It’s only April 1; you can’t tell anything from this.
It’s a marathon, not a sprint.
After a rousing opener like yesterday’s, these are the hoary bromides that Met fans have to repeat to themselves to keep from getting too giddy. And beyond being an annual cliché, they are pretty much true. It’s the rare year that begins with a Mets loss. In the franchise’s fifty-second season, their record on Opening Day is a gaudy 34-18 – and that includes losing their first eight openers ever. So the team from Flushing has no problem with game number one. It’s the next 161 that usually prove problematical. Aside from the classic reminders from the MSM, most Met fans are well aware of this on their own.
It’s kind of fun to try and extrapolate and glean something from the lid-lifter. If Jonathon Niese can pitch the whole year like he did: a- the second half of last year, b- all through spring training, c- yesterday, the Mets’ rotation has an anchor. Toss in Matt Harvey’s pyrotechnics – in sharp contrasts to Niese’s diving, dancing deliveries – and staff becomes a two-headed beast, ready to lay waste to the rest of the NL East. Adding Zack Wheeler to this mix – eventually — will make the Mets’ staff the envy of the League, the strongest group this side of the 2011 Phillies. After a rousing opener like yesterday’s, these statements come out as definitive, rather than speculative – Niese WILL continue pitching well, rather than MAY continue.
On the other side of the ball, that laser beam of a grand slam homer off the bat of Collin Cowgill – it was belted so hard off the black back wall in left that it required waiting for umpiric confirmation as Cowgill chugged into third – portends great things from the unknown quantity manning centerfield. Cowgill arrived in Queens with little fanfare, then proceeded to open many eyes during spring training. Naturally, he’ll be the stabilizing force that will turn the Mets’ outfield into an at-least middle of the pack crew, rather than the lost patrol portrayed in the MSM all winter/spring long. His left field mate Lucas Duda will benefit from having a talented hand to his left in the field and in front of him in the lineup; he will escape his crippling self-doubt. Across the field, Marlon Byrd will experience a rebirth and thrive in his new surroundings and provide the steady, veteran leadership – Oh! That word! – for which he was brought here. And just like that, the Mets will have an outfield. Piggy-back that onto “typical” seasons from David Wright, Ike Davis and Ruben Tejada, surprising offense from Daniel Murphy and John Buck and you have the makings of a special 2013 season. And that’s not even mentioning the eventual appearance of Travis d’Arnaud. If all goes as well as has been detailed above, the Mets are on a pace for a 120-win season.
Most people – including your intrepid columnist — will consider the Mets fortunate if they garner a little more than half that win total. If Niese and Cowgill are the only ones to have breakthrough seasons, that will be enough to carry us excitedly to 2014. If Harvey, Wheeler and d’Arnaud take leaps forward in their respective developments, that will be enough to burnish expectations for 2014. If they all play well as a unit in 2013, that will be enough to establish a base-line for 2014 and beyond. That’s all any fan can ask, given the personnel on hand.
But yesterday was Opening Day, y’know?
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