Since 2003, Merriam Webster has had a word of the year. The inaugural choice was democracy followed up by blog and then integrity. Talk about a contrasting sandwich! For the New York Mets in 2021, there’s a very easy choice for their Word of the Year. It’s approach.
I can’t recall a year when the word approach was used so much to describe a baseball team. Used more negatively than positively because of the result the approach the Mets have taken at the plate has been, there’s a sour connotation to go with it.
How the word approach became part of our Mets dialect
Access to more information than ever before has allowed more people to understand the nuances of the game. I don’t remember the last time someone under 80 has cared one lick about a player’s RBI total. Far more relevant in this day is the level of a player’s swing—as silly as that may sound.
When it comes to approach, you don’t need to be a genius to understand why the Mets are doing it wrong. It’s actually a pretty basic concept. A good approach includes a strong baseball IQ whereas a weak one has batters going up to the plate hacking at whatever is thrown their way.
Subjective until you actually look at the results, the Mets have been universally panned for having a bad approach at the plate all 2021-year-long. Whether it’s swinging 3-0 or letting a fastball go by right down the middle for strike three, the team has looked lost at the plate.
It all starts with their approach to hitting.
The first time the word actually came up, as far as I can recall, was at the start of the whole Donnie Stevenson gimmick. Stevenson wasn’t just a hitting guru. His exact fictional role with the club was the approach coach.
This new vocabulary word is probably appearing in baseball clubhouses and batting cages everywhere. Not every player needs a good eye, an uppercut swing, or even patience. They do need some sort of approach as to how they will attack the pitcher.
Like a bad umpire, we only notice these things when it becomes a problem. Since the beginning of Mets history, every batter has had some sort of approach. Now, in the days where everything is analyzed, the approach is has become a part of the conversation as to what is going wrong.
A bad approach is also the simplest explanation as to what is going wrong when we don’t have any other clear answers. On paper, this team was supposed to hit. They were going to score runs. We were going to watch them enter the playoffs and do some damage.
Instead, the word approach reared its ugly head.
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It has been said if you put enough monkeys in a room with a typewriter they could produce Shakespeare. The same can be said about Mets fans and the word approach. Put enough of them together, our 2021 Word of the Year is going to get mentioned.