MLB.com Columnist

Richard Justice

Mets want to turn talk into results

Mets want to turn talk into results

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Some of the old-timers have told these Mets how special it can be.

For instance, Wally Backman and Tim Teufel.

They've talked about how the atmosphere will be electric, how the ovations will sound like thunderclaps when the Mets are really good again.

"Hearing stories from them about how much New York surrounded them with positive energy and support is something we all strive for," said one of the current Mets, Matt Harvey.

Third baseman David Wright experienced it himself in 2006 when the Mets won the National League East and got all the way to Game 7 of the NL Championship Series. In those few weeks, Shea Stadium had a magical feel.

"Some of the best memories I've had on a baseball field," Wright said.

These Mets have tasted it a time or two when big crowds have shown up to Citi Field. On days like that, players feed off the energy and the good vibes.

"I think it can be as good an atmosphere as anywhere," Mets All-Star second baseman Daniel Murphy said.

He mentions University of Florida home football games.

"A packed house in Queens rivals that," Murphy said.

And so, that's where these Mets are in 2015. Their motto could be "Embrace expectations."

"It's time," manager Terry Collins said. "We just think the pieces are in place. Now we've got to go play. Talk is cheap. We all know that."

Last season may have been a springboard to the postseason. At least, that's the way it may work out.

The Mets went 79-83 in a season in which they didn't have their No. 1 starting pitcher, Harvey, as he recovered from Tommy John surgery. Their best position player, Wright, injured his left shoulder in June and finished with a career low in home runs (eight) and on-base-percentage (.324).

Yet plenty of good things happened. Among them:

• Right-hander Jacob deGrom (9-6, 2.69 ERA) was voted the NL Rookie of the Year.

• Second-year center fielder Juan Lagares emerged as one of the best defensive outfielders in the game, winning a Gold Glove Award.

• Catcher Travis d'Arnaud returned from a Minor League demotion and had a .787 OPS after the All-Star break.

• Right-hander Zack Wheeler fulfilled plenty of his promise as well, with a 2.71 ERA in his final 16 starts.

Now with Harvey and Wright healthy and with veteran outfielder Michael Cuddyer having been added to the mix, the Mets begin 2015 with high hopes.

DiComo on Harvey, roster holes

"On paper, we've answered a lot of questions," Wright said. "It seems like guys have solidified themselves at positions where we had those question marks. You're coming into camp this year with a more experienced team, more of a proven team."

The Nationals are the consensus favorites to win the NL East, but the Mets and Marlins think they might both have something to say about that.

For the Mets, optimism begins with a rotation stacked with power arms and more of them in the Minors.

"If Zack goes out and has a good start, whoever follows him is going to want to do the same thing," Harvey said. "Everybody wants to continue a good streak. It's not just the pitching staff. It's everybody. You get a couple guys hot and having good at-bats. Or a couple guys having good outing. Everybody wants to ride that wave. I think having -- not a competitiveness against each other -- but more of a wave to continue the success and keep that going."

Players like Murphy, one of the guys who has experienced the tough times in New York, may find a nice ride that much sweeter. General manager Sandy Alderson stayed the course, hanging onto his best pitchers despite the temptation to fill one of his holes, especially at shortstop.

In the end, Alderson may be happy he remained disciplined. The Mets aren't a deep team, but not many are. On the other hand, few teams have the kind of high-ceiling arms the Mets have.

"We're really excited," Murphy said. "The cool part is being able to be here for the last five or six years. I've got to see guys grow. Even myself. Now you see guys like Zack Wheeler and Jake deGrom. Travis d'Arnaud what he did last year says a lot about him -- to get sent back down and then to come up and be as productive as he was in the second half of the season. It's a really cool blend of young players and some veterans."

Richard Justice is a columnist for MLB.com. Read his blog, Justice4U. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.