The Mets will finally take the field to open their season tonight in Philadelphia. The waiting must have been the hardest thing to do…
Like all who play the game at this level, Mets players are instinctively ruled by rituals, routine, and, believe it or not – boredom.
As we know, the opening of the Mets season was postponed when MLB declared the three-game set with the Washington Nationals a victim of COVID.
A week ago, the Mets broke camp in Port St. Lucie to check into their hotel in Washington DC.
Their mindset at the time was geared to game action, but as fate would have it, the only thing they’ve seen is inaction, a two-hour bus ride, and the inside of a new hotel in Philadelphia.
Mets Struggle To Create A New Routine
The routine has been broken, and there can have dire consequences for a ballplayer when that happens.
Tonight’s starting pitcher for the Mets, as an example, is Jacob deGrom, a seasoned veteran whose mental game is as important as his physical game.
Don’t believe me? The next time you attend a game at Citi Field, keep your eyes on deGrom as he stands idle in the outfield until the clock clicks precisely to 6:50 pm on a night he is pitching.
Then, and only then, will you see deGrom begin his pre-game warm-up. It goes even beyond that when deGrom throws a bullpen.
Degrom allows himself a certain number of pitches, and each must be targeted (for example) low and inside in the strike zone. If he misses location one time (which he rarely does), his routine is broken, and he’s mad within himself.
Now, the Mets have been cavalier in stating that the layoff is no big deal. Manager Luis Rojas has taken the lead in rationalizing his team’s circumstance, telling the New York Post:
You watch, you see some of the things you can detail from some of the things you see down the road as well. You can write them down, take notes. (Bored To Death)
There are some opportunities, even though it’s kind of weird. We are doing our best even though the circumstances are not the desired ones.” (Finally, A Truism)Mike Puma, NY Post
While there usually aren’t rah-rah speeches in baseball like we see in football, managers and players openly approach Spring Training as a build-up to Opening Day.
So we see Mets players working on getting their timing down, make advance living arrangements in the New York area, adapting to a new position with extra practice, and so on.
When the peak is reached, the bell rings, and nothing happens, though – then what?
As this is written (2:30 pm EST), the Mets are making their way to the ballpark and visitor’s clubhouse.
We can be sure each Mets player has checked the weather in Philadelphia at least three times since waking up this morning – and all is a go with temps in the 60s and no rain in sight.
A game-day routine is setting in individually for each player because tonight it’s game on. Hopefully, that routine carries over until the dog days of August, when pre-game rituals are pared down in deference to a body that is breaking down.
Adding to the drama are the Phillies, who opened their season with three straight victories, sitting in first place in the NL East where the standings are upside-down with Atlanta at 0-3.
The Mets Will Not Lose Their Lustre
The Mets are psyched, and they have been for a while. Already, they are required to make adjustments to things beyond their control that come their way.
If the Mets clubhouse’s attitude is real, and there’s no reason to think it’s not, the layoff will not be a factor tonight or anytime soon.
There will, however, be Mets players who appear “off” as we watch them play over the next week or so as they try to regain the momentum and rhythm they had when they left camp a week ago today.
Jacob deGrom, however, will not be one of those players, and with a couple or three runs scraped up behind him, the Mets will show the beginnings of what their team is made from.