These Mets summon 49-year-old ghosts

Yes, yes, I know. It’s a marathon, not a sprint, as the old cliché goes. It’s April 12. It’s only 11 games. When the inevitable “crash” comes – by “crash, I mean something along the lines of a three-game losing streak — it will feel lousy. But hot damn does this start put a smile on a Met fan’s face.

10-1? It even sounds ridiculous. Any time, at any point in the season. You hear about a team getting hot at the “right time,” say, mid-September and they go 10-1 to salt away a playoff spot, you’re impressed. You hear about a 10-1 streak in early-July that vaults a team into first place, you take notice. Even now, 10-1 to start the season is noteworthy – the last time anyone started 10-1 was 2013 NL Eastern Division winning Atlanta Braves, who jumped out 12-1, ended up winning 96 games and were out of first place for exactly one day. Most fans would sign up for that, I think.

So, yeah, the record is pretty impressive, but even more striking is the way in which they’re piling up the wins. In exactly half of their 10 victories, the Mets have had to come from behind. While that, in itself sounds impressive, in four of those wins, the rally came right away: when the opposition put up a run or more in an inning, the Mets put up one or more of their own. In these first 11 games, when the Mets have not had a lead, they haven’t been without it for very long. This trait is reminiscent of another famous, surprising Mets squad. Fans of a certain age will know what I’m talking about. There was a team that had never won anything, that had been a National League joke for seven years. Suddenly, they got good. They had a mix of terrific young pitching, a young-but-veteran offense and every last one of the 25-plus men in the dugout contributing. One of their most pleasing traits was an ability to come off the mat and deliver the knockout blow. Sound familiar?

Most Met fans are loath to compare any team with the legendary 1969 squad, with good reason. But sometimes, what’s right in front of your face cannot be ignored: these guys look an awful lot like those guys, don’t you think? There’s a spirit here, a real feeling of everyone rowing the same way. New manager Mickey Callaway has a lot to do with that, of course, but the players, the 25-plus men in the dugout have to buy in. In 1969, they bought in because their manager, Gil Hodges, epitomized calm, strong leadership and a certain sinewy toughness. As Casey Stengel said of him, “That feller’s so strong, he c’n squeeze yer earbrows off.” Callaway has none of that gravitas – he doesn’t have Hodges’s track record as a ballplayer or a Marine: remember, Hodges fought in the South Pacific – but his players have bought in, it seems, because he listens. As he said in his introductory press conference back in October, his aim is to provide each individual player in his charge with whatever it is they need to succeed. It helps when you have veterans like Adrian Gonzalez, Todd Frazier, Jay Bruce and Asdrubal Cabrera on your side – players who have been through the slog of a pennant race. Callaway is making the most of it, “maximizing his assets,” in the current parlance.

10-1… Who’d have thought it?

Follow me on Twitter @CharlieHangley.

11 comments for “These Mets summon 49-year-old ghosts

  1. Pete from NJ
    April 12, 2018 at 9:11 am

    I was 13 years old in 1969 so that was my formative year in baseball development. Three things about the season 1) Everyone from 1-25 on the roster had a defined roll (defense-platoon) 2) No pressure since this was the first season of +.500 baseball 3) Just knowing everything would turn the right way.

    It was innocent magic. Most likely could never happen again but maybe 2018 could be a close 2nd. (Don’t look at the 1972 team which started like the 2018 team then…).

  2. April 12, 2018 at 9:58 am

    Looks like the franchise record for consecutive wins is 11, done five times previously, with the most recent time coming in April of 2015.

    Let’s make some more history!

    • MattyMets
      April 12, 2018 at 11:13 am

      Brian, I just looked up the same thing. I don’t want to get too optimistic, but….the next six games are at home, the Brewers are banged up and the Nats rotation is setting up so that we won’t face Scherzer or Strasburg.

      I don’t know if we can top 11, but the opportunity is there.

      • April 12, 2018 at 12:31 pm

        As Brian knows, I’m gunning for 14-1: breaks the club record for longest winning streak and sets them up nicely in the 1982 or 2013 Braves category.

  3. Mike Walczak
    April 12, 2018 at 12:17 pm

    It is a long season, but this is as good as it gets. Realistically, we have beat up on the Phillies and Marlins. Who knows what St Louis will be, We missed Scherzer in the first round and Dan Murphy is on the bench with an injury. Lets see how they play against more competitive teams.

    My concern is the long season, the dog days of summer and potentially overusing the bullpen. It is going to hurt when we have a 15 inning game and use up all of the pitchers and have a day game the next day. But, we may have seen the approach when they called up Oswalt for a cup of coffee.

    It may be prudent to shop for a veteran catcher. Lobaton is not the answer.

    But, Ill take it. A terrific start like this provides huge dividends as the year winds along.

  4. Pete from NJ
    April 12, 2018 at 3:09 pm

    Back to 1969: I believe it was May/June 11 game streak. Set things up so that no what happened next it was a mile stone never seen before.

  5. TexasGusCC
    April 12, 2018 at 5:24 pm
    • MattyMets
      April 12, 2018 at 10:38 pm

      Gus, that’s a good article and a strong case for Nimmo. Aside from inevitable injuries and needed rest days there will also be some AL games that allow for a DH. Nimmo will be back and get plenty of ABs this season. Would anyone reading this not bet their car that Cespedes, Conforto, Bruce and Gonzalez (not to mention Lagares and Flores) won’t all stay healthy all season?

      • TexasGusCC
        April 13, 2018 at 1:06 am

        I’m thinking the author’s point was to show Nimmo’s sample size has been elite so far and he’s expecting Gonzalez to become what he was in 2016, which makes Nimmo a much better lineup option. Ironically, the day they sent Nimmo down, Bruce started taking first base grounders.

        #FreeBrandonNimmo

    • Name
      April 12, 2018 at 11:40 pm

      This article should be banned and ignored for using 15 PA as justification for claiming Nimmo to be the team’s 2nd best hitter.

  6. Chris F
    April 12, 2018 at 5:31 pm

    I loved 69. I was a kid of 6, just learning what baseball was. Im still a kid for that team. My WS champs pennant I got hangs in my home office.

    But Im ready for this to be Mickey’s 2018 team, unencumbered by the past. Im excited about this team, and thats something. Ille never forget the 2015 NL East clinch in Cincy, but Im ready for new Amazin’ memories!

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