I would be lying if I said I didn’t feel some level of “Here we go again” Friday night as I watched John Buck’s grand slam sail over the right field wall in Florida. Last year was just so frustrating that it was almost impossible to avoid the crushing depression that has plagued the Mets entire organization since Carlos Beltran had his knees buckled on that fall night in 2006.
I watched Friday as Mike Pelfrey folded in the face of pressure and the head to head matchup with Josh Johnson who displayed Friday what an Ace looks like. Pelfrey, who is by default the “Ace” of the Mets, which in this case simply means that he pitched the first game of the season, is not an ace. Not in mental make-up (where is the guy who barked at Chase Utley to get back into the box when he stepped out on Pelf two years ago) not in “Stuff” (can you strike no one aside from Josh Johnson out?) and not in appearance (has another 6’7″ man ever looked smaller standing on a 20″ mound of dirt?).
That “here we go again” feeling carried over into Saturday night, when I checked the score on my phone only to see that the Mets were down by 2 in the first inning with Jon Niese (my pick for breakout performance by a Met this year) on the mound. As I checked the score periodically throughout the night, the innings kept passing by with the score against the Mets staying at 2. I arrived home to find the Mets in the lead late in the game with a chance to win their first of 2011. Enter K-Rod, exit Mets lead. “Here we go again”. But no, these are the 2011 Mets. These are not the same 25 men who have been followed by a black cloud that has swarmed around this team like a mass of angry, miserable bees. No, these Mets fought back, they took the lead, they lost the lead, they took it back. They hit when they had to, the pushed the envelope with good base running and tough at bats, they got outs when they needed them. This was a team that I did not see last year. They won a road game, a feat they repeated on Sunday en route to winning their first road series of the season, something they didn’t do against an NL team until August last year.
These are the 2011 Mets.
Do I think they are going to win 2 out of every 3 and finish the season with 100 wins? No, I don’t. But I do think they have the ammo to contend in the division. The reality is every team in the NL East has problems. The Phillies is their lineup and bullpen, their strength is their rotation. The Mets is their lack of an Ace, their strength is their lineup, the pitching depth and the fact that this is not 2010.
I think the Mets can take 2 of 3 against the Phils this week. But I know that if they don’t, even if they are swept, it will not mean this season is doomed. This is not 2010.