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New York Mets Fans: Welcome To The Year Of The Upside

It wasn’t supposed to turn out this way. We were supposed to go through the season continuing to rag on Sandy Alderson and Jeff Wilpon for their insolence and lack of creativity in building a team worthy of their fans. Instead, there is a buzz around a team which can legitimately set its sights on playing baseball in October.

The Mets didn’t exactly light up the back pages of New York newspapers over the winter. And when they did, it usually came with a story themed on how cheap the organization is and why in the hell can’t they be more like that team in the Bronx, where they have a GM who magically steals the best power hitter in the game for nothing?

The Mets, unlike the “other team,” moved the dial late in the offseason, adding Jay Bruce, Adrian Gonzalez, Anthony Swarzak, Jose Reyes, New Jersey-born Todd Frazier, and most recently, Jason Vargas to their roster. General Manager Sandy Alderson moved methodically and incrementally, picking and choosing from the cast of free agents until he found the combination that could improve the team, while also staying with the confines of a $150 million budget. A feat which seemed out of sight only a few weeks ago.

And so, it didn’t come as a total surprise yesterday when Alderson told the New York Post (essentially), We’re done, and this is the team you’re gonna get…

The day after we signed [Vargas] it felt like the day after finals: the semester was over,” Alderson said. “We have come a long way from the trade deadline last year. When the season ended we were down five or six major league players that we had traded, we were looking for a new manager, we needed a new coaching staff. We wanted to improve our medical department, expand our analytics department. There were so many things we were looking at, and with Jason’s signing we are pretty much where we want to be.Mike Puma, New York Post

The Mets are not a great team, and they will have to scrape their way into the finals and a chance to play in October. Two months ago, that statement and even a mention of the team in parallel with the playoffs, would have been called ludicrous, asking instead do the Mets even have a chance of finishing over .500?

By and large, most fans ask for only one thing from the team they root for. And despite what the freakish Derek Jeter used to claim, “good” seasons are not measured by winning it all. Fans need to see their team in the hunt and playing competitive baseball in September. And as Joe Maddon likes to say, it’s not where you start that counts, it’s where you finish.

In that respect, last year was a disaster of Titanic proportions for the Mets, who trudged their way through 162 games over six months with nary a whisper of competitiveness in the second half. And we know about all the injuries and yadda, yadda, yadda. And whether it was the fault of the team doctors, Terry Collins, or God, who knows and who cares?

The point was the culture of the Mets needed to change. When Alderson began the offseason with a bang bringing in fresh blood by hiring Mickey Callaway (remember saying, who?), the seed was planted and the only thing left was for more talent to be brought in as well. As we said, it took a while, but here we are.

The Mets now have a very credible one-two-three punch in their starting rotation with Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, and Vargas. And when you look at names like Matt Harvey, Steven Matz, Zack Wheeler, and even Seth Lugo battling for the remaining two spots, there is more than the potential for the Mets putting a scare in any team they face.

April could be a slow month for the team as they await the arrival of Michael Conforto returning from injury, plus the notoriously slow start and the bat of Yoenis Cespedes to get heated up. But with the team constructed as it now is, there should be no reason for panic because the Mets do have the pieces to put it all together as the season moves on.

Yeah, I’m the guy who roots mainly for that “other team.” But I gotta tell you; the Mets have me excited for the first time since that ill-fated World Series appearance three years ago. And maybe this year, the Subway Series will go beyond the inexcusable hype it receives, and be fun and something to watch this year. And just perhaps, in October the Mets and Yankees…

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