Management was telling anybody that would listen for about two years now that this year, 2015, was it.
“Wait until we get all our arms up. Wait until everyone is healthy. 2015 is our year.”
It was this refrain that was parroted by fans after patience was preached by Sandy Alderson in the face of rising expectations and doubts over whether the Mets would bungle the future they way they had in the past.
For much of the year, it seemed like the refrain was gospel. The Mets stormed out of the gate backed by the strong performance of a much-ballyhooed and hyped pitching rotation that included the likes of Jacob DeGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Zack Wheeler, and Matt Harvey. Their performances carried them through much of the early part of the season, but dark clouds always seem to be present with this team. As always the clouds began to rear their ugly head just in time for a mid-summer swoon.
The bats went cold and a pitching staff that could hold anybody to two or three runs was suddenly losing games 3-2. Wheeler was lost for the year early and one of the young guns they had counted on was suddenly no longer a viable option. Lucas Duda’s production was non-existent at the time and the bullpen which was supposed to be a strong suit, was starting to falter.
Still technically in the race, fans begged the organization to make a move and the organization in return pleaded for patience once more. When Wilmer Flores became part of what ultimately became the “Best Trade That Never Was”, fans from Montauk to Queens all thought it was the calling card of the “Same Ol’ Mets.”
Things however, were shifting. Sandy had preached patience and he got reinforcements in the form of Juan Uribe and Kelly Johnson, two solid veterans with late-season experience. He fortified a leaky bullpen and went and got Tyler Clippard. It wasn’t enough to satisfy the masses, but it was a start.
A weekend series with the first-place Washington Nationals looming after a disappointing few games with the San Diego Padres, things could have spiraled out of control rather quickly.
A funny thing happened on the way to rock bottom, though.
Two days removed from crying on the field at the thought of being traded from the only team he had ever known, and now humanized to the point of cult-hero status, Wilmer Flores rewarded the Mets fanbase for their standing ovations and support by drilling a pitch over the wall into the Party City Seats in Left Center.
It was jubilant, it was pandemonium and for a stadium that hadn’t felt like “home” since it was built and opened in 2009, Citi Field finally felt like it was home. The new digs finally shook like Shea.
The Flores walk-off was a turning point for a young team, and with the arrival of Yoenis Cespedes from the Tigers, the fans finally got the big bat they craved and the pitching staff got the insurance that was necessary going forward.
Spurred by a big trade, the Mets went into Saturday and got a big-time performance from Jacob DeGrom who kept the Mets in it by throwing 6 gutsy innings. They also got a clutch performance by Lucas Duda, who has been sizzling recently with 9 homers in 8 games, hitting 2 homers in a 3-2 victory.
The victory brought them a game from first and with a prime time showcase on national television via ESPN, the Mets came out and put a hurting on the Nationals behind a three homer 3rd inning from Curtis Granderson, Daniel Murphy, and the afforementioned Lucas Duda. Not to be left behind, Noah Syndergaard threw 8 brilliant innings of 9 strikeout baseball.
The Mets were now in a virtual tie for first place in the division and headed to Miami on Monday night while still mindful of the fact they have an easy schedule the rest of the way.
What once seemed daunting is now looking more and more like a foregone conclusion.
Not only did the Mets win the first game of the series in Miami on Monday night, but they did it in a 12-1 laugher, getting 3 doubles and 4 RBIs from Yoenis Cespedes. The fact that Cespedes is not only contributing, but becoming a deducing factor in the outcome of games is a microcosm of what the Mets have become in just a few short days.
These Mets, often cited for their potential, have turned it into reality. In a short series, no team will want to face Harvey, DeGrom or Syndergaard. The way they are pitching nowadays, no losing streak will ever seemingly last.
Even with the grumbling of inning limits starting to pop-up, it’s not a worry that the organization or the fanbase should worry about. There will be time for that, but with the end goal so close and attainable, those discussions will assuredly get postponed.
For better or worse, these Mets, resilient and talented; are playing meaningful baseball deep into August and possibly into September and October.
During the lean years who would have imagined a summer like this?
Citi Field is turning into Fortress Queens, the fans are filling the stadium and this band of youngsters is coming together at the right time, growing into their own and maturing before our very eyes.
It wasn’t long ago that the idea of these Mets, with Harvey and DeGrom, Syndergaard and even Matz and Wheeler generated a buzz, this idea of wonder and what might be. A fanbase was told to wait because the best was yet to come.
Finally, wonder and hype has given way to results and what “might be”, has turned into “what currently is”.
Hype and expectation has turned into reality and the New York Mets are looking prepared to shoulder the weight of lofty expectations and unbelievable hype.
Tags: Baseball, Jacob DeGrom, Matt Harvey, MLB, New York Mets, Noah Syndergaard