Following years — no, decades — of dysfunction, heartbreak, and downright bad luck, often times the optimism that surrounds the New York Mets heading into a new season is unfounded or even blind.
This is a team that has inexplicably been the victim of Murphy’s Law (whatever can go wrong, will go wrong) for a majority of its existence, which is why the team’s World Series appearance five years ago feels more like a lifetime ago.
Naturally, many are expecting that trend to continue. After all, they already lost No. 2 starter Noah Syndergaard to Tommy John surgery earlier this year while Michael Conforto and Marcus Stroman were listed as day-to-day on Wednesday. Conforto was hit in the hand/wrist area with a pitch while Stroman is dealing with calf tightness.
But for the first time in what feels like ever, the Mets’ 2020 hopes don’t hinge on stellar pitching and the hopes of winning 2-1 or 3-2 ballgames.
No, this is a team that has the potential to put up big offensive numbers — a concept rarely heard of when it comes to this organization.
The Mets, who kick off their season at Citi Field on Friday evening against the Atlanta Braves (ESPN, 4:10 p.m. ET first pitch), offer one of the deepest lineups in Major League Baseball with a blend of natural hitting and big-time power that is benefitting from the designated hitter making its way to the National League.
Oft-injured slugger Yoenis Cespedes is set to assume the DH role for the Mets on Opening Day, somewhat alleviating a log-jam at the corner-outfield spots.
With Conforto holding down things in right field and with Brandon Nimmo in center, Cespedes at the DH spot opens a clear avenue for JD Davis — who had a breakout season last year — to be the team’s everyday left fielder.
He’s just one of a few breakout names that surprised Mets fans last season as All-Star Jeff McNeil has quickly developed into one of the better lead-off bats in the game while Dominic Smith is coming off an impressive summer camp following a promising 2019.
But the marquee name — which will likely be the engine of the Mets’ success — will continue to be Pete Alonso, fresh off a record-setting 53-home-run season as a rookie.
Such a rare collection of offensive talent and power in Queens almost takes the attention away from the franchise’s identity on the mound.
Mets ace Jacob deGrom is gunning for a third-straight National League Cy Young Award as he looks to extend his reign as one of the top pitchers in baseball.
A bobble last week in the form of back tightness has been cleared for the righty, who has great expectations for the truncated season.
“That’s the goal [another Cy Young]. As a starting pitcher, that’s a personal goal,” deGrom said on Wednesday. “Team goal most importantly is to win a World Series. But along the way, you set personal goals as well so I’ve set it in years past and it’s still a goal of mine.”
The Mets will need their very best from deGrom, who will carry a pitching staff that has its fair share of question marks behind Stroman with Steven Matz, Rick Porcello, and Michael Wacha having plenty to prove.
But the fact of the matter is that the Mets seemingly have something brewing in 2020 as one of the favorites to compete for the National League East crown.
So maybe it’s alright for cautious optimism to creep in.