A year ago at this time, we heard a lot of palaver about how hungry to return to the World Series the Kansas City Royals were. They were seen as fluky pennant winners in 2014 and were picked by some to finish as low as fourth in the AL Central in 2015, but in spring training previews – shows like MLB Network’s 30 Teams in 30 Days set – every interview stressed their desire to repeat as pennant winners. We should have listened. Fast-forward a year and the Mets are being mentioned the same way, despite being generally considered slight favorites in the NL East. They keep stressing about much they enjoyed the ride last year and are eager to line up for another go on baseball’s Space Mountain. Maybe we should listen.
Right now, a little over halfway through their spring training exhibition schedule, the Mets find themselves at 6-6-2 – you literally can’t get more .500 than that. David Wright has yet to toe the infield dirt. Asdrubal Cabrera might miss the first week of the regular season with strained knee muscles. Antonio Bastardo can’t seem to get anybody out. Ruben Tejada was waived. The overall defense looks a little shaky. Yet, confidence abounds. Why?
Maybe it all stems from the bump in the middle of the field. The Mets’ young pitchers have picked up where they left off last year. The starters, once they were finally trotted out there, have mowed down the opposition like spring crabgrass. A typical line from these early outings for the starters looks something like 4 IP, 2 H, 0 BB, 6 K, 1 R 1 ER. That’s what we’ve been accustomed to seeing since the middle of last year. If it continues like this through the season, the tickets for the ride will be punched.
Maybe it’s because the Sandy Alderson management team has earned the benefit of the doubt. They were able to come up with the necessary pieces in the middle of last year. They made some solid moves this off-season. Now, don’t get me wrong, there is a head-scratcher or two in there. Why was Tejada tendered a three million dollar contract in December, only to be jettisoned in March? But here’s the thing, though: one can only assume Alderson knows what he’s doing. He proved that last July. Is he clearing space for Gavin Cecchini to get his feet wet at the MLB level while saving a few bucks in the process? Could be. At this point, management has earned a measure of our trust.
Maybe they really are as hungry as we think. Maybe the mental aspect of the whole dizzying ride last year has sunk in deep and they are ravenous to get back to late October. Maybe they like the attention. In any case, this spring has had a welcome absence of shenanigans – media-whipped or otherwise — and it would appear that everybody in camp is sharing the same vision: 2016 World Series Champions.
I’ll take it.
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