When one tells the tales of the greatest Mets teams of all time, one of the terms that is consistently a part of those storylines is resilience. The 1969 Mets overcoming a 10 game deficit in the standings on August 14th to win the division and then beat one of the greatest teams of that era, the Baltimore Orioles in 5 games. The 1986 Mets being down 3 games to 2 to the Boston Red Sox, in the 10th inning of game six, trailing by 2 runs with two out and nobody on and finding a way to win. The 2015 Mets, down 3 games and having experienced an excruciating loss to the Padres and an embarrassing public relations blunder after nearly trading for Wilmer Flores, sweeping the Nationals and Marlins before riding that wave straight to the World Series against the Kansas City Royals.
The lack of resilience can also be a term associated with the greatest Mets failures of all time, of which one is sadly the 2021 season. We don’t have to dwell on the facts, but it still stings that the team the Mets were ahead of for so long, the Atlanta Braves, ended up winning the World Series.
Saying that, New Year’s day represents a new beginning. Luckily our Mets have given us plenty of reasons to feel that hope. The organization felt out of sync walking into spring training in 2021. Yes, Francisco Lindor was in the fold and we had a new owner with big pockets, but the organization still felt as if they hadn’t figured out how to get things moving. There was no president of baseball operations, as had been promised, and our “up and coming” GM Jared Porter was gone after a month in the position. There was hope because of Jacob deGrom and a multitude of younger players on the rise, but baseball is as much about who is running things as it is about who is on the field, as the fans were well aware of during the time that the Wilpons owned the team.
That’s why the failure of 2021 isn’t a cloud hanging over 2022. Our new GM, Billy Eppler, has already shown his chops, luring in Max Scherzer and having the greatest black friday in Mets history. Eppler also comes with pedigree. Yes, his run with the Angels wasn’t overall successful, but he was under certain ownership constraints and interference that don’t appear to be an issue in New York. Plus, Eppler is familiar with the terrain, doesn’t have skeletons in his closet and grew to this position by mentoring under one of the most accomplished General Managers in baseball history in Brian Cashman. The team hired Buck Showalter, one of 24 managers in major league history to manage over 3000 games. Showalter also has a winning record in those games and is one of the most respected people in the game. There is talk about analytics and a greater emphasis about embracing baseball modernization that was absent during the Wilpon era. Eppler himself has stated that he embraces those concepts and one of the problems with his run in California was ownership’s unwillingness to spend on that part of the game.
When you add it all up, along with the signings and several high end prospects in the minor leagues (Francisco Alvarez looks like a game changing talent and Brett Baty and Ronny Mauricio are both promising bats that could solidify the infield for years to come), it feels as if the organizational part of the team is starting to coalesce. Will it lead to a world series championship in 2022? Who knows, but that’s not the point. It’s nice to look at the team from top to bottom and feel progression.
The Mets have never been a team that has consistently shown progress. It’s been an organization that has had pockets of competitiveness surrounded by long term bouts of ineptitude and failure. 1969 was a wonderful run that felt like a fluke a few years later, even with a world series run in 1973 that felt more lucky than anything else. The tremendous talent of the 1986 Mets resulted in only one more playoff appearance. The Mets appeared to make a franchise altering move on May 22nd, 1998 when the team acquired Mike Piazza for Preston Wilson and no one else that really mattered. Yet despite Piazza’s greatness, the Mets only made two playoff appearances in his time there and fell back to the mediocre norm soon after losing to the Yankees in the 2000 World Series. The 2006 Mets were arguably the best team in baseball, but we all know how Yadir Molina derailed that train and the embarrassments of 2007 and 2008. Does anyone feel 2015 had any staying power?
This doesn’t appear to be a time for optimism. The world is struggling economically. The pandemic continues to rage. Baseball is embroiled in a labor dispute, with the season at risk. But what better day for optimism than New Years? The beauty of the day is that we can say that things can begin again. Yes it’s just a date on a calendar, but it’s symbolic of so much more. So why not feel good about where the Mets are? The key to greatness in an organization is from the top down. It’s about being competitive while also growing as a team, both on the field, behind the scenes and in the minor leagues. This Mets fan is choosing to embrace the notion that the Mets are not a franchise doomed to repeat the same cycle of hope, triumph and mediocrity that has been it’s calling card since Tom Seaver and teammates hoisted the World Series trophy in the fall of 1969. Today is a day for resiliency and for belief that we are on the cusp of something different, that this is the beginning of a new era of Mets baseball that results in a competitive, successful organization and a championship.
Finally, on this first of days, may we all be safe and well. If anyone is struggling with sickness or other problems, let this be a day of renewal and hope. May this be a beginning, for not just our team, but all of us at Mets360, including our writers, readers, families and friends. Let this be a day for overcoming. A day for light and promise.
Happy New Year!