Hope may spring eternal, but patience is running thin in Queens.
The New York Mets enter the 2012 season as significant underdogs in one of Major League Baseball’s best divisions. As good as the National League East became this offseason – with Jose Reyes and Mark Buehrle joining the Miami Marlins, the emerging Washington Nationals getting scarier by the day, and the Philadelphia Phillies and Atlanta Braves still going strong – the Mets did little to help their chances of shocking the baseball world this year.
Supporters stopped coming to the ballpark by the thousands in 2011, and attendance will likely suffer again this season with the Mets projected to be the NL East cellar dwellers. The only thing more frightening than the Mets’ bullpen is the team’s lineup – go ahead tell me the batters hitting one through eight…don’t worry, I’ll wait for you to stop gasping for air.
Fans are beginning to get fed up with the product on the field, lack of exciting new talent, ownership’s financial troubles and the out-of-control injury situation – seriously, how was the entire medical staff not sent packing after Ike Davis’ initially ordinary ankle injury cost him the entire 2011 campaign?
Despite no significant additions being made to the team – during one of the most talented free agent pools in history, I might add – there are certain developments Mets fans can actually look forward to this season.
First and foremost, the Wilpons settled their suit with the victims of Bernie Madoff and had only moderate damage – a measly $162 million over five years – compared to the $303 million the Mets owners would have paid if they lost in court. The Wilpons have already completed the sale of 12 minority shares of the team for $240 million and repaid $65 million in loans, and they have now reportedly promised to begin reinvesting in the club again.
The agreement should allow the owners to cease selling any more of the team like they are homes of MC Hammer and settle down financially. Mets fans can begin dreaming again of days when free agents flock to Willets Point to don the blue and orange.
Johan Santana returned to his rightful place as the team’s Opening Day starter on April 5. Santana, who missed the entire 2011 season with a torn anterior capsule in his left shoulder, can make Mets fans gleeful once every five games – if, and it is a monumental IF, he is healthy and looks remotely like he did before getting injured. Santana has always been a pleasure to watch, and he should draw crowds on the days he hits the mound.
The starters are the sole visible bright spot for the team, with Santana, the tireless R.A. Dickey and youngsters Dillon Gee and Jonathon Niese – who will hopefully take another step forward this season. The Mets can also feel optimism about hurlers Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler soon joining the big leagues.
Lastly, 2012 marks the 50-year anniversary of the Metropolitans, and the organization has planned a number of festivities to commemorate the milestone, including the return of Banner Day and a series of alumni bobblehead giveaways representing each decade of the team’s history.
This should keep Mets fans’ minds and eyes away from the field – at least the organization hopes so.