Yes I do think that there is such a thing as momentum in baseball. Yes I do understand that if you flip a coin 162 times and record your results, you will find winning streaks and losing streaks that look just like the performance of a baseball team in the course of a season. No, I do not think that proves that there is no such thing as momentum in baseball.
I’ve seen it in classes I’ve taught and in groups I’ve been a part of. People respond to the other people around them, engaged in the same activity. I’m not sure how it works and I suspect it works in different ways at different times. I don’t think it follows rules, which is why people are still unsure that it exists.
One of the reasons people doubt that there is such a thing as momentum is that it is very fragile. The Mets have momentum at the moment. Having beaten the Yankees in two out of three games and now having beaten the Phillies 8-0, they are more likely to win their next game than if they had lost two out of three to the Yanks and lost 8-0 to the Phils. But more likely just means more likely. If a Phillies pitcher pitches a great game and a Mets pitcher blows it tomorrow, the momentum can be lost or at least diminished, but if they keep winning they will still have an advantage.
One thing that helps create momentum is convincing teams like the Yankees and Phillies to respect you. Another thing is earning the respect of your fans. Look, we’ve had our ups and downs this season. But we are at .500, only four games out, after 50 games. And Jose Reyes and Jason Bay are just beginning to hit. And more fun than anything else is the cornucopia of surprises we’ve already had this season. Pelfrey, Barajas, Davis, Takahashi, Valdes, Dickey, Pagan, Mejia, Carter, Blanco. Who are these people? What did we know about them? How much did we think of them or rely on them? Last season the only player on the team who played better than expected was Luis Castillo, for all the good it did us. This is a lot of what momentum often involves: obscure people asking to be noticed, disappointing people eager not to disappoint, new people happy to be new and wanting to get old.
What serious, discerning, loving, needing Mets fan is not enjoying this season at this point? Who among you is certain that something cannot happen this year? I’m still not giving it 50% odds, but I’m getting close. I love the way they’re playing. I love the way the chips are falling. I love the eagerness I feel at 7.