An article appeared in the New York Times shortly after New Years, proclaiming 2016 to be “The year of yes.” My mother, inspired, read it aloud. I laughed at her, and as she realized the full ridiculousness of what she was reading, she laughed too. And then I realized that I agreed.
Now, it’s months later. Bartolo Colón has stunk up Spring Training. Matt Harvey, today, was roughed up by the Cardinals’ triple-A team. Asdrubal Cabrera is out and questionable for Opening Day. Ruben Tejada is gone. David Wright seems a daily question mark, figuratively and, given the state of his back, almost literally.
And I say: none of that. It’s 2016, the year of yes, and we’re not the same old Mets that we once were. The “2015 National League Champions” pennant currently hanging at Citi Field will attest to that, but even more emphatically, the players will. We’re no joke. We’re no longer the Mets of Campbell and Mayberry, four and five. We’re here to win a World Series, and this time, injuries won’t derail us.
Consider it a sign that I’m even saying what I just did: in any other year — perhaps, and this is what worries me, this year as well — such optimism would be unspeakable. Condemned. Derided as wishful thinking, because we all know the Mets get injured. It’s just what happens. Paraphrasing Billy Joel’s thoughts on the pub culture of his youth, we just get injured. It’s just what we do. And if we do that for long enough, I suppose we’re going to have a problem.
And we’ve had our problems in the past. Injuries derailed the 2006 postseason, the 2008 bullpen, and the last five months of 2009. They cost us the arm of a franchise pitcher, the legs of a franchise speedster, much of the prime of a five-tool outfielder, and the back and playing time of our captain. And that’s just to name a few. They cost us a year of Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler, the career of Ike Davis, and the Mets tenure of Vic Black. They cost us months of Jerry Blevins and Travis d’Arnaud, and worst of all, they utterly failed to cost us Oliver Perez or Luis Castillo, while they were here.
But again, that was the past, and this is the present. That was the era of empty seats and empty promises; of meaningful games in September and meaningless second base competitions. We’re the team to beat now; even the clown himself admits it. And teams to beat don’t lose their seasons on freak injuries like Asdrubal Cabrera’s. Well, some do, but not the ones like us, who have absolutely got some good luck coming their way.
There are always reasons not to say yes, and while I understand the value of keeping expectations low and not overselling what we have, high expectations are part of what makes 2016 different, and say what you will, but we need something different. I simply refuse to go into 2016 in the same way we went into 2012 and 2013, hoping for a .500 record, thinking getting close to a Wild Card will be enough. We all know 2016 is different: we don’t want to say it, but we’re in for October or bust. And I’m taking the liberty of saying it for us.
And if we want to go to October? Well, let’s damn act like it. We’re not the old Mets, who were build on a crumbling foundation of aging talent and couldn’t sustain anything more than a mediocre spark for more than three or four years. We’re new. We’re young. We were built by the baseball maverick himself, and now that we’ve arrived, we deserve some high expectations. I don’t want to be disappointed, but I don’t want to go through the 2016 season holding back happiness for fear of future disappointment either.
So I’ll say it right now: we’re a playoff team. We’re better than the Nationals and the Marlins. We can beat anybody in the National League and pretty damn close to everybody in the American League in any given game or series. We’ve got maybe the best pitching staff in the league, and that’s before we get Wheeler back. We’ve got a consistent, exciting offense: we’ve got Conforto and d’Arnaud the the perennially steady Lucas Duda and Grandy and Walker, not to mention Cespedes and the captain. We’ve got Wilmer and Reynolds and Cabrera at short, all of whom can hit consistently if unspectacularly, and really, with our pitching, that’s all you need. So, again, let’s act like it.
Now, I may be miles off base in my gut instinct that we’ll get a respite from injuries this year. We may lose all the pieces we have in April, or, even worse, in September. But if we do, it won’t change what we had going in. Just for the sake of it, let’s say Thor goes down on April 15th with elbow soreness that we all know will turn into Tommy John surgery. Will we feel better because we didn’t feel better? Will our attempt to lower expectations and avoid disappointment have succeeded?
Of course not, because whether we admit it to ourselves or not, we know what kind of team we’ve got, and it doesn’t make a whit of difference what we say about it. We know the potential our guys have got, and if they don’t live up to it, we’ll be disappointed whether or not we pretend to have anticipated it. No sense keeping ourselves unhappy in the meantime.
Baseball can change in an instant: a ball off a hand, an awkward slide, or a twinge in the elbow can change a season in a heartbeat. We’ve all seen it. All that’s certain is right now, tomorrow, and the upcoming game. Beyond that, we’ve got no idea who will be around to play.
All we’ve got is today’s game, today’s lineup, the team on the field. And right now, it’s a damn good one. And what’s the sense in pretending to oneself that our team isn’t as good as we know it is? I’m taking 2016, and I’m saying, yes we will.
Repeat as division champs? Yes we will.
Back to the NLCS? Yes we will.
Another National League pennant? Yes we will.
A World Series Championship to put a lit on an incomplete 2015 season? Yes we will.
Or maybe we won’t. But today, with the team we’ve got, we can, and that’s what matters. And knowing how quickly things can change in baseball, all we know for certain is that we’ve got a good team right now. So let’s be proud of it. Let’s look forward to it. And let’s do absolutely nothing to suggest that we can’t keep winning longer than absolutely everyone else.
Until further notice, we’re the team to beat, and maybe, further notice is not forthcoming. We won’t know until it does, in any case, and it hasn’t come yet. So let’s make 2016 The Year of Yes.