That the Mets dispatched the Padres on opening day should not be as much a surprise as the manner in which they did it. The Mets reputation as world beaters on opening day goes without mention … it likely has something to do with the presence of some fine pitching throughout Met history and the natural advantage pitching has over hitting early in the season. Yet somehow, yesterday felt different. It reminded me of a passage from the Lord of the Rings.
And in that very moment, away behind in some courtyard of the city, a cock crowed. Shrill and clear he crowed, recking nothing of war nor of wizardry, welcoming only the morning that in the sky far above the shadows of death was coming with the dawn. And as if in answer there came from far away another note. Horns …
For those of you familiar with the trilogy you will recall this was the moment of the tense standoff at the city’s broken gates. It remains for me perhaps the single most inspiring moment in the entire epic (amazingly botched by Peter Jackson), it was the turning point, a breath of morning air so to speak. Watching Collin Cowgill digging for third with his head down yesterday was that for me and I can only hope it is a wake up call to fans who’ve for too long slumbered in the doldrums of chronic despair. The ensuing trot to home without fanfare or antics iced it. This team has a different aura about it — there’s a no nonsense attitude permeating them. Their demeanor resonates with the notion that those who are privileged to walk onto the field need to play the game right or get the hell out of the way, what a concept. It is refreshing to say the least.
Whether it translates into victories is almost beside the point. Fans can forgive an awful lot, but one thing that turns them away in droves is indifference. Too often have Met teams of recent history been plagued by a deference to apathy, too quickly have specters of collapse exhumed an infectious invocation to repeat a pattern of surrender; their default to capitulate. Indeed, pride comes before a fall, and this team hasn’t had anything to be boastful about in quite some time. For those of you wondering why Jordany Valdespin didn’t win a spot on the starting lineup look no further. Jordany will make it to the starting roster, I’m certain of it, but a dose of unassuming modesty will only make him better. There is something to be said for the kind of grinding humility that pushes an individual to scratch and claw regardless of outcome.
There will be days when we don’t score 11 runs, when our pitching falters. There will be injuries and heartbreaking losses, but the Mets need to find ways to rebound that have eluded them in recent years. As Bluto of Animal House famously said, “Over? Did you say over? Nothing is over until we decide it is. Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? Hell, no.” This team needs an “I may go down but I’ll take a few of you with me” attitude to losing. They need to care damn it, they need to care more about winning than just about anything else in their world, and those that don’t reflect that quiet obstinate ferocity need to get out of the way.
Alderson may be criticized for a lot of things, but enabling a foundation of fringe characters like Cowgill and Rice and Byrd (who are literally playing for their baseball lives) while grounding the team with sober veterans like John Buck and Scott Atchison and LaTroy Hawkins, with a cadre of frothing rookies in reserve raring to circumvent any potential collapse, should not be one of them. A lot of things could go wrong, this team could fail in ways we can’t imagine, but right now, I like the make-up of this team, a lot.
The team with the most talent doesn’t always win … it’s the team that plays better that wins.
If the 2013 Mets are to have a snowball’s chance in hell of securing a wild-card … they have to adopt this style of play with every fiber of their being, every single last one of them, every single chance they get.