David Wright is introduced to the crowd before the season opener. Credit: Getty Images
Mets general manager Sandy Alderson believes the 2014 season is about a diametric change in the perception of the franchise, and it begins with the ambitious goal of 90 wins.
"What I want to emphasize is [that] it's important for us to change the conversation," Alderson said prior to the Mets' 9-7 Opening Day loss to the Nationals in 10 innings. "This team is now about being successful and being successful is not some nebulous concept about winning or being competitive or playing meaningful games some month [on the] calendar. This is about concrete expectations about what we need to do. Ninety wins is about a challenge. It's about changing the conversation. It's about framing a question for ourselves as to how we get there. I stand by the notion that we need to get better. Doing so, we need to set concrete goals for ourselves so that we have specific conversations about ourselves about how we're going to get there.
"It's time for us to get better."
But the question that will loom over the Mets' season is whether they will be able to improve with a subpar bullpen. Even Alderson conceded it is a concern.
"The bullpen has not been good over the last several years," Alderson said. "It needs to get better. We're in the process of introducing more of our young players into that bullpen. We hope that's successful, but, obviously that's got to play out during the season as well."
Monday afternoon's Opening Day loss was a worrisome example, as the bullpen allowed five runs in three innings.
Scott Rice walked Denard Span with the bases loaded to tie the game 4-4 in the seventh inning. Rice's walk came four pitches after Carlos Torres walked Nate McLouth on four pitches to load the bases.
"Scott Rice was outstanding all last year and the biggest shock was Carlos Torres," Terry Collins said. "This guy is a strike-throwing machine."
Jose Valverde replaced Rice and struck out Ryan Zimmerman to end the threat. He also threw a 1-2-3 eighth before giving way to Bobby Parnell in the ninth.
Parnell allowed a leadoff single to Ian Desmond and walked pinch hitter Danny Espinosa with two outs before Span's RBI double in the eighth tied the game at 5-5.
Jeurys Familia and John Lannan allowed four runs in the 10th.
"We just have to do a better job of shutting the game down," Collins said.
Andrew Brown's three-run home run in the bottom of the first put the Mets ahead 3-0, and Eric Young Jr.'s sac fly in the second scored Travis d'Arnaud to increase the lead to 4-1. Juan Lagares' solo shot in the eighth allowed the Mets to regain the lead, 5-4. David Wright slugged a two-run home run in the bottom of the 10th.
"We gave this one away," Wright said."We flat out gave this one away."
Follow Mets beat writer Denis Gorman on Twitter@DenisGorman.