In a weird way, the sheer length of the baseball season makes watching a bad team easier, not harder. After 100 games, a truly mediocre team can't maintain the pretense of being one hot streak from contention. The day-to-day grind of baseball lets fans adjust their expectations gradually and reasonably.
The enormity of the schedule also prevents any one person from possibly following all 30 teams with the attention of a fan. Each team's season is its own insular little world, where success and failure are relative. In some cities, small moments--like a call-up's first hit, or a young pitcher finding his changeup--become as significant as the division-clinching win. A real baseball fan can bear losing, because there's always tomorrow and someone friendly with whom to discuss it. The destination may vary, but for every team and its fans, the journey is familiar--a string of daily minutiae, treated with the seriousness of a classic Greek play.
Mets fans have had no such relief lately. The Mets' teams of the past few years have inexplicably raised expectations, while getting progressively worse and remaining in the national eye. In a stadium whose naming rights were paid with bailout money, the Wilpons charged fans recession-proof prices to see a losing team. The Mets literally took money stolen and taxed from hard-working Americans, to pay the worst baseball players in the world to lose, all to the frustration of those regular, hard-woring folks. The Mets weren't just everything wrong with baseball, they were everything wrong with America, the world.
And we had to hear about it. We're still hearing about it--every media outlet is projecting the Mets like they've still got Livan Hernandez, Alex Cora, and Oliver Perez on the payroll (*cough* Nats *cough*), because it fits the running narrative of the Mets as a talk-show monologue punch-line.
But I can't be bothered.
After 2008, the second straight exasperating, trust-shattering season, we had to invest our faith in something other that the Mets. Eric started religiously following the career of some infielder-turned-catcher non-prospect. I was following the gradual, anonymous comeback of a hometown hero. Both were longshots to ever find Major League success. Today, one will be pitching to the other. And both are good.
R.A. Dickey is the ace. The front office is the cast of Moneyball, the book that started my obsession with baseball. These Mets are closer to my weird junior-high fantasy for the team than anything I could have reasonably expected. Maybe these Mets aren't good. But the creeping dread of old, the oft-validated feeling that everything that could go wrong would, has been replaced with a tepid optimism, a vague sense that the Mets are generally on the side of good, so good things will happen.
This first series might not be the start anything more than the Sandy Alderson era. But looking back in a few years, that might mean a lot.