By Joseph Staszewski
The New York Mets opened their season to tempered optimism.
General Manager Sandy Alderson reaffirmed that he expects the team, which won 74 games last year, to capture 90 victories this season after offseason additions of outfielder Curtis Grandson, pitcher Bartolo Colon and reliever Jose Valverde to a maturing young core.
Flushing native Patrick McLoughlin, who attended the game with his wife Christine and their sons Patrick, 2, and Aidan, 1, believes Alderson is right on the money and thinks there has been too much negative talk around the club.
“I don’t think it’s lofty,” McLoughlin said, as the toddlers began to doze off in their stroller. “I think people out there are predicting 74. I think 90 can be done. I think 90 is reasonable. I think this is a team that can get 90 wins.”
McLoughlin, wearing a Daniel Murphy jersey, was able to treat his children to their first Mets game, but not their first victory. The Mets blew a one-run, ninth-inning lead and fell 9-7 in 10 innings to the Washington Nationals in front of a crowd of 42,442 at Citi Field Monday afternoon.
Anthony Rendon drove in four runs and hit a three-run homer in the top of the 10th for Washington. The Mets bullpen allowed five earned runs.
“You never like to lose Opening Day, but the last couple of years we have won Opening Day,” Mets Manager Terry Collins said. “It’s one game of 162. We have to remember that …. We just have to do a better job of coming up and shutting the game down when we have a chance.”
Mets fans are hoping for a season filled with fonder memories than the past few seasons.
Some are skeptical the team can live up to Alderson’s expectations, especially with ace Matt Harvey out for the season after undergoing Tommy John surgery last October.
Glendale native Brian Newman, who has been to eight of the last nine Opening Days, has more toned down goals for the Amazin’s this season, hoping for the team to just go .500.
Newman is, however, happy to have Granderson in blue and orange.
“The Grandy Man is awesome and we took him from the Yankees, baby,” Newman said before Granderson struck out three times.
The chilly Opening Day, with game-time temperature at 44 degrees, was filled the pageantry of introducing the new team and a huge American flag was stretched across the outfield as the national anthem was sung. Harvey, Granderson and David Wright were met with the biggest applause and first basemen Ike Davis and shortstop Ruben Tejada received a mix of boos and cheers.
“We are hoping for the best and we always support them,” said Corona native and season ticket holder Janneth Bascayan, who attended the game with her sister Jackeline.
The Mets remembered longtime announcer and Hall of Famer Ralph Kiner with a pre-game moment of silence. Kiner, who died last month at the age of 91, has a logo in his honor behind home plate and on the left field wall. A special “Kiners Korner” exhibit was unveiled in Citi Field.
“Everyone is going to miss Ralph Kiner,” said longtime Mets fan Gary Thomas, 58, of Springfield Gardens.
Mayor Bill de Blasio, a known Red Sox fans, threw out the first pitch joined by five children from an East Harlem tutorial program that was leveled by a gas explosion last month.
The mayor said before the first pitch that he was fine with whatever response the crowd gave him, but he had been “working on his knuckle curve at the Park Slope Armory.”
“I think everyone is going to be too cold to respond, but whatever it is it is,” de Blasio said. “Sports fans have a right to express themselves anyway they want.”
De Blasio was able to toss a strike on the outside corner, before and after which he was loudly booed.
But de Blasio wasn’t the only one on the receiving end of fans’ disapproval. The crowd gave the Amazin’s a bit of the Bronx cheer after pitcher Bobby Parnell blew a ninth-inning lead.
Mets fans want their team to improve on five straight sub-.500 seasons since 2008.
Thomas, dressed in a full Mets uniform, has been a fan since 1964 and a regular at most Opening Days since 1972. He said he hopes to be pleasantly surprised this year, but would also be ready to pitch in to help his team if called upon.
“I came ready to play,” Thomas said, looking down at his own uniform. “If you need a utility player to get out there in the late innings, I’m your man.”