If you’re a baseball fan, then today is perhaps the best day of the year (to go along with anniversaries, kids’ birthdays and the first nice Saturday of spring when women who are anxious to shed those winter clothes walk around the city wearing tank tops) — Opening Day of the season. It’s a bitterwsweet day for Mets fans — while we start 2010 with a clean slate, the hangover from last season (actually, the last three seasons) stays with us.
The Mets needed to do several things today to begin the healing process, and remarkably, they did them all. It’s only one game, playing against a Marlins team that everyone thinks will be good, but looked horrible, so we shouldn’t get ahead of ourselves. But it’s always nice to get off to a good start.
Let’s start first with the cosmetic:
Citi Field looked great, on television, anyway. The team has really Mets-ified the place. The old apple outside, the banners of players on lightposts, and the murals on the walls really make the place feel like home of the Mets. It was a really nice touch naming the bridge in the outfield the “Shea Bridge.” And the “Mets Hall and Fame and Museum” is a brilliant idea. From what I can tell, it really celebrates the team’s history. All of these things come a year too late, but at least they’re there now.
And they fixed the bullpens, which were absolutely shameful last season. Now they are side-by-side, instead of back-to-back with the opposing relievers behind three chain link fences. When I first saw it on TV last year, I immediately thought “Guantanamo Bay.” I’m shocked no one ever mockingly called it that. And I’m surprised I didn’t in my review of Citi Field. I forgot.
I love the new uniforms. Actually, they are not new at all, but a redesign based on the old 1960s jerseys. I like the off-white rather than the starkness of the usual home whites. Perhaps the Mets will wear these more often, so we will see less of the black uniforms. Those never made sense to me — black has never been a Mets color. They’ve been around for a while now, but the black still doesn’t seem right.
Now to the game:
David Wright needed to put last season’s power outage behind him. The best way to do that would be to hit a home run in the first game. He did it in his first at bat. With that one swing, he made everyone forget he only hit 10 homers last year. Wright looked like the Wright of old — driving the ball, looking more balanced at the plate than he did last season.
Johan Santana is our only reliable starter, but he was coming off elbow surgery and missed the last month of the season. We don’t need him to be a question mark as well, and he showed that he won’t — pitching six innings, and allowing just one run.
Jason Bay needed to get off to a quick start to prove to some skeptical media members and fans that he was worth the $66 million the Mets gave him. He went 2-for-4, showing some major hustle with a triple, and showing a strong arm with a solid throw that nearly nailed a runner at second.
Other newbies Gary Matthews, Jr. and Rod Barajas had two hits a piece, and the bullpen threw three scoreless innings.
And most importantly, the Mets won, 7-1. I know it’s only the first game, but each game the Mets win puts last season farther in the rear view mirror. That is something the Mets and their beleagured fan base need right now.
By the way, I predict an 84-78 record for the Mets this season, and with not that many teams substantially better than the Mets in the National League, they will compete for the wild card berth. I still have no faith in Maine-Pelfrey-Perez, but I think the offense will be good enough to win a lot of 9-8 games.