In order to win a championship, a team, no matter the sport, needs a spark. Something that happens during that season that brings the team together. This event centers the team; it bonds them. Something that gives them one single point of focus on what to play for.
In 2017, the Houston Astros were able to bond over the devastation and tragedy that hurricane Harvey brought. Houston was a great team that year-and no event can bond a lousy team to the point of them being championship material. But this one tragic event gave the entire organization a single focus. Win for the city of Houston.
If you played against the 1986 New York Mets, you hated them. They were brash. Arrogant. They didn’t just want to win. They wanted to dominate. The Mets that year got into several fights on the field with several different teams. My favorite has always been the Ray Knight vs Eric Davis fight at third base. I’ve never seen a fight at third before. And haven’t seen another since.
These fights, and this hatred that other teams had for them, brought the team together. That was their spark. Teams could not stand the ‘86 Mets. The more that teams hated the Mets, the more games they won. The more games they won, the more teams hated the Mets.
It was a vicious cycle.
If you weren’t a member of the New York Mets.
In 2006, the New York Mets has the best team in baseball all season long. A young David Wright and Jose Reyes lead the team to a 97 win season, and an easy National League east division champion.
But there was never a spark. There was never that one defining moment that pulled the team together.
That amazin’ team lost to the Cardinals in the National League division series.
In 2015, the Mets hit the lowest point of the season during the last week of July. The trade on the Wednesday night leading up to the trade deadline didn’t go through, and lead to a crying Wilmer Flores still out on the field of play. Sparks can come from where you least expect it.
No one was expecting much when the Mets lost that Thursday afternoon in the rain.
Then the Mets added Yoenis Cespedes. And Wilmer hits a walk off homer on Friday night. The spark the lights the fire.
By Sunday night, the 2015 New York Mets were in first place. Citi field was rocking like never before, and the march to their World Series appearance was well on its way.
Those few days around the trade deadline bonded the team, and ignited their run forward.
Has the 2019 version of the New York Mets has that spark? That one uniting moment?
The Mets came out of the All Star break needing to string wins together. Even general manager Brodie Van Wagenen said so himself.
If the Mets didn’t win a bunch of games soon, they would turn into full sell mode, dumping every veteran player on the team. Players knew that if there wasn’t a turn around soon, their friends and teammates would be shipped out.
The players responded, winning 4 of the first 5 games after the break. The real turning point of the season-that spark- might have been the next series, against the San Francisco Giants.
Against the Giants, the Mets lost 3 out 4 games. All loses came in extra innings. For some clubs, this could have been the end. They could have folded it in, and collapsed. Season over.
But for this Mets team, that seems to be the spark that lit the fire. That long plane ride back gave them time to think. And time to talk things out. Todd Frazier talked about this on WFAN radio.
The team seemed to realize that while they lost three games, they could have just as easily swept the four game series. If they just pushed a little harder. Played just a little better. Just had slightly better at bats. If they did this, they wouldn’t have to see their friends and teammates get traded away.
And who knows, maybe even make the play offs.
The Mets traded for Marcus Stroman just before the trade deadline. They also held off trading away any other pieces, including starting pitchers Noah Syndergaard and Zack Wheeler.
The team responded by going 16-2 after that series against the Giants, putting themselves in the thick of the play off hunt.
Losing can be a spark. That’s especially true if the team knows they aren’t playing up to their potential or their own expectations. That lost series could have been the spark that bonded the team. This could be the event that really brought the team together, and made them realize their potential, and that they wanted to win, and wanted to play hard, for each other.
Time will only tell if that spark is able to ignite this Mets team. After that 16-2 run, the Mets have dropped the last two games-one each to division rivals Washington Nationals and the Atlanta Braves.
Was this the spark that ignited the team?
Does this Mets team have enough fire to make it to the World Series?
Let us know what you think in the comments below, or on our Facebook page here: FearlessBaseball Facebook group