It took an extra week, but it finally feels like the Mets’ season begins today.
After an opening two-game rematch against the World Series champion Royals that featured more days off than actual game days, the Mets open in Queens this afternoon to raise their 2015 NL Championship banner and begin a weekend set against the division-rival Phillies.
The team comes in with a very real record of 1-1, but the split in Kansas City was missing a lot of the feels that usually come along with the beginning of the season. Sure, a World Series rematch to open the season was a nice bit of happenstance for both MLB and ESPN, but – for Mets fans – it was a cold reminder of how the team came up short against (truthfully) a better and more fundamentally sound ball club at the beginning of November last year.
We had to sit through a banner raising, ring distribution, Eric Hosmer’s d-bag smirk and ESPN’s verbal fellatio of everything Royals. The Mets even played into it with awful situational hitting, defensive miscues and by looking generally morose as if all the pregame hoopla had transported them right back into the World Series where they couldn’t get out of their own way and lost a five game series despite holding late leads in four of those games.
That they were able to escape with a win on Tuesday behind the effort of Noah Syndergaard and a timely home run from Neil Walker underscores the fact that the Mets bats were once again held in check by the 85 MPH fastball of Chris Young.
Today, we can get back to normal. Get into the routine and everyday-ism of the baseball season. We can stop having our faces smeared in the leftover champagne-soaked mud in Kansas City and start playing the teams we need to beat for the chance to get back to the playoffs.
The National League is incredibly top-heavy this season in a way that I can’t ever remember before. There are so many absolutely dreadful (tanking?) teams, that the handful of good to great franchises should be able to pad their records by beating up on the Phillies, Braves and Padres of the circuit. This will cause some traffic along the top of the standings as there will definitely be a team with a very good record left out of the postseason dance since there’s not enough Wild Card spots to go around.
It’s absurdly early in the season, but – as I said to my buddy, Gomez, last night – I’m already scoreboard watching the Nationals because, for the first time in what feels like forever, I’m beginning a baseball season as a fan of a legitimate contender. That is weird and that is awesome. Or – if you think like Gomez – you think I’m “fucking crazy”.
Fucking crazy or not, the Mets performed well against the bad teams they needed to beat last year and there’s no reason to think that they shouldn’t do the same again now. Having two teams who are punting the 2016 season in their division is distinctly in their favor and will hopefully pay off as we wind down the season in September.
There are tons of angles and storylines and possibilities. But, for now, let’s just enjoy getting back into our routine of having Mets baseball back in our everyday lives.
Happy Opening Day.