It's embarrassing that I have to go into a season with a New York baseball franchise having this kind of attitude, but here is why I'm holding out hope for the 2012 New York Mets:
Actually before starting I should clarify what "hope" means. I do not think the Mets will sniff the NL East or the Wildcard (or even the rumored 2nd Wildcard if that happens). What I mean by hope is a team that can put together a brand of baseball that will keep me interested until August. I'd actually sign up for what the Mets did last year until September 7th when they were 1 game under .500 at that point. There is a reason Terry Collins actually received a 1st place vote for NL Manager of the year. For most of the year, they were not a terrible watch. Ideally you don't want to refer to a team with a 100+ million dollar payroll as scrappy but situations what they were they were a scrappy, fun bunch there for a little while.
So why do I think the Mets might not be a total disaster:
1. I understand the Mets are arguably in the best division in baseball so the unbalanced schedule effects them more than others but look at some of last year's teams that overachieved in 2011: the Pirates were players at the trade deadline, the Indians were a .500 ball club with two days left in the season and Vegas had Arizona's win total at 72.5 going in to spring training. In any year the right group of guys can overachieve. Now that I have my "hope springs eternal" reason out of the way...
2. I know injuries are a part of sports, but injuries! Do you know how many teams didn't have a single position player play in at least 130 games? I'm not looking it up but it's probably not a lot. The Mets leader in games played was a tie with 126 with Jose Reyes and Willie Harris. Angel Pagan and Jason Bay 123, Justin Turner 117, Josh Thole 117, Daniel Murphy 109, David Wright 102. Do you know how many at bats Jason Pridie had? Too many. These aren't normal numbers for any team. I want to see what happens when the core of the offense plays 140-150 games together.
3. The rotation is the worst in the NL East but it's not as bad as it looks. I'm not expecting miracles from Johan Santana. If asked for a prediction I'd go with an 11-11 4.50 ERA. I'm looking at this year as still a rehab year for him. Assuming you get more of the same as last year with the remaining four members of the rotation (other than Pelfrey who throws up a lot of stinkers) Dickey, Gee and Niese keep you in games. But with Gee and Niese both only being 25, I don't think it's unreasonable to expect some improvement out of them.
4. The walls are moving in. It sounds like a lame excuse but the dimensions at CitiField had to get in to hitter's heads. My theory is this: players do care about their numbers. It's how they get paid. The reason that the home and road splits are both bad for Mets "power hitters" is because they let CitiField get in their head so much that they pressed to get their numbers up on the road. If nothing else, I really do feel that guys like Wright and Bay will be able to relax a little more at home and if/when they start to get their numbers there, their numbers on the road will come too.
5. I'm not expecting much out of Ruben Tejada, Josh Thole and Andres Torres offensively but Ike Davis (he was on pace for a 27 HR 97 RBI type of season) and Daniel Murphy (until he inevitably gets hurt on a takeout slide playing 2nd) are coming back and they both can hit. As a Mets fan, you have to like what you saw from Lucas Duda last year so I feel all is not lost offensively. If you can put some order of Murphy, Davis, Wright, Bay and Duda together for any stretch of time I think they can put up more runs than last year.
I know Reyes not being back is going to kill this team. But the baseball season is so long and so pivotal in my enjoyment of the summer that I'll look for hope anywhere I can find it.