On the Eve of the 2010 Season

In 2010, I expect the New York Mets to win more than 80 but fewer than 90 games.  The key to the season will be the health of the players, and whether or not there is enough starting pitching after Santana, and enough relief pitching after Rodriguez.

Do you realize that just about every single person who has expressed an opinion about the Mets’ 2010 season could have written the two sentences I just wrote?  Have you ever seen this much consensus in your entire life?  Have you ever seen so many words from so many columnists, bloggers, radio hosts, TV analysts expended when in fact almost all there is to say is contained in just two sentences?

Yeah, I know that there are refinements that can be discussed, whether or not to bring Tejada or Mejia to the majors now, whether to keep Carter around or not, but face it everybody, we all know what the keys to the season will be.  We just don’t know what is going to happen. 

I don’t even begin to know how to guess what is going to happen.  I never trust what I see in spring training, particularly when the people involved are Mike Pelfrey and John Maine.  To entertain you, I will say that I think (and I really do think) that the Mets have a 20% chance of winning their division (I’d give the Phillies a 50% chance, the Braves a 20% chance, the Marlins 8%, and Washington 2%).  If the Mets don’t win the division, I give them a 20% chance of winning the Wild Card, with serious competition from the Giants, the Braves, and two Central Division teams to be named later.  That means that I think that the Mets have a 36% chance of making it to the playoffs.  I would guess that they will win 85 games. 

The important question to consider right now is not how the Mets are going to do.  Even though that is the most important question, we do not have what we need to talk about this issue in any way that adds meaningfully to the two sentences above.  What I feel I can consider is a different question that is both simpler and more complicated. Will we have fun this year? 

My very tentative answer to this question is “yes, I think so.”  Bear in mind that last year, I thought the Mets would win 92 games, but I did not think we were likely to have fun, because I thought that after what had happened the two previous seasons, we would never be able to feel secure or hopeful, no matter how well the Mets were doing.  So we were going to feel badly if the Mets did badly, and we were going to feel fearful if the Mets did well.  We were in a no-win situation, so psychologically it didn’t matter very much that we lost.

This year, I think we will have fun because we do not expect to win anything, we are good enough to stay close, and any sign that we might conceivably be able to push through to the top will be an occasion for joyful hope.  Plus, people who care that much about winning have been weeded out of the fan base.  All that’s left is us.  And that means that we can enjoy each other’s company.  The best thing about the bad periods of Mets history is that only true Mets fans were left in the stands.  This year, we are likely to experience something like that again.  There may be less booing.  There may be more old-fashioned Metsy hysteria.  And since the Mets are going to have difficulty selling tickets this year, we’re all going to be able to buy our tickets cheaply on StubHub and that is going to make us feel less exploited and therefore more generous.

All I ask of this year is to stay in contention, and in the era of the Wild Card, that means to just stay around .500.  Every decade or so, something suddenly comes out of the blue and lifts a mediocre Mets team up over the line.  I would say that we’re due, except that doesn’t mean anything.  But I think that after last season a lot of us have forgotten how good the Mets actually are.  We have forgotten what it feels like to feel really good about them.  I think we may have some very pleasant surprises in store.  And if we don’t, it’s no big deal, because nobody is picking us to win.  And we have some great young guys just short of being ready.

It’s going to be a bumpy ride.  But it’s spring.  It’s life.  It’s love.

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