There are many great annual rituals involved with being a baseball fan. One has already passed, the first game of Spring Training. It is not marketed or attended anywhere near the level of Opening Day. But for the hardcore, and that is a big enough group, that first game in the spring is Must-See TV. For many of us, I suspect, the ritual goes as follows: excitement for about three innings, followed by some distractions, and then by about the seventh, maybe you decide you need to get some air. This is because it is early, and the camp is still filled with a ton of bodies. By the end of the game, even Gary, Keith and Ron aren’t paying attention (and sure, that is always a risk with Keith). But as I sat down this year, I noticed a quick graphic on the SNY screen that made me sit up and think that my dog wasn’t getting to the park that day.
SNY flashed the pitchers they expected us to see that day, and the names Marcum, Wheeler, Mazzoni, Familia, and Parnell showed on the screen. I have been stating my affection for Marcum since Christmas Eve, yet we know what he is about. But Wheeler, that is as exciting as it gets on the first game of spring. And Mazzoni is at least a curiosity. The idea of Familia also had my blood pumping, and yes, that was an SNY error. We had to wait until Sunday for Familia. Parnell is also someone I want to watch right now. He has that great arm and I saw real improvement last year. For a first spring training game, that is a very good day.
While watching I started daydreaming some (about when Gorski entered the game). The next day Familia was going to pitch. And Harvey. Plus Niese, who makes you feel like he is a crusty veteran. Then you look him up and realize he is all of 26 and signed long-term. Jenrry Meija is still around, healthy, now a certified 23, and he will be on the mound soon. So I ask, “When have we had this many legitimate pitching prospects who are about major league ready?” It has been a long time. The last time I can remember is the Izzy, Pulse, Wilson era. And yes, we know how that turned out. Nothing works all the time. But in the late 1960’s we had young strong arms everywhere you looked. That worked out just fine. And I can also cite some history from the current century as long as I move off the Mets. If you look at San Francisco, it has been all about young pitching. In other words, we are all too scared to admit it, but this could work out.
After living through back pages trumpeting Mike Pelfrey‘s arrival as a day to tell your grandchildren about, we all became wary. But Matt Harvey showed up last year and actually looked better than I thought he would. When was the last time that happened?
You will hear other names all spring too. Montero and Robles, who pitched Sunday. Syndergaard and Fulmer, who both made Baseball Prospectus’s top 100 list this week. But those guys are still far enough away that we know they can’t all make it. Also we might need to trade some of these guys to fill other needs. We know what they are. That is a necessary value of a strong
prospect base, but it is also why I personally can’t get as pumped about these guys. There are so many reasons why they may never be Mets. So I do gaze down at the farm, but only a little. It’s my emotional side, I don’t want to get too invested yet. I also can’t easily see them with my own eyes, so it just is not the same. In some ways that makes me jealous of the folks who live in places like Port St. Lucie and Binghamton, but not enough to move. It’s not just the Mets, I don’t know if I could live without the restaurants. I really like to eat.
Our GM once joked that “chicks dig the longball” as a way of explaining targeting power hitters. Well, fans love to watch great pitchers too. I can’t think of any factor (maybe weather) that generates more game-day ticket sales. With Wheeler and Harvey it might start getting difficult to pick the right day.
I know I will be doing my scheduling around them.