But there is tangible hope for a team once taunted on “Family Guy” — “Opening day and here’s the first pitch … and the season’s over,” says the announcer on a YouTube clip viewed more than 2.2 million times. These Mets are nobody’s punch line.
“I haven’t seen our team be down on themselves one moment this whole season,” Callaway said, explaining later the intangibles that have helped fuel this start.
“I don’t think it’s something that just shows up in one game,” he said. “I see it from the time we get to the ballpark to the time we leave. There’s guys that aren’t selfish in there. There’s guys that come ready to play every single day. When you get a group like that, they’re never out of it.”
Managers talk that way a lot, and maybe this is too small a sample to mean much. But for a team trying to shake off 92 losses, the enthusiasm is understandable. The victory on Wednesday was the third time already that the Mets have won when trailing after seven innings.
Ryan Madson gave up six of the runs in Wednesday’s big rally, and Michael Conforto said the Mets had clearly benefited from seeing him so much. But there also could be something to the makeup of their lineup.
On Wednesday, the Mets’ second through seventh hitters were all over 30 years old. Players decline in their 30s, as we know, which is why older players found such lukewarm interest in free agency last winter. But perhaps if those players are good enough — and well rested — their experience can make a difference.
“Everybody talks about age, but I feel like I’m one of the hardest workers out there at age 32, and some of these other guys too on this team,” said third baseman Todd Frazier, who signed with the Mets in February for two years and $17 million, after earning more than $20 million the last two years.
“It was a tough off-season, it was terrible, people don’t really know what we went through. I’m not trying to prove anything, but at the same time, I’m trying to show I can still do it and still put up numbers at this age.”
His numbers are stellar — a .291 average, 13 runs batted in and a team-high 15 walks — like those of second baseman Asdrubal Cabrera, whose $8.25 million option the Mets exercised in November. Cabrera is hitting .343 with four homers, and while his average almost certainly will fall, Cespedes, at .217, will almost certainly improve.
“The reason we believe is we have a lot of different ways to score runs and prevent runs and win games,” right fielder Jay Bruce said.
Well, he was told, the Mets don’t have much speed.
“But we run the bases,” Bruce said. “Look at Asdrubal. You don’t have to be fast to run the bases well. Guys are getting base hits; we’re not all or nothing. We’re taking good at-bats, Todd is walking. You don’t want to be the guy to take the bad at-bat. It’s a concerted effort of not letting the game speed up on us.”
Mostly, of course, the Mets are healthy, and even without vintage Matt Harvey, they have enough talented arms to contend. Callaway showed refreshing urgency on Wednesday, pulling starter Steven Matz for a pinch-hitter in the fourth inning to keep a rally going. Matz had run a high pitch count in the first inning, but had just retired 10 hitters in a row, boosted by a pep talk from the pitching coach Dave Eiland.
“Puff your chest out a little bit,” Matz said Eiland told him, “and believe you’re better than them.”
The Mets believe. The season is just underway, so all the usual disclaimers apply. But they are commanding attention, and backing up their strut.