Mets fans will be the team’s x-factor during the 2021 season

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 27: Fans reach for a ball thrown by Robinson Cano #24 of the New York Mets during their game against the Atlanta Braves at Citi Field on September 27, 2019 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. (Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 27: Fans reach for a ball thrown by Robinson Cano #24 of the New York Mets during their game against the Atlanta Braves at Citi Field on September 27, 2019 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. (Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images) /

There are many players and coaches who could claim the title of “biggest x-factor” for the New York Mets in 2021. Having hitting coach Chili Davis back in the dugout will especially benefit Pete Alonso and JD Davis, and could be a big help for the entire lineup. Closer Edwin Diaz will be a crucial component of the bullpen, whose success could hinge almost entirely on his shoulders with Seth Lugo out for the start of the year.

With all of that said, the return of Mets fans to Citi Field might just be the single biggest x-factor for the team this season.

Alonso would never say publicly that the lack of fans negatively impacted his 2020 performance, but he also hasn’t been shy about how much he looks forward to their return in 2021.

“To be back at Citi Field with a full capacity crowd and hearing the stadium shake when people go nuts, I haven’t found a better feeling,” said Alonso in a recent interview with WCBS 880. “It’s an adrenaline rush, and I miss that feeling. I miss the fans being there cheering us on because when we have a packed house, it’s unbelievable what type of hostile environment they can create for the other team. Walking in there when you’ve got 45,000 rabid Mets fans doing the ‘Lets Go Mets!’ chant, oh man, I miss it. . . Hopefully the fans have a ball when they come back to games.”

Alonso is one of a handful of Mets players who excelled in 2019 and had a down year offensively in 2020, along with J.D. Davis.

One of the highlights of Davis’s breakout year was his exceptional performance at Citi Field. He hit .354 in 71 home games for the Mets in 2019, compared with a decent-but-not-great .260 on the road. By comparison, in 2020, Davis hit just .209 at home and paired that with a .283 road batting average. There is no conclusive proof that the lack of home fans last season contributed to the down year from Davis, but he is certainly a player who feeds off of the crowd’s energy and connects well with Mets fans.

Therefore, it’s not surprising that he posted this emotional Instagram post at the end of last season, alluding repeatedly to how much he missed the fans.

This sentiment has been a common refrain up and down the Mets roster this spring.

“[Last year] the thing we missed most was obviously the fans,” said Dominic Smith in his introductory press conference this spring training. “You guys know in 2019 how critical they were to us. I’ve had people from the front office come up to me and describe that season as just as big as the 2015 season when we went to the World Series. That energy that was in the ballpark, the way the fans really carried us to the finish line that year, they said it was equivalent or maybe even better in 2019. I think that’s something that, being a New York Met and knowing that we have the best fans in the world, we really miss dearly.”

Mets fans, perhaps more so than any other MLB fan base, have a renewed reason for enthusiasm after this offseason. The new ownership regime of Steve Cohen and co. has begun to re-establish the fans’ faith in the front office with moves like trading for Francisco Lindor and Carlos Carrasco, signing James McCann, Trevor May, and Taijuan Walker to fill key roster holes, and getting rid of the Chick-fil-A “Fowl Poles” at Citi Field. Yes, all three of those factors are clearly equally important.

With all of the excitement surrounding the Mets’ new additions and already likable core, the Flushing Faithful have been chomping at the bit to get back in the stadium and holler their hearts out while cheering for the Amazins. Mets fans were so excited to have baseball back that they gathered around the virtual campfire and tuned in to the Miami Marlins’ fixed-camera TV feed to watch the first spring training game in early March. I would bet a year’s worth of Chick-fil-A that the Mets fans watching that live stream outnumbered the Marlins fans.

But this season, Mets fans won’t just have to watch their team via streaming or TV. They’ll be able to express their jubilance and excitement from the ballpark itself. For the 2021 home opener, the Mets will welcome up to 8,492 fans back to Citi Field to fill up 20 percent of the stadium. That number should increase as the season progresses, but even with the initially reduced capacity, Mets fans will surely make their voices heard.

“We can’t wait to put on a show in front of [the fans],” added Smith in his spring training presser. “I can’t wait to see their faces out there and hear them cheer for us and hit some balls in the seats and watch them jump and fight for them.”

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Mets players want the fans back in the stands. Mets fans can’t wait to be back in the stands cheering for their favorite players, old and new. It’s a mutual love affair between the Amazins and their rabid fans, and this relationship might just be a key factor in the Mets translating their offseason momentum into regular season, and hopefully postseason, triumphs.