Time Out: April 7, 2010

“New York, New York, it’s a beautiful town, The Mets are up, and the Yankees are down.”
For one day this week it was great to be a Mets’ fan. Monday, the Mets opened the 2010 season by logging an impressive 6-1 win over Florida at Citi Field. The previous day, the Yankees squandered a 5-1 lead, losing their opener at Fenway Park in Boston, leaving the Mets atop New York’s baseball world for a single day. For one day, Mets’ fans were filled with hope and promise knowing the afterglow of their opening day success would soon give way to a long and frustrating summer of baseball.
“Hope springs eternal” is a saying used to describe the feelings baseball fans have about their teams prior to the start of a new season. That is hardly the case for Mets fans.
It’s amazing what a few seasons can do to jade the aspirations of a baseball fan. In the fall of 2006, the Mets were one game away from reaching the World Series. The following year, the Mets coasted, building a seven-game lead in the division race with only two weeks remaining to play. The greatest season-ending collapse in the history of baseball shattered the Mets’ nation. Amazingly, the Mets reached the exact same point the next season with a three-game lead and collapsed once again. Last season, the freefall took place much earlier, as the Mets relinquished first place in late spring as the result of injuries. By September 1 last season, Met players had spent 1,095 days on the disabled list and three starting pitchers, the first baseman, shortstop, and center fielder were all on the disabled list and out for the year.
This spring, the Mets went to spring training with prevention and recovery on their minds. It wasn’t effective. On opening day, the starting first baseman, shortstop, and center fielder were all on the disabled list. Even worse, the Mets pitching rotation, a disaster in 2009, remained basically unchanged in 2010. It seems as if a dark cloud almost hangs over Citi Field. Unbelievably, Major League Baseball.com predicted the Mets would finish in last place in the National League East behind the always-woeful Washington Nationals.

Yankees look better
Making matters worse is the fact that the defending World Champion Yankees look stronger than ever. The Yanks, unwilling to sit still with their championship team made strategic moves in the off-season to strengthen an already strong pitching staff and added a five-tool outfielder to the fold. Manager Joe Girardi now wears uniform number 28 symbolizing his determination that his team will win back-to-back world titles. And, almost every baseball forecaster predicts that Girardi will get his wish.
Yet, Monday all things were blue and orange for Mets’ fans. Pitching ace Johan Santana was brilliant over six innings. David Wright, who suffered a power outage during 2009, blasted a home run in his first at-bat of the season. The Mets demonstrated effective situational hitting, and the much-maligned bullpen held a lead without slippage. The Mets’ starting lineup had four new faces on opening day, three starters were veteran players who had started their careers in the Mets farm system many years ago, were traded away by the Metropolitans and returned over the winter. Jason Bay, the newly signed homerun slugger, had a promising opening day with two hits including a long triple. A sellout crowd accustomed to Met success (feast or famine, the Mets have won 32 opening day games in the last 41 years) roared their approval.
For one day, one precious day, Mets fans got a reprieve. For one day they can dream of better times ahead as they face a season that common sense says is going nowhere.
On another note, congratulations to Jeff Rhone, the
girls’ basketball coach at Andes, and all Duke University basketball fans throughout the land. Duke edged Butler for the national title Monday night spoiling one of the greatest underdog stories in the history of the NCAA championships. For the young basketball players in the crowd, pay attention to the defense these two great teams played. The defensive movement and intensity on both teams were incredible. The championship showdown was a classic basketball game, one for the ages.