Thirty years after their last world championship, the New York Mets have the talent to duplicate that magic.
They boast a star-studded, young rotation, with Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz, and ageless Bartolo Colon is a capable fill-in to round out the group until Zack Wheeler completes his rehab from Tommy John surgery. Meanwhile, with the unexpected re-signing of Yoenis Cespedes, the Mets have a legitimate lineup that should ensure the stellar starting pitching does not go to waste.
Remember when John Mayberry Jr. batted cleanup on July 23 last season? Well, in his final Grapefruit League lineup before the Mets broke camp, manager Terry Collins had so many legitimate major leaguers at his disposal that Travis d'Arnaud batted eighth.
"Every night, we're going to send a pretty quality pitcher to the mound," Collins said. "That's what gives me optimism."
The Mets open the season on ESPN Sunday Night Baseball with a World Series rematch with the Kansas City Royals. Harvey and Edinson Volquez, who squared off in Game Nos. 1 and 5, will reprise those matchups now that Harvey has dodged an issue with a blood clot in his bladder.
Can the 2016 Mets bring the organization its first title in exactly three decades? Curiously, Ron Darling -- a member of the 1986 championship team and a current Mets broadcaster -- looks to the Royals for his inspiration.
Kansas City's 2015 title came precisely 30 years after the city's previous title and a year after it lost the World Series. The Royals' success in October provided a big stage for the club to honor heroes from the '85 club, including George Brett and Bret Saberhagen.
"I got a lot of inspiration watching the Royals last year. A lot of their players from 30 years ago got a lot of spotlight because of what they did," Darling said. "I want the Mets to have that same experience -- this version, on the 30th anniversary, to have their own world championship. It's funny, on our anniversary I just think about the Royals winning the World Series."
The '86 Mets were known for their, shall we say, personality. This year's group has some personality too, with Cespedes' early spring training exploits including a cavalcade of vehicles, a prize-winning hog and even a horseback-ride entry into camp. Harvey is known to embrace the New York nightlife, including attending New York Rangers games with models.
Still, Darling and fellow '86 hero Keith Hernandez suggested that comparing the personalities of the previous championship team -- which featured the likes of Dwight Gooden, Darryl Strawberry and Wally Backman -- to the current group is a bit of a stretch. Times have changed, and things have become more corporate in baseball clubhouses.
"In some ways, this group has some maturity," Darling said. "But I think it's important for New York teams to have swagger and personality and people who the fans are attracted to. That's part of playing in New York."
Said Hernandez: "It's generational. Players are different today. I'm two generations, just about, ahead of them. There's a big difference."
The Mets did not have a pretty last two weeks in Florida. They went winless in their final 13 games in the Grapefruit League. Harvey was roughed up in each of his last three outings. During the latter part of camp, Cespedes failed to pick up a ball at the base of the outfield wall, which resulted in an inside-the-park home run. Then, on the final day in Florida, he misread ex-Met Daniel Murphy's fly ball, and that resulted in a triple.
Still, the talent is there, and there are plenty of positives. The team definitely has camaraderie. It broke camp healthy, with David Wright playing regularly the final week, Asdrubal Cabrera overcoming a strained patellar tendon in his left knee and other small injuries such as Michael Conforto's back spasms, Lucas Duda's neck stiffness and Cespedes' shoulder twinge proving fleeting. Syndergaard and deGrom dominated their opponents, even with deGrom's velocity mostly sitting at 91-93 mph. Juan Lagares, who dropped 20 pounds during the winter, looked a lot more like the 2014 Gold Glove winner tracking down baseballs, though he did not get a chance to demonstrate that his once-lethal arm has returned.
The Mets, however, finished Grapefruit League play with a 7-16-5 record.
Still, Collins said, "Many, many years ago I was told, 'Be careful what you see in March. Don't pay much attention to it.'"
The season starts for real now.