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The Silent Generation

The word that keeps getting repeated by Mets and people around the Mets is “electric”. Citi Field, they say, is electric. They’re not referring to how the stadium lights are lit or how its loudspeakers are amplified. They’re describing the atmosphere with fans filling seats with their anatomies and the air with their exclamations. Capacity was meaningfully expanded over this past weekend with the Padres’ visit, and with it the essence of Mets fandom returned to the ballpark. That welcome sound has bled through the television and radio broadcasts. We’re there in spirit and reality.

With the Cubs in town, so has a reminder of what it was like when Citi Field was unplugged. Playing center and batting fifth for Chicago in the series opener was Jake Marisnick [1], formerly of the New York Mets. You might remember Marisnick played briefly for the briefly playing 2020 Mets. You don’t remember going to a game to see Marisnick play for the 2020 Mets. You couldn’t.

Marisnick is part of a unique cohort in the history of the New York Mets. He is part of what we’ll call the Silent Generation. Jake joined the Mets, known provincially (and, we’d like to think, accurately) for having the Best Fans in Baseball. We’ve been some distinct combination of loud, supportive, discerning and critical since 1962. We’ve got a chant that never goes away. But how would have Jake Marisnick known it from the proper perspective to experience it? How can he answer questions from his current teammates who ask, “Hey, Marizz, what’s it like to play ball in New York?” He played once before Mets fans at Citi Field as a Marlin, three times before Mets fans as an Astro and then…nobody as a Met. No 2020 Met heard a genuine “LET’S GO METS!” No 2020 Met heard an organic thing at Citi Field. The stands were empty and silent. Jake Marisnick, who put in seven home games as a Met, played before a paid/complimentary attendance of zero. That was 2020 in action. That was necessary if you were gonna have any size season whatsoever. The 2020 season lasted 60 games. Jake, injured twice, played in only 16 of them total

With Monday night’s 5-2 Mets victory [2] over Marisnick’s Cubs, we are up to 58 games in the 2021 season. We’ll soon pass 60, a fleetingly significant milestone because it’s one year later and we’re rubbing our collective eyes a little as we emerge from our mandatory social hibernation. Presenting baseball to us last summer was supposed to help us lurch toward normal. There was little normal about it and, honestly, it didn’t much help. One year later, it increasingly feels like the 2020 Mets season never happened.

For the 20 Mets who were new to the Mets in 2020, it kind of didn’t. The 2020 Mets who’d been here before knew what we were like. The 2020 Mets who’d arrived in Queens to encounter a pandemic could only hear the legend and imagine. Maybe they wondered. Maybe they had other things on their minds. The entire globe did. Nevertheless, it strikes me as a slight shade of sad that Jake Marisnick — like Guillermo Heredia, who came in with the Braves in May when the building was still keeping most of its seats intentionally empty; like childhood Mets fan Rick Porcello, who hasn’t signed on anywhere since leaving New York; like Andrés Giménez, whose wondrous potential was suddenly traded young — never had a Mets fan cheer for him as a Met during a Mets home game. Maybe some Mets fan at Citi Field Monday night gave Marisnick an audible pat on the back last night. It would’ve been the Metsian thing to do.

Of the twenty players who debuted as Mets last year, only four are still in the organization, certifying 2020 as the disposable entity [3] it registered as in real time. Franklyn Kilomé is in Syracuse. Dellin Betances went on the IL after one appearance in Philadelphia in April (and has recently begun a rehab assignment in St. Lucie). David Peterson [4] is thus the only new-for-2020 Met besides stiff-necked Miguel Castro who has made it to Citi Field in 2021 as a Met. Monday night he heard the cheers for real. He earned them with six innings of shutout ball, muting the murmur that he needs to go work out his problems in Triple-A. The rotation that had three sure bets in deGrom, Stroman and Walker along with a churvish wild card beginning to come up aces in Lucchesi for the first time had the rest of its hand where it was supposed to be.

We gained some faith in Peterson last season when nobody was watching him in person. We switched to fear that it was all going to hell this year as his ineffective outings began to incorporate disturbingly fewer innings, home or away. Monday versus the Cubs was just a single start, and he has only just now made what amounts to his debut on something approximating the big stage — our big stage, that is — but somehow it feels like David Peterson is back.

Everybody else who contributed to the Mets win Monday night either had a taste of Citi Field pre-2020 in their background or is enjoying a fairly fresh Flushing honeymoon. Dom Smith homered, just like he did to close out 2019. Edwin Diaz notched the save, just as he did on occasion (if not often enough) two years ago. James McCann, Kevin Pillar, Brandon Drury and Aaron Loup all got here lately. They are 2021 Mets who’ve gotten to immerse themselves in the aura of Mets fandom practically from jump, the way Gary Carter did in 1985, Robin Ventura did in 1999, and R.A. Dickey did in 2010. Sometimes a little runway is required (ask the slowly settled-in Francisco Lindor). Sometimes there will be Best Fans in Baseball blowback (ask Trevor May following two moonshots surrendered). But everybody before and after 2020 got to know Mets fans face-to-faces. That’s always been part of the deal of becoming a Met

Most of the Silent Generation didn’t and probably won’t ever get their fair share of the full sensation of being a Met. David Peterson finally did, for real. We look forward to us seeing him again and him hearing from us, whatever it is we have to say.

NO CHEERS ALOUD: 2020 Home Games Played by 2020-Only Mets
Andrés Giménez 26
Chasen Shreve 10
Billy Hamilton 9
Jared Hughes 8
Jake Marisnick 7
Robinson Chirinos 6
Rick Porcello 6
Brian Dozier 4
Guillermo Heredia 3
Hunter Strickland 3
Michael Wacha 3
Eduardo Nuñez 2
Erasmo Ramirez 2
Ali Sanchez 2
Ryan Cordell 1
Franklyn Kilomé 1

Dellin Betances, who pitched at Citi Field four times in 2020, has played only one road game for the 2021 Mets; Franklyn Kilomé is with Triple-A Syracuse; Ariel Jurado played one road game for the 2020 Mets but no home games.