The Mets opened the 2009 season in Cincinnati against the Reds. The theme of the previous offseason was the bullpen—the Mets signed Sean Green, J.J. Putz, and Francisco Rodriguez to pitch the seventh, eighth, and ninth innings. On that day in Cincinnati, Johan Santana pitched 5.2 innings before handing it to Green, who gave way to Putz, who gave way to K-Rod. The Reds didn’t score against the relievers and the Mets won 2-1. It had gone exactly as planned, and all the post-game talk was about the Mets’ rebuilt bullpen. Of course, not all of the remaining 161 followed that script, and the Mets finished 70-92.
The theme of this past offseason was, well, financial problems, but as far as player acquisitions it was once again the bullpen. The Mets traded for Giants reliever Ramon Ramirez and signed free agents Jon Rauch and Frank Francisco, both with Toronto last year. Yesterday, on Opening Day at Citi Field against the Atlanta Braves, Santana pitched five scoreless innings. Ramirez relieved him, Rauch and Francisco each threw a scoreless frame, and (with the aid of two big outs from Tim Byrdak) the Mets bullpen preserved the 1-0 win. (As a bonus, the only starting position player acquired this offseason, Andres Torres, scored the game’s lone run.)
I was at Citi yesterday and the chatter was similar to 2009, as fans joked about the Mets going 162-0. They talked about how the Marlins looked bad in their opener the night before. How the Phillies could be punchless at the plate without Ryan Howard and Chase Utley. How the Nationals were still the Nationals. And you know what? They should.
It’s only one game, of course, but doesn’t Opening Day always count a little extra? OK, not in the standings, but for a team that has dealt with so much negativity since last summer, it was especially important to get out to a good start. A good start as in a good April, a good first few series’, and yes, a good Opening Day.
No, Daniel Murphy isn’t going to hit .500, the team ERA won’t remain at 0.00, and Jason Bay won’t go 0-for-the season (you’ll just have to trust me on that last one). We know baseball is a long season and yesterday gave us a sample size of one (1). The win doesn’t validate management’s offseason strategy just as a loss wouldn’t have condemned it. But sometimes that’s how it feels. Opening Day elicits overreaction like A-Rod inspires boos.
Baseball was being played under a bright sun, and that alone is enough to breed optimism. Sitting with my dad and his friend, we took in the new lower, shorter, bluer outfield wall and even got to argue a terrible “in the neighborhood” call at second base. Santana was sharp, Wright got two hits, and the Mets are in first place. What could be better? So don’t tell me or any other Mets fan it’s just one game. We don’t know where this team will be in September, or even July, so there’s no harm in enjoying it now.
Now if the remaining 161 go like that…