Maybe it is our addiction-laden culture, or simply a matter of psychic survival, but two particular thoughts have driven my macro look at the New York Mets for some time now. Neither one is particularly rational or stat-friendly, and probably have little bearing on reality.
The first is wondering when the Mets will hit rock-bottom. The second involves when, chronologically, the team will "turn the page."
Regarding rock-bottom, the 2009 season continually promised a rock-bottom moment. When just Carlos Delgado was injured, when Carlos Beltran and Jose Reyes joined them, there was still a sense of more to come. It was merely a matter of time until David Wright, too, got hurt, when Johan Santana joined them. It was almost shocking when Francisco Rodriguez remained standing.
And when the final pitch of the 2009 season was thrown, it was quickly clear that while 70-92 was pretty bad -- and that record fails to capture the complete joylessness of watching so few of the team's players, you know, play -- the offseason could be far worse, putting the Mets in a hole for years to come.
After all, none of the injuries, as of yet, have bled over into 2010. Carlos Delgado's complications are not the Mets' problem. Carlos Beltran, Jose Reyes, Johan Santana, John Maine, even Oliver Perez look ready for Spring Training.
And the offseason, rather than complicate that need for freshly-minted optimism, hasn't disappointed me so far. Sure, there's the $2 million for Alex Cora, one of the worst deals of the offseason, as per Tim Dierkes of the indispensable MLBTradeRumors.com (full disclosure -- I'm not just an admirer, I'm also a writer).
This combined the worst of 2009 with the fears of 2010 -- an overpriced veteran without upside, who subsequently injured his back playing winter ball in Puerto Rico.
But the deals bringing Ryota Igrashi and more significantly, Kelvim Escobar to New York offer hope that a different philosophy has taken hold in building the Mets. Both pitchers represent low-cost, high-upside options out of the bullpen, a notoriously difficult set of pitchers to predict, year-to-year.
Both signings made Dierkes' best signings list, and justifiably so. Think of it this way-by bringing in Igrashi for less per-annum money combined than Brandon Lyon (and for fewer years), the Mets more than made up for any organizational leverage they lost on Cora-also, it must be said, a one-year deal.
In other words, it looks like the Mets, come 2010, are going to turn the page. Start fresh. Turn over a new leaf. Keep that New Year's resolution not to cause immense pain to fans.
Okay. I'm out of clichés.
Indeed, while some people (as far as I can tell, primarily columnists in this town) cry out for the Mets to act in haste -- never mind how that homily ends -- each overpriced veteran who signs with another team should be balm to the fan base. A plan longer than 30 days in length might be in place.
If Jason Bay signs elsewhere for five years, it should provide a season ticket boon on par with the one likely to occur if Bay signs that deal with the Mets. When Matt Holliday gets eight years, $120 million from another organization, a parade should be held in Omar Minaya's honor. And the day when Bengie Molina inks a deal with a team that isn't the Mets, everyone in Queens should breathe a sigh of relief -- and not simply because it means that we have avoided shortages at El Verano Taqueria.
Meanwhile, it should be noted that despite Bay playing Hamlet (with, based on UZR, significantly less range), no other teams have been swooping in with five-year deals to secure Jason Bay's services. No team seems eager to give Matt Holliday his eight-year contract. And even the immovable Bengie Molina has been making noises about lowering his three-year contract demand to two years -- a wise course, considering no one, other than the Mets, appears to have offered him more than one year guaranteed.
(In honor of Molina, I am considering lowering my demands from the Obama administration for a spot on the Supreme Court to a mere federal judgeship. It isn't that I'd make a great judge -- rather, I am every bit as qualified to serve on the bench as Bengie Molina is to receive a three-year deal.)
Now, I know how everyone is feeling: optimism has not served Mets fans well for the past few years (and by past few, I mean well over two decades). Like the start or end of a recession, we will only know if the Mets are turning the page after hitting rock bottom well after the fact. And this column could quickly become worthless, rendered moot by early -- 2010 overpays for Molina, Bay or even some system-gutting trade we can only imagine -- or setbacks to the real 2010 keys, Reyes, Beltran, Wright and Santana.
But I am feeling cautiously optimistic. New Year's is coming, a baby New Year that has none of the evident psychic or knee injuries that felled 2009. We'll shortly be turning the page on our calendars.
Maybe, when we look back, this was when the New York Mets were turning the page, too.