For many, Major League Baseball’s Opening Day holds its significance for a variety of reasons. For devout baseball fans, it marks the end of a five month long hibernation for their favorite sport, which will now proceed unceasingly for the next five months (six if your team’s lucky). For others, it represents the informal beginning of spring, the season of new life, with its promise of longer, sunnier days as well as warmer temperatures. But for all, it signifies hope. The hope that the best will soon arrive, and that all adversities will be overcome.
Every Opening Day, baseball’s pundits and elders recount one of the sport’s old proverbs, stating that each team enters the 162-game marathon season knowing that they’re going to win 60 games, as well as lose 60 games. A team’s fate, for better or worse, will be determined by how they perform in the other 42 games, the slim difference between another mediocre season and a date with destiny in October.
And while the sentiment of hope that emerges from this adage may ring true for fans of all 30 teams from the New York Yankees to the Miami Marlins, for afflicted fans of the New York Mets, like myself, it could not resonate more deeply.
It’s been six seasons since our Mets have mustered up enough victories for a winning record, eight seasons since they have taken the field for a postseason game, fourteen since they have played in the World Series, and almost thirty since they have actually won the World Series. And although fans of more failure-ridden franchises would gladly swap places with me over these frustrations, those teams do not play their home games in New York, the city where interminable streaks of this futility should have no place. Nor do they share a city with the standard-bearing Yankees and their 27-championship-wielding fans.
An impotence streak of this magnitude may happen to the Kansas City Royals or the Houston Astros. But, it’s not supposed to happen to a team that resides in the largest city in the country with its cornucopia of resources. It’s not supposed to happen to a team that has a state-of-the-art ballpark and its own TV network. And most definitely is it not supposed to happen to a team that has the utmost loyal and dedicated fans like the Mets do. But, it’s still happening.
The ill-advised free agent signings, the untimely injuries, the vacant stadium seats in July and August, and the September collapses have all contributed to this dismal state. And as bleak as those have tribulations have been, there still remains no end in sight. Thanks to our team’s now cash-strapped ownership’s heavy investment in what turned out to be the largest financial fraud of our country’s history and the AAA-quality talent, which hamstrung Manager Terry Collins is forced to called his lineup, that will trot out to the field each and every inning this year.
The litany of current grievances from Mets fans is never-ending. The prime of third-baseman David Wright, the team’s captain and perennial all-star, is going to waste. Starting pitching phenom Matt Harvey will not take the field this season, after undergoing surgery that has the potential to end the prodigy’s once-promising career. Closer Bobby Parnell, incomprehensibly, is the only pitcher in the Majors who can throw an 100-mph fastball but not strike anyone out. The lineup does not contain a single batter an opposing pitcher would fear in a game of tee ball let alone in the MLB batter’s box. Our best free agent acquisitions this past offseason were a 40-year old, 285 lb starting pitcher, and a mercurial outfield slugger who has batted a measly .231 over the past two seasons: that is, when he’s on the field and not on the disabled list.
But that will be all be temporarily forgotten today, when we renew our mind-boggling spring and summer ritual of cheering on the Mets. 40,000 diehards will flock to Queens to fill Citi Field, and thousands more will be watching at home, in a bar, or sneaking a glance while at work or in class, when our Mets play host to the Washington Nationals in the commencement of what most likely will be another depression-inducing season of baseball. The key word, though, in that past sentence is likely. Because despite all the hardships of past and present, there still, and always will, be hope.Photo: Marianne O’Leary/Flickr