- Faith and Fear in Flushing - https://www.faithandfearinflushing.com -

Take It From Here

The Mets win most of the games they play, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that they just won two of three in Washington and five of six on their road trip and eight of nine overall. That’s what teams that win most of the games they play do by definition. It’s a pretty good deal to root for a team like that.

On Wednesday afternoon, the Mets, on the strength of power from Pete Alonso [1] and Daniel Vogelbach [2] (the latter slamming grand) and poise from Chris Bassitt [3] (seven shutout innings), built a 9-0 lead heading to the bottom of the ninth and won, 9-5 [4]. The five runs allowed in the ninth inning would be disconcerting in many a Met context. Not this one. Each of the runs was charged to a new fellow on the team, Mychal Givens [5]. Perhaps his inability to close out a nine-run lead was a metacommentary in opposition to all the fuss made over not adding even more new fellows to the habitually winning team, specifically one filling whatever role Givens will have in the bullpen, except throwing with a left hand. Or maybe Mychal had a bad first outing and tomorrow’s gonna be another day.

It will be. From the perspective of Wednesday, the next day would be Thursday (real breaking news there), the first of four consecutive days during which the Mets will play the Braves once daily — and twice Saturday. It’s a five-game series, what you’d have to call a big series. The Braves will represent a greater challenge at Citi Field than the Nationals did at Nationals Park and the Marlins did at Unfortunate Corporate Moniker Facility, and at least as comparable a challenge as the Yankees and Padres did when the Mets were beating them recently. At 3½ out, the Braves are the team closest to the Mets’ tail lights. If they’re not on our tails, they’re still within a ghastly weekend’s distance of catching us.

So let’s not have a ghastly weekend. Let’s have one of our characteristic pretty good to very good series, the kind we play most days of the week. The Mets have contested 33 series thus far in 2022. They’ve won 24, lost 6 and split 3. Let’s continue to reflect that consistency. Let’s continue to play some of the best sustained ball in 36 years like we’ve been playing it all year long.

Thirty-six years, you say? Best sustained ball you say? I feel a data point or two coming on…

The Mets bolted to a 20-4 start in 1986.
The Mets soared to a 44-16 start in 1986.

I had to look neither of those records up. They have been with me since they were achieved. My jaw dropped at 20-4 in real time and again at 44-16. I couldn’t believe how good my team was. Indeed, no Met team since 1986 has touched 20-4 through the first 24 games of a season nor 44-16 in the first 60.

You probably know the Mets’ final record in 1986 was 108-54, which indicates an extraordinary campaign, if not one that maintained over 162 games the blistering pace set after the initial 24 or 60 games. They were still an awesome team — essentially winning two of three games in 54 series — even after settling down a bit. For example, the 80 games after their first 24, the 1986 Mets went 50-30. And in the 44 games after their first 60, the 1986 Mets went 26-18.

And wouldn’t you know it — in the 80 games after their first 24, the 2022 Mets have gone 50-30. And in the 44 games after their first 60, the 2022 Mets have gone 27-17.

Over substantial swaths of their schedule, the 2022 Mets have matched the 1986 Mets, architects of the most robust regular season in franchise history. Also, for the record, the records of the 2022 Mets in their first 24 and 60 games, were splendid (16-8 and 39-21, respectively), so this isn’t some roar-from-the-rear, boulder-up-the-hill, momentum-come-lately story. For a while, these current Mets were very, very good, if not precisely as great as the greatest of all Met squads. Yet for a longer and later while, they’ve been exactly as great. Overall, using the most up-to-date milepost available, the 2022 Mets are roughly as close to the 1986 Mets as the 2022 Braves are to the 2022 Mets, and no Mets fan wouldn’t gauge the 2022 Braves as close enough.

The 1986 Mets were 70-34 after 104 games.
The 2022 Mets are 66-38 after 104 games.

The 2022 Mets are not going to catch the 1986 Mets. That’s no knock on the 2022 Mets. We already know what happened 36 years ago. After going 70-34, the 1986 Mets had some serious spurts ahead of them en route to 108-54. They would win 16 of 19 to close in on clinching and another 15 of 19 to prepare for the playoffs. There’s a reason we invoke the 1986 Mets so often in general.

There’s also a reason we invoke the 1986 Mets in 2022. It’s because we are nearly at the two-thirds mark of the 2022 season and we’re watching the best Mets team since 1986. Not necessarily better than; maybe not quite as good as; and definitely with an immediate future to be determined. August has only begun. September is a blank slate. October promises nothing. All we’ve got is what we’ve got to now.

What we’ve got to now is likely better than the fretful Mets fan (there are a few) comprehends. No Mets team between 1987 and 2021 managed to edge closer than seven games behind the 1986 Mets’ pace after 104 games. This one playing this year is within four.

The 2022 Mets aren’t chasing the 1986 Mets. Yet as they fend off the 2022 Braves and steel themselves for the 2022 Dodgers or Padres or whoever else might appear on the long-range Doppler radar, they are proving themselves worthy heirs to the likes of the 1986 Mets…no, make that the actual 1986 Mets, which should instill confidence in the flagging nether regions of your enthusiasm generator. Perhaps the Mets losing one [6] out of nine (while regaining the services of our second-best starting pitcher ever) seems troubling more than the Mets winning eight out of nine seems reassuring. Perhaps the lack of an additional southpaw reliever overshadows the prevalence of professionalism and talent accumulated elsewhere on the roster. If that’s how the big Met picture looks to you, I’d advise an appointment with your friendly, local ophthalmologist.

Doctor, doctor, when I go to watch the Mets, all I see is potential doom. What should I do?
Don’t go like that.

I’d have liked another lefty arm out of the pen, too. We didn’t get one. Y’know what? Shrug. Maybe one will come off the waiver wire. Maybe a Syracuse starter will be honed to pick up the slack. Maybe Joely Rodriguez [7] and his righty brethren will be sufficient to whatever task presents itself. I’ll go with who we’ve got, not just for the nettlesome inning of imagination but across the board. I’ll go with the starters, the relievers, the offense, the defense, this special team. I’ll go with the 2022 Mets, the best Mets team I’ve seen in three dozen freaking years. They’ve gotten us this far. I believe they’re capable of taking us farther. I look forward to them taking it to the Braves.

The newest episode of National League Town reflects on the enormous impact of Vin Scully and delves into what the Mets did and didn’t do at the trade deadline. Pull up a chair and listen here [8].