But arguably the most interesting thing Darling told Serby? He thinks the Mets can win the division and thinks they have a similar mindset to the 1986 championship team.
“They’ve got the right people in the clubhouse that won’t take no for an answer, and that’s half the battle,” Darling said. “You have to get to a point where today we lay it on the line and worry about tomorrow, tomorrow. And I think they’ve got those kind of older players.”
The Mets captured their 12 win out of 14 on Sunday when they defeated the Milwaukee Brewers in walk-off fashion. The mindset in the clubhouse collectively is that of a prospective contender.
Darling believes the culture has changed and this is a different Mets team than we have seen in a “long time.”
“It seems to me that they are being the aggressor,” Darling said. “And I haven’t seen a Mets team like that in a long time. These guys — ‘Oh you want to score two? We’re comin’ back with two. You don’t think we can run from first to third? We’re going first to third.’
“Frazier the other night, two strikes on him, Conforto’s running, somehow gets a piece, rolls it up the middle, catcher can’t turn two, they score the go-ahead run. It’s like, ‘We’re going to put so much pressure on you defensively, that you’re going to [mess] up.’ I love that.”
Despite the influx of established veterans coupled with some exciting youngsters, the Mets have an almost entirely new coaching staff headlined by manager Mickey Callaway.
It’s well-known that Callaway worked under the tutelage of Terry Francona in Cleveland, one of the game’s greatest skippers. So far, Callaway has pushed the right buttons and has made mostly educated choices.
“I think his seriousness has been a big thing for me, that there’s a seriousness to how he takes his job that I think is very fun to be around,” Darling said. “His staff has followed in that way. And I think that he’s not afraid to make decisions that are a little outside the box that I think first-year managers are a little afraid to make — Gonzalez hitting against a left-hander the other night — and he knows how to run a bullpen.”
Darling added that he is “hoping that Callaway will be his own man and his own manager, but it’d be pretty cool if we got a Francona-like guy here.”
Callaway coupled with new pitching coach Dave Eiland are hoping to bring these pitchers back to how they were in 2015 and 2016. A big part of that success will be the health of Noah Syndergaard and the continued success of Jacob deGrom.
While Syndergaard ended up with a no-decision on Sunday, he fanned 11 Brewers, including eight in a row at one point.
“Syndergaard is the prototype,” Darling said. “He’s everything that baseball is right now. He represents the pitcher that all organizations look for — the guy who throws 100, with the razor blade slider, the changeup, the moxie, the makeup, the body type, he’s got it all. He should be vying for a Cy Young every year.”
Darling also praised deGrom.
“He’s the best combination of stuff and competitor that the Mets have on their staff,” he said. “He’s the one guy when he doesn’t have his good stuff, he’ll somehow make it work. When he has his great stuff you have no chance.”
To complement the strong pitching so far this season, the Mets have already put together some big hits. Their outfield trio has been a big part of that, as well as the aforementioned Todd Frazier.
Darling believes these four could combine for over 100 dingers this year.
“I think Bruce’ll hit 30; Conforto’ll hit 30, 30-plus; Cespedes will hit 30-plus,” he said. “Frazier I’m sure at some point’ll get to 30.”
Darling left Serby with some concluding thoughts, including the teams collective “salt and pepper shaker” celebration.
“Hey listen, every team in baseball now has something they do when they get on base,” Darling said. “I think anything that works for a team is perfect, and it’s original and it’s new, and it’s fun to watch especially now because they’re using it a lot (smile).”
We highly recommend you give Serby’s entire Q&A with Darling a read. The article can be found here and is jampacked with some great info!