Posted in Baseball, New York Mets

Wrapping up spring training

The Mets ended the Grapefruit League portion of their spring training schedule Sunday, though they still have one more exhibition contest against their Triple-A team to play today.

I watched a grand total of two spring training games this year, undoubtedly my fewest in any year of the 21st century. I enjoyed the first few innings of Sunday’s game between the Mets and Marlins… Steven Matz got his final preseason tuneup, and I got to see a reasonable facsimile of Thursday’s Opening Day lineup. The Marlins were anonymous, even more than normal since it was a split squad for them. (Seriously, 2017 Somerset Patriot Tyler Cloyd was the most recognizable player in orange….)

But it was fun to watch baseball… at least until the players with names on the backs of their jerseys left the field for the guys from minor league camp who were wearing generic uniforms with numbers in the 80s and 90s. There was a time I would have known something about a few of them, at least. Now the mass swaps just annoy me. (I expect to catch myself yelling at someone to “get off my lawn” any time now.)

Bartolo Colon baseball DSCN1192
Baseball signed by Bartolo Colon

With the Texas Rangers’ release of former Met Bartolo Colon, it looks like Ichiro Suzuki will be the last active Major League player who was born before me. It’s just a matter of time.

The end of spring training likely brings the end of a few other careers.

  • The Philadelphia Phillies released 36-year-old Francisco Rodriguez, who had been the Mets’ closer from 2009-11. If my lasting memory of K-Rod wasn’t his arrest following a 2010 clubhouse incident involving his then-girlfriend’s father, maybe I’d feel bad that Rodriguez’s baseball days seem to be over.
  • The Atlanta Braves released 34-year-old Scott Kazmir, despite owing him $16 million this year. If this turns out to be it for the oft-injured left-hander, Kazmir will finish with a 108-96 MLB record, 4.01 ERA and three All-Star appearances. That’s not a bad career at all, but given the expectations that surrounded Kazmir when he was a Mets’ prospect, it feels a little bit disappointing.
  • Carlos Torres got his release from the Cleveland Indians after learning he would not make the team. Torres, 35, probably has the best chance of catching on somewhere else. He’s been a largely effective workhorse reliever since 2013. I’ll remember Torres for a photo I snapped of him wearing his glove on his head while he signed autographs during batting practice. I posted in on my Flickr account, and the glove manufacturer saw it. I ended up getting a nice pair of sunglasses from them in exchange for granting permission to use it in their marketing materials.

Mr Met DSCN6546The Mets finished spring training with a 10-18 record, which is not exactly inspiring. Only the 7-22 Texas Rangers finished with fewer victories. But honestly, it’s not that big of a deal — the 1986 Mets went 13-13 that spring, while the eventual 55-58 squad won 21 games in 1994.

Jason Vargas and Michael Conforto not withstanding, the Mets finished the spring relatively healthy. Conforto is likely to be back earlier than expected, and even Vargas doesn’t seem like he’s going to miss much time.

Mickey Callaway should have the team that Sandy Alderson put together for him in April, barring injuries. (With the Mets, you always have to qualify such statements because even cab rides to restaurants can prove dangerous.) And hey, you never know – Sports Illustrated is picking the Mets to win a Wild Card.

Everyone is still tied for first place, and will be until sometime Thursday afternoon. Anything is still possible.

Ya gotta believe.