Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Psyched? You might say that

Finally, a long, cold New York winter has subsided. For Mets fans used to spending the majority of the offseason trying to justify a junk heap's worth of hot stove moves, it was the most satisfying winter in team history...
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...It was one of those signature sporting moments -- the day I found out the Mets signed Carlos Beltran. I was at my friend Kevin's house, had just woken up after a three-hour sleepover at Penn Station obliged due to a missed last train home. The Broncos-Colts playoff game had quickly devolved into a reasonable facsimile of Super Bowl XXIV (possibly the worst sporting event ever propagated upon mankind). So like a good (bored) minion, I decided to see how our site was looking.

That's when it hit me.

Beltran! The Mets were supposed to sign Beltran that day. Sure enough, like clockwork, Jon Heyman had sent in an early-for-web story pronouncing the good news. Beltran was Amazin'. The era of the New Mets had officially begun. And a half-decade of second-guessing finally ended.

For Mets fans, there's no need to rehash the whole painstaking itinerary. But for the sake of dramatic effect, I'll do that.

First there was the A-Rod debacle, the tipping point that led to the decline following the Mets' 2000 World Series appearance. Then came the Robbie Alomar trade, the can't miss deal that did -- badly. The Mo Vaughn trade (shudder). Jeromy Burnitz. Cliff Floyd and Tom Glavine, not the difference-makers the Wilpons claimed them (and paid them) to be. The Vlad disaster of '04. And ohhhh the talk radio. The way fans -- fans of the Mets! -- would lambaste Fred & Jeff and Phillips & Duquette. The only thing missing was another idiotic Bobby Bonilla or Roger Cedeno acquisition -- or no, wait -- there was one of those, too, wasn't there?

But at last -- at long, long, sweet last, Mets fans have what they've been longing for. Not one, but TWO, difference-making players who actually have a shot to earn some of the ridiculous money they're being paid to play ball.

Are there problems with Pedro? Sure, there could be. Is it possible Beltran will suffer a meltdown? Yeah, I guess. But is there anyway you can second-guess Omar Minaya for bringing them to Shea? I can't imagine there is.

With the instant credibility a pair of stars like Pedro and Beltran bring to the Mets, they've suddenly got one of the most star-studded lineups in baseball, not to mention a decent pitching rotation. Of course, Mets fans have become used to disappointment from their top stars. But it hasn't always worked out that way. Mike Piazza sure delivered on his promise, didn't he? In fact, wasn't the Piazza trade -- a deal for a high-impact, high profile star in the prime of his career -- the singlemost significant deal in Mets' rise from mediocrity in the late 90s?

This was the kind of winter Mets fans have only dreamed of until now. And as with the heady optimism of spring, there will be great expectations and disappointments and peaks and valleys throughout the season. But the Mets are in the ballgame. They matter again -- and right now, that's all that matters. Welcome to the New Mets.