Humbled Mets team isn’t just playing well, they’re markedly more likable than last year

Billed more as underdogs in 2024, this year's Mets are a much more likable squad.
Pittsburgh Pirates v New York Mets
Pittsburgh Pirates v New York Mets / Sarah Stier/GettyImages

The state of the New York Mets at the moment is—in the words of Larry David—pretty, pretty good. They may bounce back and forth from the .500 mark for a little while, but after the dreadful 0-5 start, the humbling of this team seems to have resulted in a much more put together ball club.

They aren’t stubborn. Players performing well have been rewarded with a better spot in the lineup or more innings out of the bullpen. Strugglers have been punished along the way, too. David Stearns’ DFA trigger finger is so itchy you’d swear he uses poison ivy to dry his hands.

Performing well on the field is one thing. To do so and be so much more likable than last year is the added draw.

Big contracts, big egos, and big expectations they couldn’t meet probably did sink the 2023 Mets after all

The Mets are still one of the most expensive teams in baseball. Their 26-man roster is one of four over $200 million. This isn’t a cheaply built ball club that deserves to be overlooked.

Ten players have a payroll salary of over $10 million. Four are over $20 million. Francisco Lindor is the guy getting over $30 million. It’s much different from last season when the Mets were paying mercenaries Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander over $40 million each. While still pricey with star power, this year’s roster is built much more with homegrown players and a few free agents who had already been humbled elsewhere.

The word “diva” got tossed around in the clubhouse last year in reference to Verlander. The vibes were never so sweet. Tommy Pham roasted the work ethic of the position players upon his departure. Things just never felt quite like they did a year prior.

Something clicked for this year’s ball club. The distraction of the Pete Alonso contract hasn’t been there. He’s playing well, coming off of a National League Player of the Week Award. This freshly built roster containing an awful lot of guys who’ll be gone next year has come together well and they don’t seem to just be playing for themselves.

Sure, having a team of players fighting for their next contract can work. A problem with the 2023 Mets might’ve been a lack of hunger. It’s different with this year’s Mets team. You won’t find a World Series ring anywhere. The pitching staff doesn’t include any Cy Young winners. It’s a trait Mets rosters have had since 2019 after Jacob deGrom won his with the Mets the year prior.

This year's Mets team has more fight in them

Too much arrogance? A little cockiness? Putting the individual before the team? We’ll never know the correct diagnosis as to why the 2023 Mets failed so badly.

It might’ve been a lack of fight. The exhaustion of winning 101 games in 2022 only to get eliminated quickly at home wore on manager Buck Showalter’s face. The players seemed to, at times, succumb to the same emotions.

This has been anything but a drama-free year early on. On Opening Day, Jeff McNeil’s emotions ran wild. The difference is this team feels like a team. They're angry at the opponent, not each other.

Of course, winning as often as they have since the 0-5 start helps big time. All of the ingredients are there for this to continue, though. The sudden production from Brett Baty and continued success of Francisco Alvarez help satisfy the promise of a good future. A pitching staff among the best in baseball is a big win when so many lacked any belief in them. 

Mets fans cheering for Francisco Lindor during a slump had the intention of breaking him out of it, but it was much bigger in the long run. It was an appreciation for the ball club as a whole. They could have made this a miserable year. Right now, our faces hurt from smiling.