They had Tom Glavine and Pedro Martinez, the Carlos-es — Delgado and Beltran — and David Wright in his prime. For Jose Reyes, the 2006 Mets — 97-game winners, NL East champs, thwarted by the Cardinals in Game 7 of the NLCS — were the best team he’d ever played on.
“If it’s not the best, it’s one of the best,” he said of this year’s squad. “We had a very good one in 2006, but talent-wise, I think this one is the best team that I’ve ever had, to be honest with you.”
The Mets on Friday afternoon resembled kids getting ready to go to Disney World — barely restrained energy, already dressed for the big day, even though it’s a few days away. Oh, it’s raining? Let’s go out and toss the ball around anyway. Can you believe how long spring training was? Is it Monday yet?
“It’s always exciting to get to this point,” Reyes said. “We expect to win. That’s our goal . . . It’s been our goal since the first game of spring training — try to get to the playoffs, go to the playoffs and try to win the World Series . . . With the talent that we have, we should win a lot of ballgames this year. We just need to go out there and leave it all on the field.”
Even though the Nationals cast a long shadow in the National League East, it’s no secret why the Mets are excited. They’re relatively healthy and the vibes have been good. In addition to their cadre of elite pitchers — all healthy, aside from Steven Matz — they have up-and-comers Robert Gsellmen and Seth Lugo, who made their mark last year, when three-fifths of the rotation ended up having surgery. The Mets still made it to the wild-card game before getting ousted by Madison Bumgarner and the Giants.
The Mets have walked back from setting strict innings limits on Zack Wheeler, saying they’ll monitor him as the year goes on. Matt Harvey, coming off surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome, has been improving with each appearance. The Mets left him in Florida, where he threw 64 pitches, 35 for strikes, in a camp game Friday.
And though the team is more or less the same from 2016, there is a notable difference, manager Terry Collins said.
“I think, certainly, we learned a lot about the makeup of this team last year in the second half of the season,” he said. “When they had every opportunity to kind of let down because of everything that’s happened, they actually went in the other direction and picked up. I think that’s going to lead to a pretty successful season this season, because when things are tough, we know they’re going to be able to respond.”
Curtis Granderson said the Mets quickly regrouped after being eliminated last year and made new goals.
“Our expectations are to win and to win as much as possible and to play all the way to the end and hopefully win our last game of the season, which would hopefully be in the World Series,” he said, loquacious as ever, rattling off his impressions in rapid fire, as if he’d prepared his comments ahead of time. “We set that goal up in the start of spring training, even as early as last season, once we got eliminated by the Giants in the one-game play-in. Guys took the offseason very seriously, continued to work, know where they had to come back and improve on . . . We’re here at Citi Field ready to kick things off.”