NEW YORK -- Losing may not please the masses, but it doesn't necessarily make for bad theater. Take the Mets, for instance, who suffered through a second straight losing season in 2010, but managed to create a host of memorable snapshots. From the moment Jason Bay first slipped on a Mets jersey in January to just this week, when players scattered to their various homes for the holidays, the Mets in 2010 created a sometimes turbulent, sometimes frustrating, but infinitely interesting chronicle.
There was the story of R.A. Dickey, who almost -- and who would have blamed him? -- quit baseball before rejuvenating his career as a knuckleballer with the Mets. There was the tale of Angel Pagan, who finally overcame injuries to set a once-promising outfield career back on track. There was the introduction of Hisanori Takahashi, a 35-year-old lefty whom nobody took seriously -- until he started winning, that is.
There were also disappointments, of course, those more numerous than the successes. Once again, the Mets could not overcome injuries to key players and once again, they consistently fell short in big spots. But with the end of the season came a new sort of hope, when the Mets gutted their front office and baseball staff and hired a new regime.
Whether those moves will ultimately bring change to Flushing remains to be seen. All the Mets know is that 2010 is almost over, 2011 has the potential to be brighter, and beyond that the team feels more optimistic still. Patience is the key. So in the meantime, a look back at the five most memorable storylines of a Mets season that didn't quite go their way:
5. Prevention and recovery? Only to a point
Greeting the Mets upon their arrival to Spring Training were brightly colored signs posted throughout the clubhouse in Port St Lucie, Fla. "Prevention and recovery," each one read, alluding to the unthinkable number of injuries that befell the team in 2009. This year would be different, the Mets said. This year, they'd be healthy. But while the Mets did spend far less time on the disabled list in 2010 than they had the previous season, they could not elude nagging injuries to Jose Reyes, Bay and Carlos Beltran, nor a crippling season-ending shoulder tear for Johan Santana.
4. Beltran returns, but to what end?
Not since Pedro Martinez in 2007 had the Mets anticipated an injured player's return more than that of Beltran, who was originally due back from offseason knee surgery in April. Then his return was pushed back to May. Then June. Then July. Though Beltran finally did return for the first game after the All-Star break, he immediately slumped both at the plate and in the outfield, looking nothing like the five-time All-Star of old. Finishing with a .255 average and seven home runs, Beltran didn't find his groove until September, when he finally began hitting with consistency. By then, it was far too late.
3. Twenty innings and one memorable win
If not the high point of the 2010 season for the Mets, the night of April 17 certainly ranked among its tallest peaks. Badly needing a victory after a sputtering start to the season, the Mets battled the Cardinals for nearly seven hours in St. Louis, fighting through 18 scoreless innings and finally coming away victorious on Reyes' sacrifice fly in the 20th. Among the absurdities? Two Cards position players pitched. Mets starter Mike Pelfrey recorded the save. And both teams were left shaking off memories of one of the most bizarre games in recent history.
2. He came, he saw, he knuckled
Among the first players the Mets cut in Spring Training this year was Dickey, a 35-year-old journeyman attempting to resurrect his career as a knuckleballer. And amazingly, Dickey did, earning a callup in May and immediately staking his claim as one of the most philosophical, unassuming, self-reflective and sometimes bizarre men in baseball. Most importantly for the Mets, Dickey was good. Real good. Steadying a staff that had grown desperate for innings, Dickey fired 174 1/3 of them with 11 victories and a 2.84 ERA.
1. Out with the old, in with the new
Desperate for change after two consecutive losing years, the Mets parted ways with general manager Omar Minaya and manager Jerry Manuel one day after the season ended, eventually hiring Sandy Alderson and Terry Collins to replace them. The difference was apparent immediately, when Alderson laid out a plan for fiscal prudence and Collins began displaying plenty of the intensity for which he is famous. In many ways, each man seemed nothing like his predecessor; the Mets will soon discover if those differences can also lead to some better results.