By Ed Coleman
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PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. (WFAN) — The Mets’ first full squad workout on Sunday was filled with understated proclamations and positivity on a lot of fronts.
From manager Terry Collins stating with confidence that his team would be playing in October, to general manager Sandy Alderson saying “we’re all in,” to David Wright passing his initial throwing test of spring training, to Zack Wheeler throwing off the mound once again, even to Neil Walker getting close to agreement on an extension (two years, plus an option) to keep him in New York, there was a lot of sunshine to go around on a basically cloudy day in Port St. Lucie.
Let’s start with the manager. When Collins was asked whether his team could return to the World Series, he laughed and said, “I get that question on Day 1?”
But he did respond thusly. And, yes, technically the baseball season ends Oct. 1, so in that sense the Mets will likely have a lot of company. But you can tell Collins feels strongly his team will make the playoffs yet again.
The Mets went to the World Series in 2015. Last year, fighting through a lot of adversity, they took a step back to a quick elimination in the Wild Card game. But if you think that should dim their swagger heading into 2017, please don’t tell Collins, who recounted Sunday his opening remarks to the team the day before.
“I told these guys today as I told you yesterday, what these guys did to persevere through all the tough times, the injuries, all the doubters, they better walk around with their heads up. They better have a little swagger,” Collins said. “They better talk winning. They better play like they’re going to win. They better act like they’re going to win. Last year, they just rose up. They should be very proud of what they accomplished. The character on this team is second to none. They can challenge. They can challenge anybody.”
As for his lineup linchpin, left fielder Yoenis Cespedes, Collins believes he’s in a great place because he’s happy, he has long-term security, and he knows he’s going to be in New York, which he loves and loves him. And why does Collins feel a content? A healthy Cespedes will be a difference maker this year.
“(Cespedes) is special when it comes to talent,” Collins said. “And now with that smile on his face and the enjoyment of being out there, what he did this winter to come into this camp in this great of shape, that’s pretty impressive. So I’m thrilled. And if he brings leadership with that, more power to us.”
Wright was pleased that he finally got some throwing in, even if it wasn’t yet across the diamond. The captain said there is a terrific mix of talent, character and attitude on this team from both veteran and young players alike, and he was crystal clear about one thing: he loves this team and wants very much to be a big part of it.
“It’s really enjoyable coming to the ballpark every day,” Wright said. “I’ve been on some teams that were kinda OK, and I’ve been on some really good ones. To me, this is the best. Again, it’s the mix of leadership and really strong clubhouse guys, and then the young guys who are eager and hungry.”
Alderson delivered words of joy to the ears of Mets fans everywhere when asked about the crowded outfield situation after retaining Jay Bruce during the offseason with an already hefty payroll. So, come the trade deadline, will the Mets have some flexibility to make moves that might be necessary? Alderson’s answer was short and simple.
“It’s a credit to ownership that our payroll is as high as it is now, given where we’ve been as recently as two years ago, and where our budget might have been. But we’ve had the fortune here recently of being able to take advantage of opportunities, or not have to make moves on the basis primarily of payroll, so I think we should all be pleased,” Alderson said.
Where does one go on Day 2? Stay tuned.
Eddie C is with the Amazins’ in Port St. Lucie. Please check back for more reports.