The confetti from the Giants’ Super Bowl victory is scarcely swept up and we’re gearing up for spring training. The annual winter doldrums between the end of football and the beginning of baseball seem shorter than ever, mercifully and will shrink further still if the NFL goes through with its plan to add two more games to the schedule. I’m still on a high fueled by a combination of Big Blue , Jeremy Lin and Rangers hockey, so the arrival of pitchers and catchers in Port St. Lucie seems an almost – not quite, but almost – unwelcome distraction for my winter’s revelries. I mean, things are going so well right now, why spoil it with Mets news, right?
While I don’t have the same kind of wild enthusiasm for the start of camp as I did in 1985 or 2007, I’m really interested to see what kind of storyline plays out in Florida, 2012, apart from the doom and gloom reportage from the MSM and the bloviating from Met-haters Mike Francesa and Michael Kay over the airwaves. I want to see how Daniel Murphy looks around the bag. I want to see if Ruben Tejada can really hit like a major-leaguer. I want to see long, Kingman-esque shots from Lucas Duda. I want to see Ike Davis’s healthy ankle and David Wright finding his way out of his three-year thicket. I want to see Jon Niese bending his breaking balls all around the plate. Most of all, I want to see if Johan Santana’s left arm is really still attached, or if it’s another rumor generated by the Mets’ crack PR department.
Johan is really the key to this club’s fortune this year. Oh, I don’t really think they’re contenders, even if he is 100% healthy and throwing like the Johan of ’07. There’s too much else that doesn’t work right now. But a healthy and effective Santana gives us fans hope at least every fifth day, and that’s where it has to start. Think Tom Seaver, ’83 vintage. If that happens, we can get stars in our eyes about finishing .500. As incredibly sad as that sounds, that’s the Mets’ ceiling. 2012 will go down as The Year Of The Wait: waiting for the Wilpon-Madoff verdict, waiting to see if Santana, Wright, Murphy and Davis are healthy, waiting for Matt Harvey, Jeurys Familia, Zack Wheeler and Jenrry Mejia to mature. Meanwhile, I think we can expect the same kind of gutty ball and up-and-down results that kept us interested into late-July last year.
And how fun would it be to finish ahead of the Marlins?
This is what spring training is for…