Frequently laughed at in the baseball world, the New York Mets have a history of dysfunction. It doesn’t matter the decade or owner. The Mets somehow always find a way to mess things up in an epic fashion.
That’s not to say the entire history of the franchise has been utter chaos. In fact, some of the team’s best years came when nobody expected them to do much at all.
There are a few exceptions to the rule. In the latter part of the 1980s, it was clear the Mets were bound for glory. They built up a team of top draft picks and superb veterans which ultimately led them to a championship in 1986.
Prior and since, it feels as if the Mets are an organization at their best whenever their backs are up against the ropes.
The Mets thrive in an underdog role
It all began in 1969 with the Mets going to the playoffs for the first time and running away with the National League East title. Against the powerhouse Baltimore Orioles in the World Series, few would have expected this group of men to come away victorious.
The club was yet again troubled in 1973 when they would make their second trip to the postseason—eventually making it to the seventh game of the World Series. A little more established at this point, the club still managed to pull off a miracle in a season where many of their best players suffered lengthy injuries. To take down the Big Red Machine Cincinnati Reds and then come a win away from defeating the Oakland Athletics shows a lot of tenacity.
Something similar could be said about the Mets in 2015. Their playoff drought had extended back to 2006. Behind some amazing pitching and late-season clutch hitting, they managed to climb their way to the finals.
There’s no exact science to it and there are still plenty of examples where the Mets were expected to perform well and did or vice versa. In 2021, we’re seeing all sides of this.
When the Mets are supposed to win, they don’t seem to
The 2021 Mets were meant to be a very good team. However, their best days this season came when they were piecing together victories with an IL full of their best players.
When they finally did get mostly healthy, the slide out of first place began. Was the pressure too much or is this merely a coincidence?
In the past, the Mets secured the National League East title rather early on in 2006. The club could outslug practically anyone. Unfortunately, the St. Louis Cardinals got in the way and ended their run toward ending the championship drought.
They followed up this playoff run with two straight regular season collapses. The 2007 and 2008, the Mets were built to win but fell apart late. They watched on as the Philadelphia Phillies ended a drought of their own, eventually winning the World Series in 2008. From there, the Mets put together far less productive campaigns until finally crawling out of a dark era in 2015.
Mets fans, naturally, embrace the underdogs
With the exception of the 1980s, New York has been a Yankees town. The Mets are the second team in the city partly because of their history and more so because of how much history they have. The Mets are a far younger team than the octogenarian Yankees. Coming around in 1962 and doing so with some epically bad results, a culture of underdog status was immediately built in.
Even today, fans seem to love the underdogs a bit more than the star players—some of whom eventually turn into stars or resemble one closely.
These types are embraced much more quickly than a high draft pick or big free agent signing. Although not 100% the case, fans seem to favor watching a guy like Jeff McNeil thrive than an outside mercenary signed to a lucrative contract.
The Mets aren’t alone in this thinking. It’s a natural occurrence in all sports and in all cities. What makes it a little different might be how the team reacts similarly; at least in the case of this season.
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There’s no shortage of confidence, at least on the outside, from this 2021 Mets team. Adversity seems to be the ingredient needed for a winning recipe. Every team they are face down in the mud, the team finds a way to climb out, rinse off, and show us what they’re made of.