Pitchers and catchers have reported to Port St. Lucie, so I don't care what any groundhog says, winter is officially over.
I guess Omar figures you can never have enough spare parts, as the Mets this week have signed Livan Hernandez and Ramon Martinez to minor league deals. Yeah, I see ya Ramon. The fifth spot of the rotation should be going to Freddie Garcia, Tim Redding, or Jon Niese, but I guess the old adage is true - you can never have enough over the hill pitchers. The Ramon Martinez signing is odd as well - I am not sure what he did to ingratiate himself at the end of last season to warrant an invitation. But, I guess we'll see. Omar must be really really worried about Luis Castillo because even though he's got Alex Cora as insurance, he still invited Ramon Martinez to camp, along with Jose Valentin for Pete's sake. Is there an adage about crippled second basemen too?
Anyhow, now that the Junkees have another spectacle on their hands, the Mets can put the Manny Mania and Citi Calamity behind them and just start playing baseball. I wish I would never read another "sports" article that wasn't about money or drugs. I love the game of baseball for the game of baseball. The entertainment value of the game should be the playing of the game, and the drama that ensues between pitcher and batter. I know it's naive to believe that all the players are playing fair and not using illegal substances, and that the motivation is winning and not money... I know it's naive but isn't that why we watch sports? As an escape from the day to day realities of life? Don't we have enough concerns about salaries at our own jobs? Don't we have enough concerns about the drugs our kids might be tempted by to become obsessed with the drugs the athletes are using? We should definitely worry about the banking system, but only to the extent that they'll be able to remain solvent, not about which buildings they decide to put their advertising on the sides of.
I, in all likelihood, won't make it to Opening Day this year, and it's a little sad to me that the price of a ticket to the game has eclipsed the price I'm willing to pay, but it's only a bittersweet sadness. The tickets are out there to be had, and if it was really really important to me I would find the cash to get in. But my priorities were reorganized in 2008 with the birth of my son. So, as excited as I am to see the Mets glorious new ballpark, and as anxious as I am to hunt around to see the brick I sponsored on the Fanwalk, it can wait a little while. After all, if Manny Ramirez can turn down a $25 million dollar offer to play baseball for one season, then decide $200 is too much to pay for a ticket to a baseball game. Maybe I won't be able to brag about being at the first game in the new stadium, but that's OK. Regardless of the date on the calendar, my first game at the new park will be special because I'll be there with people I care about, watching a game I love, and the team I've chosen to root for through thick and thin.
We've got a lot to be thankful for, fellow Mets fans. Yes, our team has some holes, and we're not too thrilled about the associations with a dubious bank and a pyramid schemer, but we've got a very competitive team to go to war with, and a shiny new park to go to war in, so try to remember what it was like when you were a kid and baseball was fun. The reality is that the game wasn't so pure back then either, but it was you who was different. You were young and less jaded and more innocent, and you weren't worried about how much money the guys were making or what they were doing after hours. It was just fun to spend an afternoon at the ballpark, munching on hot dogs and laughing with your family. It was just fun to sit at your lucky spot on the couch, not moving an inch during a nail-biter against the rival team.
Do yourself a favor. Try your damnedest to recapture that innocence this season. Spring has sprung and the past has melted away. Change the radio station when the WFAN jocks start talking about salaries, steroids, or ratings. None of those things are important and none of them contribute to the enjoyment of watching a baseball game. Instead, argue with your friends about Jose Reyes vs. Derek Jeter and who should fill out the 25 man rosters. Explain the infield fly rule to your nephew and go visit Cooperstown. Suspend disbelief. But if you're unable to do so, do yourself a favor and slowly walk away. Find something else to do. Seriously. Following 162 games of baseball is an investment of time that's only worth it if you're having fun. If you think the game is made up of a bunch of juiced up millionaires who don't care about the fans, you're right. You're right, you're right, you're right. You've figured it all out and you've given yourself a very good excuse to excuse yourself from the situation. Don't feel bad about it; you've still got your memories of "when it was a game," and no one can take that away from you. But now you've got a world of spare time on your hands. All those things you say you wish you would do if you could only find the time - well there you go. Go play catch in the backyard, go call an old friend, go do whatever. The ballplayers won't miss you at all.
But if you can summon that innocence, the game hasn't change done iota from when you fell in love with it. The bases are still 90 feet apart, and there are still 3 strikes before you're out. The game looks a lot crisper on the HDTV set, and the food at the stadium tastes a little better and the seats are a little more roomier. The only thing standing between you and your enjoyment is you. So what's it going to be, fellow Mets fans? Are we going to BELIEVE? Or are we going to wish for baseball like it oughta be? Either way, it's up to you.