Thursday, August 8, 2013

Complete Opposite

Last August, the Mets met their Waterloo in a home series against the Colorados where they neither hit, pitched, fielded or performed any particular actions consistent with the acceptable play of a Major League Baseball team. The end result was a Thursday afternoon affair that saw the Major League debut of Collin McHugh where McHugh mysteriously struck out 9 batters and threw 7 shutout innings. But the Mets didn't hit and in the end some poor fielding ended up costing them the game in a 1-0 loss. I listened to this game with contempt on the radio, and if the disgust in Howie Rose's voice wasn't enough, immediately following was one of Mike Francesa's most vitriolic rants against the team. He summed it up by simply saying "NNNNNEY STINK!" and he was right. Ney did stink.

One year later, we're seeing just how different the attitude is around the team. Today, the Mets played the Colorados in a Thursday afternoon finale to a series in which they played smart, heady baseball, they hit, pitched and (mostly) fielded well against a Colorado team completely decimated by injuries and general malaise, and the end result was that they scratched out enough runs to take a lead and the pitching, led by Dillon Gee and capped by LaTroy Hawkins, put the Colorados AAA lineup in their place in a 2-1 victory that finished off a series sweep. They are doing the sorts of things that you expect to see out of a young team that's only starting to learn how to win. The puzzle is complete, but you see the signs and the talent is certainly starting to surface. They didn't play outstanding baseball against the Colorados; they only hit sporadically, but they made their hits count. The pitching just stepped on the Colorados' throats, only allowing 3 runs in 3 games. Last season, 3 runs in 3 games might have been enough to beat the Mets in all 3. This year, the results are different.

Having a series like this against the Colorados isn't going to save this season, and had it happened last season it wouldn't have done anything to make that year more worthwhile either, but if nothing else, it's shown that the Mets now have a pulse. They have some direction and they have talented pieces that are useable going forward. They got great performances from their starters each time out, they played fundamentally sound, made productive outs, got productive hits when they needed them most, and parlayed some heads-up baserunning plays into important runs that ultimately won games. This is the sort of inspired play that makes fans want to show up and watch the team, even if they're hopelessly out of any sort of real contention for a playoff spot. Because it inspires HOPE for the future. Last year, at this time, there was no hope. There were islands of talent in a wasteland. Earlier this season, there were still islands, but the roster has been tinkered with and changed around until finally, a cohesive mix has begun to form. Guys who weren't on the team or weren't in anyone's consciousness at this time last year are now the guys making the plays, like Juan Lagares, or Eric Young, Jr, or Jenrry Mejia, or Marlon Byrd. Hell, they got two Saves this week from LaTroy Hawkins in a pinch.

The upcoming West Coast trip could prove to be the Mets' Waterloo, given the standing of some of the teams they're playing or, in the case of San Diego, the general bad luck they have in that stadium, but for whatever reason, I don't think that will be the case. They have, in general, been playing too well as a whole of late to think they will just roll over and die on the West Coast.

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