The Mets finished April ahead of even the most optimistic Met fans’ hopes. I should know; I’m one of them. 13-10 is a damn sight better than the 11-16 of last year, and those of us with longer memories will recall that they had to scramble to achieve even that wretched mark — the 2011 Mets stumbled out of the chute 5-13. As has been noted, there is a far different feel around the ol’ Citi. The fumigation process that started with the hiring of Terry Collins for the manager’s seat is starting to bear fruit on the field. Where there had been a distinct lack of leadership in the clubhouse, there has been a noticeable reversal in that area. Where the scribes would automatically beeline to David Wright’s locker for some barely audible whispers about the latest loss or the freshest controversy, they now have a veritable smorgasbord of quotable, affable, mostly jovial players from whom to choose. It’s better than a new paint job, or some pictures on the wall.
The fact that the average age of the team has dropped from 30.7 in 2007 to 26.8 this year speaks volumes about the Alderson approach vs. Minaya’s machinations. With little spending money to work with, the Mets’ GM has had little choice but to rely on the products of the much maligned farm system to field even a semi-competitive team. The desperation has so far paid more dividends than most could imagine. Starting with the surge of Kirk Nieuwenhuis immediately after his callup, one by one the Kiddie Corps has brought their own brand of excitement to the fore. Ruben Tejada has run rings around his predecessor – who, let’s be honest, gave us no rings for all his marvelous gifts. Josh Thole has rewarded the faith that Minaya, Alderson and Collins placed in him, at least on the offensive side. Daniel Murphy – almost a sage, seeing as he’s been here since 2008 – has done nothing but hit and stay healthy, which is what we all wanted at the beginning of March. Jonathon Niese and Dillon Gee have become staunch pillars of a better-than-decent pitching staff. There has even been patience shown for the slow starts of Lucas Duda and Ike Davis, allowing them play their way out of their respective slumps rather than being yanked onto the bench with a panicky jerk.
Do I expect this run to continue? Not really, seeing as all young players have growing pains. There’ll probably be some grumbling when Jason Bay returns from his injury and somebody has to go to the pine. Don’t forget, the jackals from the MSM are always hanging around, waiting for the seemingly inevitable meltdown. Except that with this group, the meltdown doesn’t seem so inevitable. There is a definite “stand-up” quality to these guys. If they stink one day, not one of them is afraid to say so. I wasn’t there, but I doubt there was anyone hanging out on the trainers’ room or the off-limits-to-the-press players’ lounge after the disaster that was Friday night (4/27). And speaking of which, hasn’t it been great how they bounced back from that to take the next two from the Rockies and very nearly came all the way back against the Astros on Monday? This group is very rarely out of a game early – another attribute of youth. They come back, simply because they say they will.
This could turn out to be one of the funnest seasons of all.
Follow me on Twitter @CharlieHangley