The Mets 2019 season was divided into two halves. Did the 2nd half winning breed cohesiveness, or was it the reverse? Or, was it something else…
The first half of the Mets 2019 was horrid in more ways than the team’s sub – .500 performance on the field. Fans were restless and disappointed. Brodie Van Wagenen was forced to publicly back down from his “We got this” rant, and the media piled on.
“It’s that damn Callaway” echoed in the subways, and even WFAN’s Mike Francesa couldn’t find enough venom to spew on the Mets.
And when the Mets began to show some life in August, the doubters persisted. That is until the winning became a daily thing.
The intriguing question, though (at least for me), is which came first – the chicken or the egg?
Did the Mets fun-filled clubhouse and antics on the field – like ripping off shirts following a walk-off – did that come first – spurring the winning team we saw? Or, was it something else?
Or, was the somber clubhouse of the first-half turned around by the wins that began to pile up, together with the team being “back in it”?
The Nationals Turnaround – A Mystery?
The Washington Nationals, whose season patterned that of the Mets are an interesting case study of sorts.
They are a team engulfed by whispers of conflict in the dugout for years. At one point in 2019, their record stood at 17-31.
Today, they are one win from reaching the World Series. Minus Bryce Harper plus Patrick Corbin, they’re the same team they were last year and the year before.
We saw the cohesiveness in their dugout last night with those hugs bestowed on Stephen Strasburg. Following the game, Strasburg acknowledged he’s one of those people who “doesn’t like hugs.”
Looking a bit out of sorts (video here), Strasburg went along with it because “these are my guys” – my teammates.
On the surface, I suspect most will say winning comes first. After all, how is one supposed to enjoy losing?
The Mets Turnaround – Here’s Why
But concerning the Mets, I have a theory that contradicts the norm. I believe the Mets season turned around well before the winning began.
On July 5, when the Mets broke for the All-Star Game, their record was 40-50, and the team was 13.5 games off the pace in the NL East.
On July 8, 2019, Pete Alonso stepped into baseball, and Mets lore by winning the Home Run Derby.
Alonso met his teammates in Miami when play resumed on July 12. The Mets went 5-4 on that road trip, returning to Citi Field, where they reeled off seven wins in a row, moving the team to within two games of the .500 mark. Then, the Mets took off from there.
I submit that the aura and celebrity surrounding Pete Alonso upon his return from Cleveland enveloped his teammates as though they were “part of it” all. After Cleveland, the Mets not only looked different, they were different.
Pete Alonso spelled W-I-N-N-E-R.
It doesn’t always work that way. Look only as far as Mike Trout, the best and highest-paid player on the planet, and you’ll still find a losing Angel’s team.
A Winning Atmosphere Has No Mystique
Winning can be a catalyst a team can rally around. But players do it better, and sometimes it only takes one player as in the case of Alonso to create what we call a winning atmosphere.
The Boston Red Sox, Arizona Diamondbacks, Cleveland Indians, and Chicago Cubs were all winning teams in 2019, finishing well over .500. They “won” nothing, though.
The Red Sox and Cubs, especially, could not overcome the disarray in their dugout and front office, and we can be sure significant changes personnel-wise are coming in 2020 for both franchises.
Not so for the Mets, though. They can’t wait to get to Port St. Lucie for the beginning of Spring Training. There will be personnel changes for the Mets as well this winter.
But unlike the Red Sox Mookie Betts and the Cubs Kris Bryant, both likely to be traded, the core of the Met’s team will remain untouched.
In the same way, a malcontent can spread cancer on a team, a player like Alonso, spewing self-confidence married with humility and super-human feats on the field, can ignite an organization and its players.
Pete Alonso changed everything for the New York Mets. A winning atmosphere is now cemented within the Mets. All that remains is for the team to finish what they started…