While most of the players on the Mets roster were familiar, there was a fresh vibe around Citi Field in the opening weekend. So, what are the takeaways from the Mets series win against the Cardinals?
Mets wins on Opening Day are nothing new. The franchise has the best all-time Opening Day winning percentage of any current franchise in the majors. That said, it had been 26 years since a Mets manager won his first game managing the team. Jeff Torborg won in his inaugural game at the helm in 1992. Ignoring for a moment how things turned out with him, it was obviously a welcomed achievement for new Mets manager, Mickey Callaway. The Mets won the second game of the year as well, marking the first time that a Mets manager has won his first two games with the team since Joe Torre took over during the 1977 season. If you really want a meaningless comparison, Callaway winning his first two consecutive games to start a season was the first time a Mets manager had done that since Torre’s predecessor, Joe Frazier, accomplished this feat in 1976.
This trivia is, well, trivial. The Mets did nothing more than win the opening series of the season. There was a noticeably different feeling around the team, however. For the past two seasons, Mets players have carried themselves like characters in a slasher movie who realize that most of their friends are missing. This is understandable, as many of the team’s players have spent significant time on the DL. Since 2016, they consistently seemed to be playing not-to-lose and not-to-get-hurt. As records will show, this approach was unsuccessful. In this opening weekend, the team played aggressive, worry-free, yet smart baseball, and it was fun to watch.
There was an instant example of this feeling on Opening Day. Despite a first-inning run and pitcher Noah Syndergaard on the hill, the Mets found themselves down 2-1 as they headed into the bottom of the second. In recent years, fans could be excused if they felt that the game was over at that point. Indeed, in recent years, most games were over when the Mets found themselves down a run. Not Callaway’s Mets though, at least not this weekend. By the end of the 2nd inning, the team had regained the lead, and even though the Cards would eventually tie the game in the 4th, the Mets went ahead for good with five runs in the 5th.
Let’s face it, it’s incredibly unlikely that this team will dominate this season. It’s just not that kind of roster. Not only would the starting rotation have to stay healthy for a full season, they’d also have to pitch “lights out” consistently. This is not impossible, but it’s a lot to ask given the recent struggles with injuries.
Instead, in order to for this Mets team to make postseason play a possibility, they’re going to need to continue to stay relatively healthy, and play the way they played this opening weekend. If they can do this, then it’s reasonable to believe that Mickey Callaway will be held in higher regard in Mets lore than Joe Frazier, Joe Torre, Jeff Torborg, and perhaps even Terry Collins.
PS – I would be remiss if I wrote about the opening weekend without mentioning the sad loss of Mets icon, Rusty Staub, who passed away on the morning of Opening Day. There were myriad wonderful tributes to Staub from all sorts of media outlets. His contributions on and off the diamond were comprehensively covered, and there’s no need for me to repeat any of that information, although I do recommend looking up those articles. I do have one anecdote to add though…When I was about 8 years old, a family friend who lived on the Upper East Side took me to Rusty’s restaurant (appropriately named “Rusty’s”) for a nice meal, but also in hopes that he would stop by the table to say hello. He came through and became the first Mets player I ever remembered meeting. He couldn’t have been any more kind and friendly. From what I’ve read, this was not unusual for Rusty. He will be obviously be dearly missed.