Something’s happening around here. It began as a stir when the Mets broke camp from Port St. Lucie and Noah Syndergaard tossed the first pitch of the 2018 season in front of a packed house at Citi Field. At first I attributed it to the typical enthusiasm and optimism that runs rampant on Opening Day.
But the level of hope that usually fuels the level of excitement I’m seeing now, is quite different this time. It’s more like a quiet confidence that is overtaking the fan base… A quiet coincidence that has emanated from the Mets dugout and clubhouse… A quiet confidence that first took root in the manager’s office during the season opener, where a focused and determined Mickey Callaway began preaching a message of hope, winning and accountability.
After Saturday’s 3-2 win over the Washington Nationals in DC, the Mets are now 6-1 and sit atop the division in first place, five games over .500. It’s their best start since 2006, when they were also 6-1 after their first seven games and went on to win the division.
There’s not just one or two players carrying the team through this dominant start to the season, and in fact it’s been a true team effort with a new hero every game. This team is a confident bunch who will not be deterred when they fall behind. Instead they’ve displayed a remarkable resiliency and ability to fight back and retake the lead no matter how big. That’s the hallmark of a winning team, the kind of team that’s bent on winning a championship.
These new New York Mets are also a much more aggressive team than we’re used to seeing. They don’t back down and are willing to challenge the opposition at every turn. You see it when Asdrubal Cabrera surprises the other team by taking an extra base and then scores the tie-breaking run. You see it when Amed Rosario turns a double into a triple after a bobble in the outfield. You see it when Juan Lagares cuts down the winning run at home plate and changes the momentum of the game. You see it when Wilmer Flores or Brandon Nimmo come off the bench and deliver a big hit in the clutch. You see it every time the Mets call on their bullpen and they actually get the job done game after game, win after win.
The one common denominator to all of this is the man calling all the shots, Mickey Callaway. Sure, we all expected a culture change when he replaced Terry Collins – that’s expected whenever you bring in new leadership. But what we’re seeing now goes beyond that, just about everything Callaway wants to do comes up roses. He bats Cabrera cleanup one day, has him leading off the next, then batting second after that and Asdrubal delivered every time. He skips Seth Lugo in the rotation and then the young righty comes out of the bullpen to deliver a masterful and perfect performance. He installs Amed Rosario in the ninth spot and the kid becomes a spark plug, igniting rally after rally. He brings in Hansel Robles to preserve a one run lead and he strikes out the side… Twice.
We watch in awe as just about every Mickey Callaway decision has an uncanny way of working out, the man has the Midas Touch. But don’t think for a minute that you can attribute all the success to luck, not by a long shot. This Mets team is surprisingly good and Callaway’s confidence is rubbing off on all of them. But so is his philosophy on plate approach and attacking the strike zone on offense, and also having his pitchers challenging hitters, trusting their stuff and throwing strikes.
Judge the early results…
- Mets batters rank 2nd in MLB with a .369 on-base percentage.
- Mets pitchers rank 1st in MLB with a 2.14 earned run average.
- Mets batters rank 4th in MLB with a 12.9% walk rate.
- Mets starting pitchers rank 1st in MLB with a 11.61 strikeout rate.
- Mets starting pitchers rank 2nd in MLB with a 1.07 WHIP.
- Mets relief pitchers rank 2nd in MLB with a 1.32 earned run average.
- Mets relief pitchers rank 1st in MLB with a 0.91 WHIP.
Perhaps one of the most overlooked things thus far in the season, has been the lack of controversies plaguing the team including none during spring training. Quite a feat for a team that has been decimated by an alarming rate of controversies before Mickey arrived to Flushing.
The Mets go into tonight’s ESPN game of the week with a chance to sweep the defending NL East champions and set the tone for the rest of the season while sending a clear message to their top division rival and the rest of National League: These Mets are for real and they are out for redemption. The swagger is back too.
For a team that lost 92 games last season, Mickey has his players highly motivated and playing with a confidence we haven’t seen in years. This is a team that can grind out wins and believes in itself. They have a manager that holds every player accountable and has all of them believing they are good enough to win a championship. And lately, I see more and more fans believing in this Mets team too. It’s been great to see.