It's the Mets' turn to report to camp on Thursday which means it is a good time to prepare yourself for the articles that you'll be reading out of Port St. Lucie and every other training site for the next couple of weeks. You could make a drinking game out of it, if you like.
Take a shot every time someone is described as reporting to camp in the best shape of their lives or as ready to make a clean break from all the nonsense that went on last season. Enjoy a slug of beer whenever a manager tells you that he's really working to make his team more aggressive on the base paths or have his pitchers concentrate on making their pitches and getting deeper into the game. You'll be tipsy in no time from just those, so it may be a good idea to stop short of doing keg stands whenever you see a mention of doing the little things.
Those sprout from every corner of the field during Spring Training and you should probably expect to find the Mets near the lead of the standings in that particular category. Jerry Manuel has been making a lot of noise of late about how he's going to focus on fundamentals during camp to try and avoid the kind of Keystone Kop antics that marked the 2009 season in Queens. Seems like a pretty good idea, right?
Well, there are a couple of problems that come to mind immediately. One is that players in the major leagues tend to be pretty well set in their ways. A refresher course here or there can make things a little bit better, but the surest way to have players who are fundamentally sound is to stock your roster with players who already fit that profile. The Mets have some, but Jose Reyes is always going to be Jose Reyes and there's nothing Manuel or anyone else can do about it at this point in time.
The second issue is that, as we mentioned, managers say this kind of thing all the time. Manuel said things just like this at this time last year. And, well, we all know how that wound up playing out. If the Mets are better this year, it will be because Reyes, Johan Santana, Carlos Beltran and a bunch of other guys are healthy and playing at optimal levels.
Based on the rules set out above, that's worthy a healthy snort from the closest bottle. It's still what you should be thinking about as the Mets open camp on Thursday while Manuel worries about fundamentals.
Cliches sound good, although we wonder how many people actually think that a major league team is going to turn around because they spend more time on bunt defense and hitting the cutoff man, but it's a lot wiser to put your faith in concrete things like the skills of your players.