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Optimistic Mets ready to do big things

Mets third baseman David Wright laughs as he

Mets third baseman David Wright laughs as he talks to reporters during a spring training workout Sunday, Feb. 22, 2015 in Port St. Lucie, Fla. Credit: Newsday / Alejandra Villa

A year ago, the thought would have been ludicrous. Perhaps it still is to the skeptics. But in the Mets' clubhouse, optimism rules.

So it was in that setting, in a closed-door meeting earlier in spring training, that third-base coach Tim Teufel painted a picture of how the city once buzzed in orange and blue. It was 1986. The Mets ruled.

And decades later, after years of darkness, they believe they're close to ruling again.

"The feeling is we're not just competing anymore, that we expect to go out there and win," said Teufel, a key cog on the '86 championship team. "I think that's a big difference in thought. I think we know we have a good team. The pieces are here to do it. We've just got to execute."

Teufel neither confirmed nor denied what he said in the team meeting, the one fronted by owner Fred Wilpon. And other than acknowledging that he's "a man of few words most of the time," Teufel refused to share any other details about the message he relayed or why he chose that forum.

"It was supposed to be a private meeting," Teufel said. "So I'm not going to comment about that."

Speaking generally, though, Teufel said there is a benefit to sharing experiences.

"As a whole, anybody who has been in the fire of a playoff or a World Series has something to share," he said. "They have the wounds, and in our case, they have the medals to prove they have what it takes to win."

Whatever the precise words, witnesses seemed to take the message to heart. It was just one of many in a camp that teemed with confidence and optimism.

The Mets have not posted a winning season since 2008. They have not made the playoffs since their rendezvous with heartbreak in 2006. They have played second fiddle to the Yankees for most of the last two decades.

None of that has tempered their open and unabashed desire to reclaim New York. The return of Matt Harvey has only amplified the rhetoric, as did the team's performance in spring training.

David Wright said the team's starting rotation was "as good as advertised" with dominant springs from Harvey and 2014 National League Rookie of the Year Jacob deGrom.

But it was the offense -- once riddled with question marks -- that seemed to break out under new hitting coach Kevin Long.

"From where we are this second, the few questions that we had going into spring training have been answered," said Wright, who does not seem affected by the shoulder injury that wrecked his 2014 season.

Teufel sensed something more, something he hasn't seen in a long time.

"They're really joined together and believe that they can do it," he said. "That's huge."

Teufel saw it in 1986, when the Mets finally put it all together, their reward after years of darkness.

"The vibe in here is the same thing," Teufel said. "We're very confident."

Perhaps just as encouraging is the way the Mets have gone about their preparation. General manager Sandy Alderson and manager Terry Collins have boasted about how the assembled group has come together.

They hope the cohesion begins translating Monday in Washington, when the regular season begins against the Nationals, perhaps the best team in baseball and the favorite to win the World Series.

"We're not looking too far ahead of ourselves," Wright said. "We understand that the expectations are a little higher this year than in years past. Certainly, there's a lot of excitement in the clubhouse. But we've got a tough road ahead of us. Now it's time to quit the talking."

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