PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Because the Mets have spent so much of the past year defying expectations, it's no longer obvious what to anticipate from them. Coming off a World Series berth, the Mets would at least like to repeat that level of success. And yet it's difficult enough to accomplish that guarantees ring hollow.
That's why manager Terry Collins, at the dawn of camp, is simply urging his players to play as hard as possible in the hopes that more good things will happen.
"I don't think it's 'World Series or bust' because it's too long a season," Collins said Thursday during his annual "State of the Mets" news conference. "Everybody's going to say that. There are 30 teams, and believe me, this week 30 managers are going to stand up and say, 'We can win.' So it's about going out and competing. I know that if we stay healthy and we run our lineup out there on a consistent basis, we should win a lot of games."
On paper, the Mets are the favorites in the National League East. But an injury or two could change that, as could a surge from the Nationals or Marlins. And beyond the division, teams such as the Cardinals, Cubs, Pirates, Dodgers, Giants and D-backs lurk; nearly all of those clubs improved over the offseason, with eyes toward unseating the Mets.
"There are too many things that happen during the course of the year," Collins said. "But what we're going to do right now is walk out this year knowing we've got a quality pitching staff, a quality bullpen, a very, very good lineup. And we've shown we can compete."
In many ways, Collins' job will be easier than ever this spring. Position battles are few and far between, leaving Collins free to mentor younger players and fine-tune the roster. For the first time in years, questions of job security are not dogging him.
But Collins also must now deal with the weight of true expectations for the first time in his tenure here. The manager knows how difficult that can be -- even if he's not sweating thoughts of October just yet.
"The best part is we now know we can accomplish it," Collins said. "That's where I think we have to start: 'Hey, look, we know we can do this. We did it. And we should be better because of it.' What that leads to, only time will tell. But we certainly like our chances."