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NY Mets winning with smoke, mirrors, and some true grit

NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 26: Michael Conforto #30 of the New York Mets has his jersey ripped off by teammates after hitting a game-winning sacrifice fly during the ninth inning of a game against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citi Field on June 26, 2021 in New York City. The Mets defeated the Phillies 4-3. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 26: Michael Conforto #30 of the New York Mets has his jersey ripped off by teammates after hitting a game-winning sacrifice fly during the ninth inning of a game against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citi Field on June 26, 2021 in New York City. The Mets defeated the Phillies 4-3. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)
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The New York Mets look nothing like an ideal first-place team. Yet here we are. The team is locked into first place heading into July. It has been a spot within the NL East they have sat for weeks now. Even in their moments of weakness, none of their division rivals have managed to catch up.

How have they accomplished this? An injured list packed with their starters, a whole lineup full of underperformers, and an incomplete starting rotation should have this team playing around .500 baseball at best.

Somehow, they’ve done better than that. I credit the smoke, mirrors, and some true grit.

The Mets have had just enough to outlast opponents often enough

The Mets have won a lot of close games this year. Those games are close because the offense hasn’t exploded on a consistent basis. A 3-1 win still gets put in the left sign of the standings.

It’s a little overrated how much team chemistry matters in a season. In a sport as individualized as baseball, where you don’t have to ever make any contact with some of your teammates for years, everyone doesn’t have to get along.

The 2021 Mets seem to be friendly with one another. It’s not exactly the reason why they’ve found success.

Setting egos aside, the Mets players are looking for the W thanks to some fine examples set over the years

Professional sports can be ego-driven. Put a bunch of millionaires on a field to compete against each other with their livelihood on the line and you’re going to get fireworks. Somewhere along the way, a new standard was set with the Mets. I think it all started back in 2019 with Dominic Smith cheering on Pete Alonso.

There was something odd and striking about Smith hoping his first base counterpart would succeed. It was only strange because we don’t see things like this often. He should have been less vocal and noticeable in his admiration for the guy who was about to steal his position.

Jacob deGrom, throughout his time with the Mets, has never pointed the finger at his teammates. Often justified in doing so, he has remained the best teammates possible instead.

I don’t think you can have an ego and grit. With a large ego, you think you’re already awesome and you can get lazy. While the Mets do have those occasional moments, they aren’t so plentiful compared to other organizations. It’s grit living within their clubhouse.

We saw this exemplified best during the peak of the bench mob. Looking at the numbers of these bench players, it’s nothing fantastic. It shouldn’t have been enough to keep the Mets afloat in the absence of their regulars.

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Somehow, it was. Whether a big hit from Jonathan Villar, a clutch home run from Tomas Nido, or the toughness shown by Kevin Pillar returning quickly after getting hit in the face; the 2021 Mets have the right attitude about winning.

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