Are the New York Mets in the midst of an infamous “Nobody Believes in Us!” season?
Following an impressive and rare sweep of the Philadelphia Phillies, the New York Mets have now won an impressive five games in a row and are one game back of the lead for best record in the NL East. This was the second time since 2000 that the team has swept a series in which they trailed all three games. The other time in the last twelve years that this happened was against Miami this April. Their eleven comeback victories through 31 games is their highest in franchise history, and the repeated cardiac workout has given way to a considerable amount of entertainment. It seems as if the New York Mets are playing in a groove, and it has been undeniably exciting to watch.
After losing two players integral to the former identity of the team (Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran), the team came into the season with a lot of doubt surrounding the club. Perhaps, however, losing these distractions and focusing on youth and rebuilding were two things necessary to their renovation.
Their pitching staff has been playing to their potential, highlighted by impressive showings from pitchers Johan Santana (2.87 ERA, 9.87 K/9) and R.A. Dickey (4-1, 3.76 ERA). According to Amavin’ Avenue, their offense has been among the best in the game.
“As they won five of their past six games, the Mets scored 5.5 runs per game. In the National League,” the website points out, “the team ranks third in average and on-base percentage, eighth in slugging, and fifth in wOBA. Coming into the season, offense was supposed to be the Mets' strength, and it looked the part this week.”
The youth and passion of this team has helped them realize their goal: a trip to the playoffs and relevancy in the sporting community. Both have been long gone for the team commonly recognized as the “other” team in New York.
Some sportswriters, such as ESPN’s Adam Rubin, have caught wind of what was happening at Citi Field (where the Mets are 10-6) and have begun to cover the excitement of the motley crue of characters that compose the make-up of this baseball team.
“In terms of likability, and energy and enthusiasm,” writes Rubin, “this Mets team—now five games over .500 for the first time in two years and coming off a sweep in Philly—demonstrates that you don't have to break the bank to put an appealing product on the field.”
As Bleacher Report writer Harold Friend points out in his piece, “New York Mets Deserve Plaudits but Receive None from New York Tabloids.” however, not everyone in the media is on board with the New York Mets this season.
“Today, Ken Davidoff of the Post started his column with "Once the Philles blew yet another late-inning (sic) lead, allowing the Mets to post their third straight victory and a series sweep.”
Writes Friend, “The nerve of Davidoff and the ignorance of such a statement. The Mets (18-13) have a better record than the Yankees (16-14). The Mets are defying the ‘experts’ that wrote them off all winter and spring. Well, I have news for them. The Mets are not going away.”
His sentiments summarize the mood of the team, as well. There’s a layer of doubt around their successes, and no one likes to be doubted. Not even someone in a slump, like first baseman Ike Davis.
“When are you going to write a story that says I suck?” asked Ike Davis, Mets first baseman, to The New York Daily News. “Actually, write that they should send me to Buffalo,” continued Davis, who is hitting only hitting .179 on the season. “Then I’ll get fired up. Yeah, write that I suck.”
Wait a second. Isn’t this starting to feel a lot like Bill Simmons’s “Nobody Believed in Us!” theory?
According to Simmons, “The most potent force […] is the "Nobody Believes In Us" theory.” He wrote of the passion level in sports that has determined so many of the great moments in the last decade of sports history:
“My dopey theory: In the age of parity, every contender has roughly the same level of talent. There is no such thing as a juggernaut anymore. The past decade featured two of the most defining ‘Nobody Believed In Us’ games ever played (Super Bowl XXXVI, Super Bowl XLII) as well as six teams (2000 Giants, 2001 Pats, 2003 Panthers, 2005 Steelers, 2007 Giants, 2008 Cardinals) that thrived on that mantra.”
So do the Mets have a bit of this whole ordeal, whatever it is, going for them? It certainly seems so, as the clubhouse is coming alive and together in this early part of the season. The team is young, the team is driven, and most importantly, the team is playing as a team.
“Whenever teams win a big game, invariably, they play the whole “Nobody believed in us!” card. Happens all the time,” wrote Simmons in a later story. “Just in this decade, nobody believed in the 2004 Red Sox, the 2002/04/05 Patriots, the 2000 Lakers, the 2004 Pistons, the 2006 Steelers, the 2003 Marlins and the 2001 Ravens. Yup, we didn’t believe in them, they off this energy, and that’s one of the reasons they won. Or so they said.”
If this is helping the Mets come together, then there are no gripes by me. I don’t know what’s going on New York, but it’s working. Even if it’s surprising, you might even say that it’s working well.
“Yet the Mets keep winning,” wrote Rubin, on the Mets channeling these competitive undertones. “They're doing it with youth. And the success is fun in the interim while other touted National League East teams try to get their acts together. Maybe continued skepticism has a positive byproduct, too.”
For confirmation of this skepticism, just casually search the headlines on Bleacher Report. The headlines assert is as well as anywhere. Nobody believes in the New York Mets.
“David Wright and the Surprising Surge of the 2012 Amazin' Mets” is the title of Eric Brach’s piece on the 2012 success. He ends the piece by quoting legendary Mets’ relief pitcher Tug McGraw: “Ya gotta believe!” McGraw’s famous quote is one as iconic to the New York Mets as any, and also one typical to the “Nobody Believed In Us!!!!” theory.
In Ross Bentley’s piece “At What Point Is It Okay to Start Believing in This Team?” he was significantly more direct in his analysis. The New York Mets are playing as if they’re for real, and that’s the ultimate truth of the matter. If no one believes that this is legitimate, then they have only one thing to do: prove it on the field. This is what makes sports so great. It happens the way that it should when the better team wins. The better team wins when the team is playing like a team, and that often happens when the team feels as if they’re underappreciated and backed into a corner. How does the team feel about this?
"No one believed in us, and I hope they don't still," said Ike Davis, finally lighting the trigger of significance and giving the Mets an identity for this season. The words, as simple as they might seem, stand for something so much deeper. "We're just going to continue to play hard. We have a lot of young guys—I mean, basically the whole team -- but surrounded with some good veterans. And it's just exciting. It's a good atmosphere in the clubhouse."
Folks, this season, the New York Mets are our first “Nobody Believed in Us!” team and quite frankly, it feels awesome. Having a team with an identity, as silly and simple as one by Bill Simmons might sound, is incredibly important to the character of the team. This gives them something to play for, and something that brings them together.
Are the Mets going to win the 2012 World Series? I couldn't tell you. The World Series is not played until October, and today is May 12th. If we look back on this piece at the All-Star break, we could deem this piece irrelevant and the Mets a lost cause. But that ruins the fun of the season. Every year is supposed to feel like your year. That's why we keep watching our favorite teams.
Bryan is always interested in new opportunities and can be reached on Twitter. Click here to Follow @BryanKalbrosky.