Sunday, February 14, 2016

Tyler Kepner rains on the Mets' parade (and just about everyone else's).

Pitchers and catchers report this week! The Mets, contrary to all expectations, not only made it to the post-season, but also won the National League championship last year. Their starting rotation is regarded as the most fearsome in the Majors. Again against expectations, they were able to re-sign heavy hitter Yoenis Cespedes. Even though closer Jennry Mejia somehow managed to fail a third PED test and drew a lifetime suspension, the Mets have Jeurys Familia, who in Mejia's absence last season proved to be one of the most effective closers in the game.

So, what's there for a Mets fan to worry about? As The Baseball Project (see clip below) remind us, the beginning of spring training is when fans of all teams, even those with the most discouraging recent records, can be optimistic; when it's "All Future and No Past":

Having been a Mets fan since 1985, I early enjoyed the thrill of 1986. Since then, over a 29 season course, I've seen them advance to the postseason only five times, although they made it to the World Series twice, losing both times in five games. In 2000 they lost to the Yankees in a Series that featured the Mike Piazza/Roger Clemens thrown broken bat incident. Other years I've seen them come tantalizingly close but succumb to end-of-season swoons. Some ballyhooed free agent acquisitions have failed to live up to their billing. Injuries seem to be a persistent problem. To be a Mets fan is to come to believe in Murphy's Law.

Consequently, each year at this time I try to follow Larry David's advice and curb my enthusiasm. For my take pre-spring training last year, see here. But this year the New York Times baseball writer Tyler Kepner has done that work for me. In his "Extra Bases" column, "Ah, Spring! What Could Go Wrong?", Kepner answers the question in the title for all thirty Major League teams. His prognosis for the Mets:
The starters try hard to keep the ball out of play -- to minimize the impact of the team's shaky defense -- but their 2015 workload wears them down. David Wright's spinal stenosis limits him again [Note: G.M. Sandy Alderson has just announced that Wright will be limited to 130 games], and while Yoenis Cespedes struggles in center field, he hits well enough to exercise his opt-out clause and repeat his protracted free-agent dance.
For what it's worth, I think Kepner is right about Cespedes, though I hold some hope that his fielding will improve. In any event, I think we're likely to see him testing free agency again this year.

If you're not a Mets fan and want to see what Kepner thinks may be in store for your team, go here. If you're a Cubs fan, you may take heart. After mentioning several downside possibilities, e.g. "the left side of the infield collapses under the weight of strikeouts" and "Joe Maddon switches to contact lenses and bans zoo animals from the clubhouse", Kepner concludes, "Nah, who are we kidding? These are the Cubs. A championship is inevitable." In the immortal words of the late Sidney Morgenbesser, responding to the assertion that an interesting aspect of the English language is that, while a double negative is always properly construed as a positive, there is no instance in which a double positive is a negative, "Yeah, yeah."