Over the past week or so, we’ve seen plenty of Mets players already down in Port St. Lucie getting ready for the upcoming season. But now that February 15th is here, taking another step forward as an organization officially starts.
With that in mind, manager Buck Showalter is the perfect guy to be steering the ship for this club.
The Mets are the definition of a “win-now” team. They’re fresh off a 101-win campaign that ended with a premature postseason exit. New York also had a ton of impact players hit free agency this past offseason. It would’ve been easy to leave some areas of the roster up for debate heading into spring training.
Instead, owner Steve Cohen and general manager Billy Eppler embarked on the most expensive offseason in franchise history. They committed more than $500 million in total player contracts and will enter 2023 with a record-setting payroll in excess of $350 million.
There are already championship aspirations for the club, and certain projection systems will only enhance those expectations in the league’s biggest media market. You could hear it in first baseman Pete Alonso’s voice with this message for fans ahead of the season:
Pete Alonso's message to Mets fans on the 2023 group:
"We're very, very hungry. It's going to be a really special year, so buckle up." pic.twitter.com/qP8zslu9g9
— SNY Mets (@SNY_Mets) February 15, 2023
If there’s ever a time to be optimistic about an upcoming season, it’s in spring training. The slate is wiped clean, and while expectations are different for each club, they all technically have the same chance of achieving October glory. That’s the goal — to make it to the end and hoist that trophy.
But to have a shot at winning the World Series, you have to first get into the playoffs. And to get into the playoffs, teams have to rise above their competition over the course of a six-month season.
This is what Buck had to say about all that (quote via New York Post):
In order to have something to finish, you have got to figure out a way to start it. We are more interested in that part right now, hoping we have a chance to have something to finish.
Showalter is notorious for being a stickler with details. That’s how you win Manager of the Year for four different clubs in four different decades, after all. The above quote is just another example of keeping his roster focused on what’s most important right now.
The other great thing about Showalter’s approach with Mets players is he knows when to say something and when to not say something. He spoke about last year’s early postseason exit and how he wants everyone to remember it. It’s not like the skipper has to call a meeting to remind everyone what happened just a few short months ago, though:
It’s one of those things that is kind of silent, you don’t talk about it. They know, they lived it. Who in here likes talking about unpleasant things? Nobody likes it.
Technically, not all of them lived it because there was quite a bit of roster turnover this winter. But we all get what he’s talking about. Buck knows these ballplayers are professionals, and they’re here to win. Losing and the end-of-season depression that comes with a special group not making it to the mountaintop should be plenty of motivation.
Last, but most certainly not least, Showalter isn’t interested in hearing about preseason expectations because of the high-profile moves, the payroll, or anything else. It’s about competing and getting the job done:
The beauty of all the things that go on and things we talk about and the moves that everybody makes or doesn’t make, it all starts on an even-level playing field and nobody cares about any of that stuff, between the lines. It’s, ‘Am I better than you and are you better than me?’ And let’s see where we are at the end of the year and see if we get a chance to roll the dice in October. Everybody is looking for that opportunity, so expectations are always high in major league camps.
This is something Showalter has had to deal with himself. He’s managed in more than 3,000 big-league games and is approaching 1,700 wins. Two of the clubs he managed (the Yankees and Diamondbacks) won titles the year after he left the organization. He’s been to the postseason but has never had an opportunity to participate in the World Series.
To get there, though, he knows the Mets have to start somewhere in 2023, and that starts with aiming for the NL East title. His perspective/temperament is perfect for a club that has unfinished business to tend to this year.
Matt Musico can be reached at [email protected] and you can follow him on Twitter: @mmusico8.