“It’s opening day. Or Opening Day, depending on your perspective.” – Jim Bouton, Ball Four
It starts now. This is when stuff starts to get real. “Starts to,” because while yes, the games count this early, you still can’t really tell anything about anything. There are guys who play the game who say, “Hey, why all the excitement? It’s only one out of 162.” While this is an inarguable fact, it means different things to different people. It means spring is really here, despite chilly temperatures and snow on the ground. It means getting ready for summer and spending more time outside. It means hope for your team – heck, right now, we’re all 0-0 and everybody, presumably, has a shot.
For the Mets, historically, Opening Day has been nothing but famous. For the first eight years of their existence, they never won on Opening Day. Considering that they hardly ever won the rest of those seasons, either – but for one wonderful exception – it fit with the Amazin’ narrative. The Mets were born in 1962 and started 0-9. In 1963, it was 0-8. In ’64, they cut it in half, 0-4. This was how the fans could point to improvement. Finally, in 1970, the Mets won on Opening Day, mere moments after receiving their World Series rings. Since then, they’ve almost never lost on Opening Day, going 18-3 from 1970 through 1990 and a little more statistically balanced later on – 18-9 from ’91 to ’17 – but 36-12 more than makes up for 0-8.
So how will it be this year? There is more hope surrounding this team this year than there has been in the last three. With fingers crossed that the injury devil will pass them by this season, the pitching staff looks like it could border on the dominant. The lineup looks as solid as it ever has, despite possible disaster looming at first base. The bench looks surprisingly strong – again, supposing they aren’t pressed into too much action – and the bullpen looks sturdy, and might be further fortified soon. Of course, we know better than most what can go wrong; we were dragged through it last year. But it’s Opening Day and if you can’t have hope today, you never will. It may not mean anything, but it’s fun to speculate. It’s fun to look ahead to those warm days, to summer evenings seeing the sun set behind home plate, to watching the Unisphere light up and grabbing a cold beer. Opening Day: two of the sweetest words you’ll ever hear.
Your intrepid columnist has attended every Opening Day at Citi Field since 2014. He’s sat in the bitter cold (’14), been burned by the sun on a 72 degree afternoon (’15), seen a pennant raised (’16) and come away with a really bad false impression on the season to come (’17). The Mets won all but one of those, so my presence in Queens just may be a good harbinger for the day.
Let’s hope it’s one for the season. LGM!
Follow me on Twitter @CharlieHangley.