I love this video - the 1963 Mets promotional video, featuring Casey Stengel, Ed Kranepool, Duke Snider, Lindsay Nelson, Ralph Kiner and Bob Murphy. It says as much about the New York of the early 60s as it does about baseball. There was real optimism in the air. Shea Stadium ("the most modern edifice ever constructed for the game of baseball") was going up in Queens and the Polo Grounds saw its last games. George Weiss talked about the farm system that would soon produce Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman, Cleon Jones, Bud Harrelson, Nolan Ryan and Jerry Grote. And dig those New Yawkah man-on-the-street interviews. Just brilliant, and in such contrast to the doom and gloom downer (until the last episode of season three) of everyone's favorite costume drama, Matt Weiner's Mad Men.
That optimism is in stark contrast to the attitude Mets fans in this off-season, though I'd argue that the hour Jose Reyes did with Mike Francesa this week on the FAN was like a brief summer win blowing across the frozen tundra of Citi Field. If Reyes's evident love of the game - not to mention his speed - makes its return at the top of the Mets order, we may avoid the horror of last summer, a baseball dead zone capped by the Metsies' worst-choice World Series match-up.
The Mets haven't made a big off-season move as yet, banking on comebacks from the Season of the Surgery (unless yesterday's signing of Japanese set-up man Ryota Igarashi counts as big-time); they've an offer into slugger Jason Bay, and another for aging catcher Bengie Molina. All these moves are incremental and could improve the on-field product next season. Certainly, the Mets - if reasonably healthy - should return to a team that plays well above .500.
But they don't (at present) have enough to challenge the Phillies' growing Eastern hegemony. That's a team built for the present and the future. The Mets' biggest hole is their rotation, and Citi Field's capacious pastures demands a herd of rawhide arms like the Metsies produced in the mid-60s. Right now, the Mets have a come-backing Johann Santana and a possible inside straight of 20-something head cases. The rotation simply won't make it.
Across town, meanwhile, it appears that the Yankees had a better team in the parade up the Canyon of Heroes than they do entering 2010. Trading out Damon and Matsui for Grandersn and Johnson is an obvious net loss, despite the gains in average age. Matsui was underrated for his entire Yankees' stint, and Damon in the two-hole was absolutely vital to last year's production. Both will be missed in the extreme.