Finding the Fire

“Dana, you are the most optimistically optimistic optimist I’ve ever known with regard to this team.”  Deb McIver of “The Good, Bad, and the Ugly … The Mets” in a comment on my blog, May 1.

On May 1, I posted a blog piece entitled “Calm Down,” in which I argued that Mets fans were losing faith in their team earlier than the team deserved.  In saying this, I was not being optimistic about the team.  I was saying that the degree of pessimism fans were feeling was premature, even if it was psychologically understandable. 

Since May 1, the Mets have won 5 games out of 6, moving above .500 and into second place, one-half game out of first. Would it be right for me to say that I told you so?  No.  It would be wrong, for the same reason it would be wrong, I think, to give up on the Mets because they had a weird April. 

Six games do not provide you with a big enough sample to tell you what is likely to happen over the next 135.  One of the glories of baseball is that, as we know, 145 games is not a big enough sample to give you an idea of what is likely to happen over the next 17.  But even if six games don’t have much predictive value, I think that these particular six games may have a kind of representative value. 

What I mean by this is that although I don’t have any clear sense of whether the Mets are going to win 100 games this season or 80, I do feel that I know that, as in the previous two seasons, there is going to be very little space between success and failure.  The Mets are a talented yet flawed team in a division of talented yet flawed teams.  If they win, they will have come very close to having lost.  If they lose, they will come close to having won. 

All of this is represented in these six games.  With the exception of the first game in Philadelphia, each of these games could easily have gone the other way.  The Mets really should have won the game they lost.  And each of the four games in their current winning streak looked at some point as if it was seriously considering turning into a demoralizing disaster. 

But none of them did.  And they didn’t because Beltran continues to rule, Wright is beginning to bust out, and Delgado is beginning to stir.  Pelfrey, Hernandez, and Maine are settling down, Johan Santana looks as if he may genuinely be as good as any pitcher who has ever worn a Mets uniform, Putz is showing himself to be generally very reliable, and Frankie Rodriguez is terrific.  When you add to this the fact that Atlanta and Florida aren’t scaring anybody and the Phillies, for all of their offense and grit, have a starting staff with an ERA of 6.58, you might reasonably conclude that the season isn’t exactly over for the Mets. 

So did they find the fire in their belly?  I still don’t think that fire is necessarily the secret to baseball success, any more than it is necessarily the secret to any kind of success.  Fire may be the secret to the success of certain teams, but if you remember, people rarely praised the 2006 Mets for their fire and their grit.  They were praised for their sense of fun, their talent, and their balance.  Like many Mets fans, I’m not sure how much fire there is in the Mets.  But unlike a lot of Mets fans, I’m not sure how much fire there needs to be.  I don’t doubt that this team could be successful.  And I am very pleased that they have begun to find their rhythm and they are on their way to finding their fun. 

If you listened to the crowd last night at Citi Field, you could hear that Mets fans are really ready to enjoy the Mets again.  All that angst in April was our fear that it was all going to happen again.  But it doesn’t have to.  And I’m not convinced that it will. 

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