February 18, 2011 - Port St. Lucie, FL - What a difference a year makes.
When the 2010 Mets' pitchers and catchers reported to spring training, the biggest news surrounded Rod Barajas, who the Mets had signed the day pitchers and catchers reported.
This year, there was a huge buzz in Port St. Lucie, as fans celebrated the opening of spring training for the 2010 World Series champions.
The Mets shocked the world with the 2010 turnaround, which came after a dismal start and changes in the front office.
"From the moment I got here, we just knew things were going to be different," said Hall of Famer Gary Carter, who was hired to replace Jerry Manuel as manager in May. "Me and Keith [Hernandez, who was controversially moved from the broadcast booth to General Manager after Omar Minaya was also fired on what tabloids dubbed 'Mets May-Day'] just refused to see this team lose. Of course, Chris helped quite a bit."
Carter referred to the acquisition of Chris Young, whom the Mets acquired at the trading deadline to bolster what to that point had been an average pitching staff, besides ace Johan Santana. Santana, who won the National League Cy Young Award, and Young drew the biggest crowds as workouts began this year. To get Young, the Mets traded Jose Reyes, who challenged Carter's authority in the first game Carter managed by refusing to come out of a game at Atlanta at first base when it looked like he twisted a knee running out a ground ball.
"Listen, that situation with Reyes," Carter later said. "I know from bad knees, and that looked like a serious knee injury. I also knew that he had tried something similar in Jerry's first game out in Anaheim, and I was ready for a bit of rebellion. We forgot about it soon after...but Keith wouldn't stand for it. He was working the phones to get him out of here from that minute on."
When told of Carter's comments, Hernandez, sitting back in an arm chair in his office, took a drag from a cigarette, and said, "Guys...Carter is so full of *!@#"
The Mets began the 2010 season 10-30, stretching already frustrated fans beyond the breaking point. Calls for the jobs of most front-office staff were heeded with the firings, then the hirings of players from the ultra-popular 1986 team. The fans were rewarded with a 90-32 team the rest of the season and the team's first championship since that 1986 season.
Carter was managing the Division II Palm Beach Atlantic University Sailfish at the time. "I took that job to be closer to my family, but when the Mets came calling, it was a no-brainer. Have you seen my managing record? I knew I could take over this team and win. I mean, that's what I was saying back when Willie [Randolph] was still here."
The Mets benefitted from a decided home field advantage. David Wright, who set a team record with 50 doubles, added 33 home runs, 29 of which were hit over the shortened wall in center field at Citi Field. And a number of players had career-best seasons, not the least of which was the unexplained turnaround of Cy Young runner-up Oliver Perez, who did not have one game with multiple walks all year. "Something just sort of clicked," Perez tried to explain. "I always knew I was supposed to be throwing strikes instead of balls, but I never actually did it."
And so 2011 begins. It's almost hard to believe the season can be any more exciting than what happened in 2010.
But you wouldn't know that from the excitement around Port St. Lucie.
This is 200 Miles From The Citi's second fictional Mets piece. The first can be found here...and might explain Oliver Perez's predicted success in 2010.