PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla.
Not long after his teammates consented to naming him the fourth captain in franchise history, the memories came trickling back to David Wright.
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"I've been here for long enough to experience a little bit of good, some bad and some ugly,'' said Wright, one of the few enduring links to the franchise's better times. "But I am 100 percent confident and excited, just crazy excited, about the direction that we are going with some of the young players that we have. And sooner rather than later.''
Exactly how soon?
That's the question the Mets will answer this season -- for better or worse.
In the third season of Sandy Alderson's tenure as general manager, the Mets take the field as a team still in the midst of transition. Since taking over, Alderson has slashed payroll, purged the roster of established stars and stocked the system with the high-end arms that the Mets believe will pave the way for sustained success. His moves have been made mostly with an eye toward the future.
But leading into the season, even as manager Terry Collins scrambled to work with a roster that appeared incomplete, Alderson insisted he hadn't "punted'' on fielding a competitive team in 2013. Nevertheless, few outside of the organization believe the playoffs are within reach.
Baseball Prospectus, which specializes in the use of advanced statistics, released a fairly optimistic projection earlier in spring training that called for the Mets to finish 82-80. But on the other end of the spectrum, one Nevada sports book known for releasing early odds painted a less bullish picture, setting the over/under for wins at 74.
"People think we're going to be terrible,'' said first baseman Ike Davis, who overcame early struggles last season to hit 32 homers. "We're not that bad. We just have to go out there and prove it to them.''
Doing so could prove to be more difficult than it was a season ago, when the Mets still employed 20-game winner R.A. Dickey -- and still faded to a fourth-place finish and a 74-88 mark.
The Mets attempted to rebuild one of the game's shakiest bullpens and almost certainly will call up two of their most promising prospects by season's end: catcher Travis d'Arnaud and pitcher Zack Wheeler.
Still, the Mets face plenty of deficiencies. As the division rival Braves, Nationals and Phillies bolstered their rosters, the Mets did little to improve thin areas such as the outfield and the bench. The result is a roster stocked with journeymen and unproven players.
"Just because top to bottom you might not have household names, or we may have not gone out and signed the biggest-name free agents this offseason, doesn't mean you can't win,'' Wright said.
The captain reaffirmed his belief in the plan during the offseason when he signed an eight-year, $138-million contract that likely will keep him with the only franchise he's ever known. He wouldn't have done it without the hope of contention sometime soon.
For examples, all Wright has to do is look back in time. Teams such as the Athletics and the Orioles surged to the playoffs a season ago when little was expected of them.
"Those are examples of teams that were in similar situations as us,'' Wright said. "They had young players that you just didn't really know what to expect heading in. Obviously, they performed well on the big stage, and I think we have the opportunity to do that also.''