WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — If you can’t talk big and dream big now, when hope springs eternal, then you must be a long-lost relative of Casey Stengel’s 1962 Mets, who went 40-120.
The Mets also happen to be descendants of Ya Gotta Believe, and their old familiar Tug McGraw soundtrack blares unabashedly through in their consciousness.
From one end of the clubhouse to the other, one Met after the next will tell you this is a playoff team.
There are 30 MLB teams that wear optimism as sunblock as one of the rites of spring, and the Mets are one of them. And they can let their imaginations run wild without Yoenis Cespedes riding in triumphantly on a wild white boar.
Let the Mets tell you why they’re a playoff team:
“We’re a team that can contend very well in our division, and it’s built to win,” rookie manager Luis Rojas told The Post. “Great staff, great bullpen, we can hit and score runs, we showed it last year and we can do different things out in the playing field.”
Former Yankees reliever Dellin Betances knows what a playoff team looks like. He was asked if his new team is a playoff team.
“One-hundred percent,” Betances said. “There’s a lot of talent in this room. A lot of veteran guys, at the same time a lot of youth that play this game at a high level. Deep rotation, deep bullpen and the lineup is strong as well.”
The Braves are the NL East favorites, but don’t be surprised if this is a four-team race.
Marcus Stroman listed reasons why the Mets are a playoff team: “Personnel, belief, confidence, I just think top to bottom. I think we have a bunch of guys who know that they can do it, who are extremely confident in themselves. No one feels pressure, no one who feels scared by the moment.”
Pete Alonso likely won’t hit 53 HRs again, but he is The Straw That Stirs This Drink. The Mets view Jeff McNeil as a hit machine and batting-title contender again. Michael Conforto is primed for another 30-plus homer season. Brandon Nimmo returns from a lost 2019. Amed Rosario unleashed his burgeoning promise in the second half of last season. Robby Cano? You don’t know.
“Deep, from one through nine, a bunch of guys who could do damage,” Stroman said. “Got the old wily vets … you got the young bangers … extremely athletic group. I can’t speak any more highly of them.”
Says Dom Smith: “When we get in that box, we don’t care who we face. We’re in the NL East, it’s a lot of great pitching in this division, and we have to face those guys several times a year, so we faced good pitching, and we feel like our offense is just as good as anybody else’s.”
Jacob deGrom is arguably the best starter in the game. Zack Wheeler is with the Phillies, but Noah Syndergaard and Stroman haven’t gone anywhere, and the additions of Rick Porcello and Michael Wacha give the Mets six viable starters for five spots with Steven Matz the lone left-hander.
“We like our chances with every single guy we have on the mound everytime out there,” Stroman said.
“Scary,” Stroman says. Betances (Achilles) appears on track for Opening Day. Edwin Diaz has bulked up and believes he will rebound in his second season in New York as the closer. Jeurys Familia lost 30 pounds and there is hope that he can regain his 2015-16 form. Seth Lugo is a bulldog.
Rojas has drawn rave reviews because of his communication skills and baseball knowledge.
“He definitely gets the attention of the room,” Betances said, “and he knows a lot of these guys, which is huge. He reminds me a lot of [Aaron] Boone, just a lot of baseball in his background, so I think he’s gonna be awesome.”
Said Stroman: “Everyone speaks so highly of him, all the guys that played for him coming up through the minors. He’s so respected. I couldn’t stop hearing his name when I came over here when I got traded [last July]. I feel like he was a consensus pick that everybody kinda wanted. If everyone’s comfortable with your manager, I feel like that breeds success.”
“It couldn’t be any better,” Stroman said.
Remember those 2019 Mets T-shirts trumpeting “The Zoo?” Asked if the Mets, like the Yankees, are Savages in the Box, Alonso said: “We got Animals. We got Animals in the box.
“‘I’m a Polar Bear. We got a Squirrel [McNeil]. We got a Buffalo [Wilson Ramos]. We got a Golden Retriever in Brandon Nimmo. We got the Silky Elk in Mike Conforto, we got the Honey Badger in J.D. Davis. We’re a bunch of Animals in there. When it gets rocking, it’s gonna be a zoo.”
Are the Mets a playoff team?
“Absolutely. No doubt in my mind,” McNeil said. “Definitely have the guys to do it. Just gotta do it for 162.”
It was Stengel who once groaned, “Can’t anybody here play this game?” No such worry from these Mets.
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