Twenty years ago, on the first day of camp in the last February the Mets spent in St. Petersburg, then-general manager Frank Cashen said, "You can look at it in either of two ways -- 'Here we go again' or 'Here we go again.'" He said the former with a tone of anticipation, the latter with a tone or resignation.
"I prefer the former," Cashen said. "If you dread this, it's going to be a long year."
These Mets, revitalized and remodeled to a degree, are hoping for a long year, but in the sense of real time. Their preference is to play deep into October, at least a week longer than they did last fall.
Their hope is to make the first official workout Saturday the first step in a journey that lasts 8 1/2 months and fills their memories and the ring-finger voids that began to develop Oct. 19 after Yadier Molina struck.
"It's going to be a fun, interesting spring," general manager Omar Minaya said Thursday. Later, he extended his vision: "And a fun, interesting season."
Before the Mets begin their 162-game trek to October, they play a 34-game -- three split-squad dates included -- exhibition-game schedule that leads them to the night of April 1 and Major League Baseball's 2007 premiere, in St. Louis. They will begin their '07 against the team that put a premature end to their '06. Before that game, the Mets and the defending World Series champions play four March games in Florida. And before the first of those, the Mets play the defending American League champion Tigers in their first February game -- Feb. 28 in Port St. Lucie.
All the preparation begins Saturday with what former manager Buddy Harrelson once termed our "batteries included" workout. Pitchers and catchers -- and, they hope, sunshine.
Glavine, who might have been up near Disney World with the Braves after a four-year absence, instead will be back for his fifth Mets camp. His private Fantasyland includes the 300th victory of his career and return to the World Series in what probably will be his last go-round. Hernandez, unfamiliar with all "Port St. Lonesome" can provide, will be bring his unique leg kick and workout regimen to the east coast of Florida.
Pelfrey, fellow rookie Philip Humber and six others will begin competing for the vacancies in the rotation created by the absence of Trachsel and -- for all intents and purposes -- Pedro Martinez, who is not expected back from surgery on his right rotator cuff until August. And Duaner Sanchez, as much a patient for the moment as he is a pitcher, will begin to reclaim his place is the bullpen work force.
It's Spring Training. Sun, "bleachin' and teachin,'" new faces, old stories. New pitchers and pitches. Here we go again.