A beast of a man built like an ogre with orange-red eyes and a faded Yankees cap resting on his head between two dark horns appears in front of you. He offers you a deal: he'll give the Mets a better chance to win in 2014, but it'll cost you all of 2013.
Would you skip the 2013 season altogether for a better 2014 outlook?
Every signing that is made will be with total regard to 2014 and beyond. Every trade will be evaluated for what it does for the 2014 Mets and the future. The manager will rest players and limit innings in order to keep them healthy for 2014. Prospects will get preference over short-term veterans when it comes to playing time, and players with any value who are not part of the future will be traded for players that might be.
You will not be able to watch any games or highlights. You won't be able to track the players or find out how they're doing. This includes spring training and any possible — however improbable — playoffs. You can watch other teams as long as they're not playing the Mets, but you won't get the out-of-town scoreboard notes as it pertains to them. 2013 will exist to you as a really long offseason; you'll hear about trade rumors and actual trades and you'll hear about prospects as long as it's in a non-2013 context. Once the season ends you'll magically have access to the game logs and statistics — though still no highlights — from the 2013 season.
Would you take this deal?
You'd get the best shot at 2014, a full buffer year of evaluation and analysis to create the most competitive team. Prospects with trouble hitting lefties would get at-bats against lefties to try to prove their worth. Those prospects on the cusp of breaking out would get the valuable major league experience and exposure that cannot be duplicated in the minors. No pitcher would be pushed deep into a game beyond pitch limits set for him, and young pitchers would hit — but scarcely exceed — their innings limit placed on them by the front office to optimize their health and effectiveness for 2014 and beyond. Players who are in the team's long-term plans would get to play together and learn each other's strengths and weaknesses, particularly on defense.
You'd miss an entire season of Mets baseball. Is that something you're willing to do without? Win or lose, a full season of baseball gives me great joy, and it's not something I'd relinquish lightly. You never know what you're going to miss. Baseball is great no matter who is playing, but we're emotionally invested in the New York Mets. Every spring, pitchers and catchers report and we get images and reports of players running on the field, tossing baseballs, and swinging bats. The new season springs upon us, warm and promising. Opening Day returns and we hear the familiar voices on the radio and the images on the television and some hole in our heart is instantly filled. Walking back into the ballpark after a long absence is like returning home after a long trip — it doesn't matter where you've been or what you're returning to because there is comfort and joy in being where you belong.
If this man had shown up last year with this deal, you'd miss the no-hitter and R.A. Dickey's Cy Young season. David Wright had an amazing first half and Ike Davis had an amazing second half. Despite the results, 2012 was filled with some fun stories and entertaining play. It wouldn't have happened on a dismantled team 100% committed to rebuilding. If it was 31 years ago, you'd miss Dwight Gooden's rookie season of dominance and Gary Carter's Mets debut. Every season has its moments that you cherish. Some of them are personal, like that game you attended with your father, while others, like John Maine's no-hit bit near the end of 2007, are moments treasured by most fans.
In 2013, Mike Piazza will probably be inducted into the Hall of Fame and the Mets will host the All-Star Game. A lot of fun will be had at Citi Field as a result of these and other events. The Mets have plenty of players with potential, both young and old, to do things on the baseball field that I wouldn't want to miss, even without knowing how the roster is going to eventually shake out.
Many people feel like the Mets would be best served by shifting their focus to 2014, and it looks to me like many fans are barely paying attention to 2013 as it is. Nevertheless, I doubt many would give up a whole year of Mets baseball simply to boost the chances of the team's long-term hopes coming to fruition. The competitiveness of the Mets in 2014 is largely based on the result of 2013; the transition from rebuilding to competing is fluid yet can often seem to happen in an instant. In 2006 the Mets surged into an NL East vacuum to compete perhaps earlier than they were expected to. In contrast, the late '90s Mets stuttered and skidded into their formative years. Some fans are so focused on the big picture that they're missing what's right in front of them.
Ultimately it comes down to a choice: Is the final result all that matters, or is the value of a baseball season defined by the journey to get there?