In what has been a whirlwind week for the Mets, perhaps the most shocking development is that good, professional baseball players have admitted that they actually want to play for them.
That’s right – despite the surrounding junkyards, the omnipresent shadow of the Yankees, and the notoriously stingy owners of the team that plays there, Flushing has all of a sudden become a desired home for major leaguers again.
In just the past several days, three key players have publicly expressed their desire to be New York Mets. You may have heard by now, but Wilmer Flores was so upset about being traded from the team that he cried on the baseball field. Zack Wheeler, who was involved in the same not-to-be trade, actually called GM Sandy Alderson to say that he “wanted to stay and be a part of this team’s winning future.” And Yoenis Céspedes, who has been with the Mets for all of five days, announced his wish to “stay with the Mets for a long time” because of the “atmosphere.”
I can hardly believe my ears.
Despite a potentially bright future the Mets have seemed stuck for a while in their status as a second-class destination, an afterthought to most players with other options. For much of this season there has even been a constant chatter among Mets fans that Matt Harvey will jump ship to the Yankees the first chance he gets – and Harvey isn’t even a free agent until 2019.
Just last week Troy Tulowitzki, the star shortstop who has been linked to the Mets for years, reportedly made it clear to Rockies’ management that he preferred not to be traded to the Mets, according to Yahoo’s Jeff Passan. A week later, Mr. Tulowitzki may be wishing he had actually pushed Colorado’s GM for a trade to Flushing. In that short time frame the perception of the Mets as a franchise has taken a complete turn for the better.
The combination of a superb young pitching staff, a front office now willing to make the bold moves needed to contend, and a fan base that is now nationally recognized as being incredibly supportive of and rabid about its team and players has vaulted the Mets into the baseball spotlight. And we know that star athletes love the spotlight.
Of course, they also love money more than anything, and it remains to be seen whether Mets’ ownership will be willing to shell that out in the near future to truly make Flushing a top destination spot. Odds are, according to reporters, they will not re-sign Cespedes – or any other major free agent for that matter – this offseason given the massive contract he will rightfully be seeking. And as for the public expressions from Flores and Wheeler, what young, rich twenty-something wouldn’t want to stay in New York City versus moving to Milwaukee?
Yes, the love fest for the Mets this past week may prove to be a blip on the radar screen. But the fact that right now the Mets are a team that players fervently want to be a part of is astonishing, especially given the last several years of losing and misery. They know something special is brewing.
For the first time in a while, it’s not just us fans that are excited and proud to don the orange-and-blue. The Mets are trending nationally. For years we’ve heard that free agents wanted more money to come and play for the Mets. Could it be that now some players would rather take less money to play for the Mets than to play for another team?