Conan O’Brien became the most recent person to mock the Mets, with a video of “Mr. Met” smashing windows on someone’s car. Conan made comments about the Mets being “practically in last place in their division” and about this being a terrible year for the Mets. On half of that, he’s right, but I think we’re on the brink of something good…
We’re slowly and quietly creeping up the standings in the Wild Card hunt, and for the first time this season we seem to be doing everything right. We’re sacrificing players over, bunting well, running the bases well (sometimes with assistance from the home-plate umpire), and we’re playing — dare I say it — good baseball. I’ve even noticed that most, if not all, of our players are now using 2 hands on routine fly balls. We’re playing solid D, and our offense has picked it up recently.
Naysayers will point out that we’re still way out, and we are, but we’re gaining ground on the leaders while OUR leaders continue their road back. The team, even at 3 games below .500, has regained a bit of a swagger and personality to them that we haven’t seen in a few years. They look like a TEAM out there, and they’re enjoying playing TEAM baseball. Jeff Francoeur seems to have brought a spark to the Club, and they look rejuvenated. Even without Jose Reyes, Dos Carloses, and a legitimate #2 starter, I’ve actually gained confidence in the team that we are currently fielding. This team seems to have realized that they cannot put the season on the shoulders of 1 or 2 guys, and something clicked.
I also think that what has happened off of the field has been GOOD for the Mets. With Omar Minaya, Tony Bernazard, and the Wilpons taking the brunt of the media, the players have been able to focus on baseball. Consider that since the Bernazard story broke, the Mets are 4-1 and have started playing their best baseball of the season. Whether it’s a coincidence or not is up for debate, but I for one think that it has helped the team stay focused on baseball, now that the team has had bigger issues in the front office.
Getting back to on-the-field items, during last night’s broadcast, Keith, Ron, and Gary brought up the 2000 Mets (not necessarily by comparison to the current club), and it got me thinking. They mentioned our outfield that year, made up of Benny Agbayani, Jay Payton, and Derek Bell, pointing out that we basically had 3 nobodies playing in the grass at Shea for us every night. I looked a little deeper and I found some interesting numbers. Every player on the left side of our infield that year hit .260 or below (including backup Melvin Mora). We only had 2 players (Piazza and Alfonzo) hit .300 or better. Our rotation only had 2 pitchers with an ERA of 4.00 or better. Yet we got to the World Series.
My point in all of this is not to say anything bad about the 2000 Mets, but to reveal the light of the 2009 Mets. It didn’t take a lineup of All-Stars having incredible seasons to win 94 games and come within 1 game of the 1st Place Braves in 2000, it took a TEAM. Entering last week, I feel like we had a group of individuals playing in matching jerseys. It wasn’t selfish baseball, but there was just a lack of a team mentality and a belief in the team, something was clearly missing. When I look at the Mets since the end of the Nationals series last week, they seem to have been given a wake-up call, and I can see a team that is playing hard as a team day in and day out. Players are smiling after making productive outs, and the bench gets excited as well. There’s a fresh and positive feel to this ballclub, and it has actually given me a good feeling about how the rest of this year works out. So to Conan O’Brien, Steve Phillips, and everyone else who has been mocking the Mets so far this year, I say laugh it up. Because while you’re laughing, we’re working hard — as a team.