By Joseph Staszewski
A franchise and a fan base are alive again in Queens and it could mean bad things for the rest of baseball.
A rollercoaster week of emotions fully connected the two and left realistic dreams of October dancing in their heads. The Mets put their rejuvenated roster and invigorated legions of supporters on display to a national television audience on ESPN during a 5-2 victory over the rival Washington Nationals Sunday night.
The raucous crowd of more than 35,000 fans cheered, jumped and chanted as Noah Syndergaard struck out nine and allowed just two runs in eight innings. The Mets homered three times during a five-run third inning to propel them into a tie for first place in the National League East.
“Speaking from experience, this is not a fan base you want to wake up,” said Curt Schilling, a former Phillies, Diamondbacks and Red Sox pitcher on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball broadcast.
Unfortunately, you can’t undo what is already done.
Mets fans reveled in the playoff-type atmosphere for the first time since 2008 and the first time ever at Citi Field. There were chants of “Lets Go Mets” before even the first pitch was thrown. There were high fives to strangers after each of the Mets home runs. They heckled Nationals stars Bryce Harper and Jason Worth. The night ended with tens of thousands of Mets fans yelling, “We want first place” in unison.
“The energy they bring to the ballpark is unbelievable,” Mets manager Terry Collins said in his postgame press conference. “Noah in the eighth inning, he started running low on fuel and here they are. They all rise and cheer every pitch. If we continue this, they are going to help.”
The fans have fallen in love with this team, which is filled with homegrown stars. They wrapped their arms around them during the three-game sweep of the Nationals. “We believe,” they said.
Lucas Duda, who homered three times Saturday, had his named chanted multiple times. Wilmer Flores cried on the field the night of July 28 after he believed he was traded. Since the deal fell through, he has received numerous standing ovations and may be a Met for the rest of his career at this rate.
“It’s so much fun to be a Met right now,” Syndergaard told reporters.
That hasn’t been true for nearly a decade, but it certainly is now. In a span of six days, the Mets went from a national joke for leaving Flores crying on the field to a franchise that is armed and dangerous as they make a legit playoff run.
The additions of Kelly Johnson, Juan Uribe, Tyler Clippard and Yoenis Cespedes showed that the team’s ownership is committed to winning. David Wright, Michael Cuddyer, Steven Matz and Jerry Blevins are all expected back from injury—which will only make the Mets deeper and more dangerous.
It is why the walk out of Citi Field Sunday night was filled with as much energy, swagger and noise from happy fans as the trips down the ramps as Shea Stadium were in 1999, 2000 and 2006.
The Mets and their fans are awakened. Baseball beware.