Saturday, March 6, 2010

Meet the Mess

Being a Mets fan can be a nasty business these days. As a transplanted New Yorker (OK, New Jerseyite -- or is it Jerseyan?) living in the Boston area, at least folks allow me into the conversation when I let them know I back the Metropolitans instead of the reviled Yankees.

It's been a rough several years for those of us who don orange and blue (and reluctantly black) and worship a mascot with a giant baseball head. In 2006, the Mets came within one game of the World Series, but have not even made the playoffs since, thanks to unthinkable collapses in each of the next two seasons. Then came the disaster of 2009, when the less-than-Amazin's seemingly lost their entire team to injuries and came up on the wrong side of the box score a mind-boggling 92 times. Clearly, there was nowhere to go but up.

I was actually starting to feel good about the prospects for the upcoming season. The core of the team looked to be healthy again (Carlos Beltran's knee surgery notwithstanding), and I had just finished Lee Jenkins' piece on David Wright in the latest issue of SI, which honed in on Wright's determination to rediscover the power missing from his swing last season, and the admission he was often trying to hit to the opposite field, as per the mantra from the Mets' misguided coaching staff. I even read that the outfield fences in cavernous Citi Field will be shortened from 16 feet to 8 feet, which can only help Wright and the Mets make that ancient apple rise a lot more often this season. After only 10 dingers last season (after 27, 26, 30 and 33 in his previous four campaigns), there was nowhere to go but up. I thought I could wear my Mets camp without listening to snickers -- particularly after Wright belted a homer in his first spring training game this week. Springtime, when a young man's fancy can turn to thoughts of a pennant race.

Or so I thought.

Then came the news yesterday that shortstop Jose Reyes, who missed all but 36 games last year with a hamstring that refused to heal, was heading back to New York for tests after he was found to have a thyroid imbalance.

The fact Reyes was cleared to play by doctors on Friday was encouraging, but a major concern nevertheless, considering how much Reyes means to this team when he isn't nursing an injury or being "retaught how to run," as he was during the woeful tenure of Art Howe.

Perhaps the tests will confirm something minor that can be controlled with medication. For Reyes' sake -- and the sake of springtime -- let's hope so. Or else football season could arrive a lot sooner than Mets fans want it to.

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