Perhaps only somebody who has spent the past fifteen months immersed in every box score of every game the Mets have ever won can truly appreciate the absurdity of absolutist statements along the lines of, “The Mets have never done anything like this!”
The Mets have absolutely done things like what they’re doing during this Interleague interlude, and you don’t need to be a Happiest Recap researcher to know it. Every time the Mets do something offensively extraordinary — which is blissfully frequently over the past few days — Gary Cohen alludes to its most relevant precedent in Mets history: the 1990 series at Chicago, for example, when Dave Magadan ousted Mike Marshall at first base and the Mets scored 43 runs across three games in two days; or the 2005 desert storm when Mike Jacobs led successive 14- and 18-run attacks on Arizona; or (as Ron Darling brought up) the 9-1 road trip to L.A., Phoenix and Philadelphia in 2006 when the Mets were scoring early and routinely often every single night and day.
When stretches like those are being brought up during Mets games, then those Mets games must be going awfully well. And that is very, very good for all of us in the present. Yet it’s a little bit the euphoria talking when precedents are dismissed (by Darling, by Bobby Ojeda, by whoever) as not possibly as good as what we’re seeing right now. Of course they were as good, give or take a run here — or another run here…and a couple more runs here (and, oh look, another run here!). The Mets were or felt unstoppable for a handful of games in 1990 and 2005 and 2006 because the Mets didn’t stop hitting, at least until they did. Eventually all teams stop hitting.
These 2011 Mets weren’t hitting as recently as a week ago. A week ago, I stood damp and disgusted after midnight in the Promenade beseeching Justin Turner to just take one for the team and get it over with in the bottom of the thirteenth because there was no way he and his teammates were ever going to score another run if they relied on proactive methods like swinging their bats. That clever use by Justin of his uniform fabric gave the Mets a 3-2 win. The next day, they scored four runs and won. The night after that, they scored one run and lost.
Eventually all teams start hitting, too, but you usually get a sense something’s coming. These Mets, however, offered no such hunches or hints before touching off this current round of hostilities toward American League pitching. Three games in which they scored eight runs indicated no sign of what was to come — no expectation, certainly, that 14 runs, 8 runs, 14 runs and, most recently, 16 runs would cross the plate on our behalf in consecutive contests. The Mets have now set two franchise records that a week ago were not just unimaginable but mostly unknown (even to your Happiest Recap research team).
As of Wednesday night in Detroit, the Mets have scored more runs (52) in a four-game span than they ever have before; and the Mets on Wednesday night scored more runs in a single game (16) than they ever have without benefit of a home run. Like the record they set in ’06 by scoring in the first inning in more consecutive road games than anybody in major league history, or Jacobs homering four times in his first four games in ’05, who even knew these were records? Who’s been sitting around since June of 1990 waiting for the Mets to finally put more than 50 runs on the board in four straight games?
I’m glad some tangible records have been involved in the offensive onslaught of 2011 since what’s being accomplished certainly deserves to be marked down somewhere. Left to anecdote, it’s likely to get lost. All these sorts of things fade, just as lineups that can’t be gotten out suddenly start taking ohfers. The 1990 Mets cooled off. The 2005 Mets cooled off. Even the 2006 Mets returned to Earth after seeming incapable of having their upward trajectory impeded by gravity. Depending on what becomes of our 2011 edition, I’m guessing years from now, when the Mets’ bats are scalding for four games or if they don’t hit homers yet string together singles, doubles and triples in almost endless fashion, it will come as news to most that there was precedent, that there was a Mets team that did something like this, first at Texas, then in Detroit. Whether four-hit names like Pagan and Paulino resonate or draw blank stares is probably dependent both on the intensity level of the Mets fan watching and what Angel, Ronny and their teammates do once the inevitable cooling effect sets in.
The precedents set in the aforementioned outbursts of 1990, 2005 and 2006 resonate for me because each takes me back to a respective moment of heightened Met expectation. The 1990 Mets were making a long-delayed move on the Pirates for first place. The 2005 Mets, after playing footsie with .500 for so long, were climbing in the Wild Card race. The 2006 Mets were inexorably separating themselves from the rest of the N.L. East. Each of the seasons in question took off in different directions once the bats ceased being magic wands, but while the balls were flying around and out of various yards from coast to coast, I couldn’t believe the Mets weren’t on their way to ever bigger and unquestionably better things.
That, maybe, is where 2011 parts company with precedent in my eyes. I honestly believed the Mets would continue to pound pitchers in 1990, stay in their groove in 2005 and rampage without pause in 2006. All those Mets convinced me they were destined to compete at a high level. These Mets? They seem destined to show up at Comerica Park today and do their best against Justin Verlander and then they seem destined to fly home to take on the Yankees before repacking their stuff and heading for California. Even after 52 runs in four games and even after showing they don’t need four-baggers to generate sixteen tallies, I have no expectations for these Mets’ continued success.
But there’s a flip side to that, because I also don’t expect them to utterly fail. I don’t expect them to “revert to form,” because I don’t expect they have a form. These numbers these last four games may be an aberration in the sense that, literally, 52 runs in four games never otherwise happens to the Mets, but their ability to succeed is as genuine as their ability to do the opposite. They could do either. We could be back to imploring Turner to stick an elbow out over the plate. We could be cringing at bases-loaded balks. We could be wondering why this one can’t find his knuckleball and what that one was thinking by trying to steal third in a situation that demands the runner stays put. But we could also be exhilarated and heartened and satisfied that these 2011 Mets never quit and often win, sometimes when the runs pile up in pleasing stacks, sometimes because they find a way to produce with only the most minimal of production.
I don’t know what to expect from this club that has won slightly more than it has lost with just about half a season in the books. But I’ve rarely been more willing to let a Mets club surprise me.
Thanks to Paul DePodesta for spending a half-hour on the phone with a bunch of bloggers last night. Read what the Mets VP of player development & amateur scouting had to say to us via the transcript diligently and courteously posted at Amazin’ Avenue.