For the last five years, and for most of the seasons since Citi Field opened, enthusiasm and excitement have faded away by the second half of the schedule.
But in 2022, there is a new sense of anticipation and energy around the ballpark.
It starts when you step off the subway or Long Island Railroad and make your way to the front of Citi Field, where the Tom Seaver statue stands for the first season in team history.
Long-awaited, it is one signal that times are changing in Flushing, Queens. It feels as if the team’s executives are carrying out everything in their power to give The New York Mets the best look for their team and the best odds at winning the world series.
The Mets Are No Longer Mediocre
A Growing Buzz in Flushing, Queens
In the dugout, you can detect these Mets players operating with a spark. As they go through their pregame routines, there is a pep in their step. This is a team in first place, and Jeff McNeil says that is a nice place to be. Francisco Lindor struts through the dugout with a wide grin. Starling Marte bolts on and off the field like a guy truly having fun playing the game. Mark Canha is all smiles as he entertains reporters before heading out for batting practice. Taijuan Walker talks about the resiliency of this team and how they have stayed atop the National League East without two of their best pitchers. Dominic Smith is engaging the fans in the VIP area behind home plate during batting practice. The area is packed with those wanting the feel the glow of this new team that has conjured up new hope, to get close, to touch it.
In the press dining room, there is newfound chatter about the team that the media is covering. Just how good is it, and how does it compare to baseball’s elite this season? In some discussions, there is an unquestioned position that the Yankees look like the best team in the game. But for the first time in a long time, the Mets are part of the dialogue along with them. This may be the first season ever in the history of the Citi Field press dining room where the two New York teams are in the same sort of consistent conversation.
Many Mets fans still don’t like the thought of being second to their MLB neighbors. But when evaluating these Mets on their own, this is a team that they can have fun watching again. The Yankees are the best team in baseball as of now. But the Mets are looking pretty good at the same time.
On a Sunday afternoon, Citi Field is packed, and coming out to the ballpark on a summer day with hopes of better times ahead is a refreshing experience. Fans are heavily focused on the game because the Mets are playing meaningful ones. On the way out, the crowds exult and proclaim the re-emergence of their Mets as a true playoff contender. They chant and celebrate loudly on their way to the subway and on the LIRR platforms.
There is a changing culture in Queens, and the players embrace it. Even after getting swept by the mighty Astros, relief pitcher Drew Smith publicly stated that such regular-season results won’t linger when the team is looking to the postseason. The team remained undaunted and quickly put the Astros series behind it, winning three of its first four games to open a new month and putting the ballclub 20 games over .500 by July 4. Yes, they beat the Marlins and Reds. But good teams beat who they are supposed to beat.
The aura around the Mets has changed because it is reflective of ownership and leadership. Steve Cohen has set out to be Steinbrenner-esque in his approach to wanting to win at all costs. Yet he is also a fan of the team, and he wanted to bring smiles back to the faces of other fans. Buck Showalter has been the ideal man to pilot this ballclub, and staffers such as hitting coach Eric Chavez have fit into his vision perfectly. The on-field product is proof that a new era in Mets baseball has launched.
Postseason Glory No Longer Seems Unattainable
Yet, for some in a continually frustrated and hungry fanbase, there is still a sense of impending disappointment. Because “that’s how it always ends.” For many Mets fans, especially those who did not live through the 1980s, nothing short of a championship will suffice. Winning National League pennants in 2015 and 2000 were not good enough and are not subjects of positive reflection. They want a World Series title, and they want it now.
But the players, the coaching staff, and the front office are certainly building towards such a goal. Sometimes, the championship process does not yield immediate results; the 1986 Mets progressively worked towards a title beginning in 1984. Remember the Royals team that beat the Mets in 2015? They roared back after losing the World Series the previous season. It is tough to get to the Fall Classic once, and they were determined to return and win it all.
There is a newfound atmosphere of electricity in Flushing, Queens. The Mets are a bonafide playoff team and a legitimate contender for the National League flag. It has been a while since that was last the case and a rarer occurrence during the Citi Field years.
The Mets are no longer also-rans, and contention can be the new normal for them. Met fans should revel in this perceived revival and look forward to potentially memorable times ahead.
Even if the 2022 season doesn’t end with a World Series title, one certainly does not seem like an unreachable goal anymore.
Featured Image: Yahoo