The Five Aces

The Five Aces

Promise is a funny thing. Not promises — those aren’t real — but promise. Hope. Optimism. It’s a funny thing. It whispers of love and happiness and success. Of clear skies and security and beauty. It’s a tease. But in my experience, promise, more often than not, leads to heartbreak.

Spring is supposed to feel different. Spring is supposed to smell like flowers and sound like birds and feel like seeing the sun for the first time in five months. This spring doesn’t feel like it. I’m not sure why. It was a long offseason, a boring offseason and a disappointing offseason and a long offseason. Maybe that’s why. Maybe it’s because Citi Field was covered in six inches of snow a week ago. Maybe it’s because we’ve been having the same conversation, a conversation of promise, for four years.

The Mets will be good if they’re healthy. We said that in 2015 and they were. We said that in 2016 and they were less so. We said that in 2017 and they were not. It’s 2018 now and I’m tired of saying the Mets will be good if they’re healthy. Sometimes promise doesn’t become reality.

Fernando Martinez never lived up to his promise. Nor did Paul Wilson or Billy Beane or Steve Chilcott. First-round draft pick Gavin Cecchini seems doomed to fail. The Mets survived those disappointments. People fail. We accept that. It’s harder to accept a failed idea.

The Five Aces were an idea. A beautiful idea of blazing fastballs and disappearing sliders and more strikeouts than you can count. Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler and Steven Matz were an idea. They were an idea that transcended long winters and 74-88 seasons and right fielder Lucas Duda. The Five Aces were promise.

Wheeler’s Tommy John surgery delayed the promise, then Matz’s. Harvey dealt with TJ and Thoracic Outlet Syndrome. They never made it through a rotation together. We started to give up on the Five Aces. Then, briefly, promise reared its ugly head. Jason Vargas got hurt. Wheeler looked good enough in spring training and the Mets will never actually give up on Harvey. For a second, promise was scheduled into the rotation.

It didn’t last. Ideas die. Promise fails. The Five Aces will never be.

I was never good at letting go. At giving up. Baseball taught me I was wrong before life did. I can’t fix everything. I can’t solve everything. Some of us are doomed to be unhappy. Some of us are doomed to fail. I’ve failed a lot. The Mets have failed more.

The 2018 Mets may be okay. If everyone is healthy and good and lives up to their promise, the 2018 Mets will be good. They could just as easily be bad. We’ll know by October, or possibly by August. Maybe even by May. We’ll probably know by May if they’re bad. They could be really bad. Or they could be good. They could be great. Maybe they’ll be great. Maybe the Mets will finally live up to their potential.

I’ve written an article like this for four years now, I think. Or three. I’ve lost track. The seasons have started blending together. And every year, I’ve written about promise. I was wrong in 2014. Came close in 2015. 2016 and 2017 were failures of varying degrees. 2018 is about promise again. But promise is exhausting. Promise is your parents telling you that you can be whatever you want to be when you grow up, even though they know it’s not true. Promise is your high school guidance counselor convincing you to apply for an Ivy League despite a perfectly mediocre GPA. Promise is believing that your dream job will want you too. Promise rarely works out.

Promise is a healthy Yoenis Cespedes and a healthy Michael Conforto. Promise is believing that this year, finally, is the year Brandon Nimmo breaks out. Promise is trusting that Anthony Swarzak’s 2017 wasn’t a fluke. Promise is believing that there’s still good in this world.

The Five Aces idea is dead. 2018 is about finding new promise.

Photo credit: Jasen Linlove, Steve Mitchell – USA Today Sports

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