Shades of Wilbert Harrison!
“They’re going to Kansas City…they got some crazy little Royals there and the Mets are going to give them some.”
Not exactly the lyrics of the famed R & B tune, but the intentions are on the right track, as the 2016 campaign kicks off with the unique matchup of pitting the World Series opponents from last October to tear the seal off the new season.
The schedule was locked in last summer, way before the Mets and Royals knocked over each obstacle on their way to the Fall Classic. And thanks to the recent trend of having interleague series virtually every day, baseball achieves another first with the last two teams of the previous season playing their first game with familiarity.
And again by chance, the last two teams the Mets opposed in October are the last two teams they face once more before their home opener next Friday – thanks to the rare scheduling of closing out the ’16 spring with two games against the Cubbies in Arizona before heading to KC.
More importantly, no matter how badly Mets fans care to exact revenge on those pesky Royals for bursting their dream balloon last October, it won’t mean a thing if they sweep the two-game set in KC, split or even fumble the first two games. Meaning it won’t change a thing. The Royals still will be raising their Championship flag and will still hand out those gaudy Championship rings, all the while with the jealous Mets watching from the opposing dugout.
If anything, the noisy ceremonies should intensify the Mets’ dedication toward getting back to autumn’s Game of Thrones and this time bring home the flag-ringed trophy. And to a man, the Mets will tell you that’s the goal.
“I will watch it,” said Mets catcher Travis d’Arnaud told the media, in reference to the Royals ring ceremony. “It will be a good motivator to see all they accomplished last year and it will definitely give us some motivation for what we want this year.”
What Mets fans also will want is to learn if Matt Harvey takes regular rest room breaks. Anything related to the Dark Knight initiates reams of headlines and his bladder bleats triggered, at first, twenty-four hours of concern that the world was imploding, only to reveal a blood clot stemming from a reluctance to pee.
Harvey was pissed off, literally, due to waves of urination jokes and headlines as a result and put the media on a brief boycott. That wall of silence comes down on Sunday night, when the Ace again faces the team he held scoreless for eight innings in his last official start five months ago until that wall came crashing down in the ninth.
Harvey did not have a good spring – four starts, 12 innings, 13 hits, 10 earned runs, two home runs, nine walks – but none of that matters now. Spring is for getting ready for the long dance, and that start is hours away.
The Mets overall did not have a good spring – 8-17 – with wins in short supply the last two weeks – but again, those who do poorly in March point to April as their target. And those who did well – yeesh, the Nationals (19-4) and D-Backs (23-8) treated March like a playoff tournament – claim they’re creating a winning culture.
Again, all of those numbers go out the window on Sunday, and the real race begins.
The prognosticators all have the Mets, Cubs, D-Backs, Giants, Nats, Cards, Buccos, and some say the Dodgers in the mix for those five NL playoff spots. It’s an easy call, as the Braves, Reds, Phillies, Brewers, Rockies, and some say the Padres have already thrown in the towel.
The Marlins will be this year’s pesky gnats, thanks to new skipper Don Mattingly calling the shots, and with Barry Bonds guiding the hitters. Hate to say it, but they may have a chance at upsetting a few dream sequences.
Another revenge sequence worth noting is how the Royals treat Noah Syndergaard in game 2 of the season on Tuesday night. He gave their shortstop Alcides Escobar baseball’s version of a shave and a haircut in the World Series and famously challenged his royal blue teammates that if they wanted to question his ability to throw inside, they should know he’ll be 60 feet six inches away.
Baseball players have long memories. There are stories of payback that have lasted years. There are tales of payback exacted in spring training, even between eventual teammates, and there’s even a few mythic legends of payback that was settled in oldtimers games. Yes, oldtimers games.
But in this instance, both Terry Collins and Ned Yost have publicly stated it will not be a holdover incident. Yost concluded, “Our retribution was winning the World Series.”
We’ll find out if they mean it on Tuesday. But first, one easy prediction will have Harvey wetting down, excuse me, setting down, KC in royal fashion on Sunday night.
Enjoy the season.