Time is a Mets fan

Here’s the messed-up part of it all: I think the Mets could be good next year. That’s not spin and it’s not something I’m writing for the sake of getting your attention. I believe that.

There’s work to be done, no doubt. But the Mets should return a solid young infield featuring a bona fide superstar and a deep staff of starting pitchers led by R.A. Dickey, Jon Niese, Matt Harvey and — given health — Johan Santana and Dillon Gee. That’s a nice place to start, and though the horizon would appear quite a bit sunnier if we knew they had any money whatsoever with which to secure some outfielders this offseason, I’ve still got enough faith in Sandy Alderson and baseball’s pervasive randomness to reasonably hope the Mets leave Spring Training with a squad fit to compete in a tough division.

Would I bet on it? No. But then I certainly wouldn’t have bet on the A’s or Orioles being alive today a year ago.

That’s only the logical presentation, though. Part of being a fan, I think — or at least part of being a Mets fan — is the odd balance of suspecting your team is irreparably doomed but maintaining some real sense of hope they’ll prove otherwise. Because another part of me — a big part, an angry part — expects the Mets will suck next year and suck the year after that just like they sucked last year and the year before that and the year before that.

I spent some time on the podcast this morning agreeing with Patrick and Toby that this season’s Mets had more than their share of great moments and stories for a 74-88 team: Johan Santana’s no-hitter, David Wright’s return to form, R.A. Dickey’s Imperial March over the National League. But then as we talked, I remembered the great things of 2011 — Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran — and even the great things of 2010, the fleeting heroics of Rod Barajas and Jeff Francoeur.

Every year, right? Every year there are great things among the disappointments. And every year there is hope, every year hope is crushed, and every year we come back hoping. This might be the weirdest thing I do. And the Mets exist in such splendid juxtaposition with their rivals across town, who practically never disappoint. How does a Yankee fan distinguish season from season? Does he need to isolate the small victories from the mire of failure, or is it reversed — is 2007 the year they gave way too many at-bats to Melky Cabrera and lost to Cleveland in the ALDS? Or is it as simple to a Yankee fan as Years It Happened and Years It Didn’t?

I started off with a point to make and it’s fast slipping away from me. I think I’m trying to justify how I can emotionally invest in something practically bound to disappoint me, then still come away oddly satisfied when it does.

Is baseball that good? Certainly; baseball is the best. But I suspect, too, there’s something oddly enjoyable about being Mets fans that leaves us better prepared than most for our daily and monthly and yearly challenges. How often is anything all it’s cracked up to be? And what better way to shoulder reality than to celebrate the small triumphs and hope there are grander ones to come?

One time I was randomly cast in a Jack in the Box commercial, and another time Francoeur walked twice in a game. I think the Mets could be good next year.

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