York Mets.

But the Mets have so many stars: David Wright, Carlos Beltran, Jose Reyes, Jason Bay, Johan Santana, Frankie Rodriguez!

This is the most depressing part. Wright is brilliant, and Santana is a joy to watch, although he probably isn’t the-best-pitcher-on-the-planet(TM) anymore. Don’t let the nay-sayers fool you, Reyes and Beltran are among the best players in baseball when healthy. Jason Bay is a great hitter as well. Despite having a core group of guys that few teams can match, some interesting young players, the third highest payroll in the majors, the largest TV market in the US, and a brand new ballpark, the Mets are so poorly run that they will be a .500 baseball team struggling for third place. Even with all of those stars, the rest of the team is so bad that they will be dragged down into mediocrity. And not only will they be mediocre, they will be mediocre in the worst possible way, alienating their best players, disrupting the development of their few promising prospects, and generally acting like they have everything under control and if they can just patch this hole and that hole, they will be back in the playoffs.

Hmmm. That’s quite a downer. What is a Mets fan supposed to do then?

Savor every game that Santana pitches and every time Wright is at bat. Pray that Reyes and Beltran come back healthy. And hope beyond hope that Minaya and company are fired before they can do any more permanent damage.