New York Mets fit well in the underdog role they put themselves in
By Tim Boyle
The New York Mets played themselves into an underdog role this season. It may have been exactly what they needed to go on a spectacular late-season run.
The New York Mets have only themselves to blame for playing most of 2019 as a below .500 team. They also have themselves to thank for getting back into contention after a lengthy tenure playing closer to the Miami Marlins than the rest of the division all summer long.
One thing is clear about this Mets team. They enjoy the underdog role. Over the next two months, we’ll see them use this to their advantage as they attempt to climb up the standings even further and shake a finger at those who doubted them.
It’s never an intelligent strategy to put yourself “behind the 8-ball” in any situation. Even if the Mets have been known as a second-half team for the last half-decade, it’s an unwise position to be in. Depending on when your team starts clicking, you may run out of time before you’re able to climb back into relevancy. This may have been the case for the 2018 team that got hot late. They needed a 200-game schedule to get back into the playoff picture.
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Fortunately for the 2019 Mets, their hot streak began almost after the All-Star Break. Just about all of the regular position players have a game he can claim as his. The starting pitchers have also kept them in the game, sometimes carrying them through 8 or 9 innings, with the bullpen avoiding some of those epic meltdowns we saw regularly in the first half of the season.
The Mets are winning more games right now because they have more than one player who can lead them across the finish line. For an underdog team, this is always a key ingredient.
This wasn’t always the case early on in 2019. The team was too dependent on Jeff McNeil and Pete Alonso for those big hits.
Though still imperfect, we have seen Wilson Ramos come up clutch for the team. Michael Conforto is suddenly on pace for a career-year, too. Maybe most surprising of all, Robinson Cano finally got a little hot after months of sitting on the preheat level.
The Mets are different from many other teams hoping to make it to October. In terms of position players, they came into this year without a superstar. Alonso may have become one. However, he’s still not in the same class as Cody Bellinger, Christian Yelich, or others who have been in MVP races of the past or present.
Teams who don’t have this superstar power are often viewed as underdogs despite there being no need for one on a championship roster. See the 2015 Kansas City Royals as an example.
How many non-Mets fans knew who Alonso or McNeil before this season began? They were the team on paper many believed could fight alongside the Atlanta Braves, Philadelphia Phillies, and Washington Nationals. It took a while to get there. The Mets have finally arrived, a little late, but better than never.
After months of taking a beating for their poor performance, something has turned this year around for this ball club. They are playing inspired baseball. Whether it’s Phil Regan, the introduction of Marcus Stroman, or simply getting sick and tired of losing so damn much, the Mets are alive again.
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Over the offseason, Brodie Van Wagenen spent his time barking. Finally, the team is biting.