Ever watch the HBO show Hard Knocks? Where they follow an NFL team around – usually training camp?
I watch last season, when the film crew followed the Indianapolis Colts through the regular season. About halfway through last season, the Colts were playing some great football, and rattling off win after win.
What stuck out to me, as I was watching their winning streak unfold, was the lever of chatter that was always present. It was there in the team meetings. It was there during the position meeting, and on the practice field. The chatter was there during games and on the sidelines, too.
The team was locked in on doing whatever it took to win the game that week, and this was what the team would talk about constantly. How do we win this game?
The chatter was everywhere, from top to bottom. From the head coach to the last man on the roster. There was a level of excitement and enthusiasm in this chatter. Everyone was there for a purpose – to win games. And everyone was excited and enthusiastic about this. It continued for a good 4 weeks or more.
Then, around thanksgiving, the injuries mounted. And Covid worked its way through the team.
The chatter became less and less. There was less enthusiasm about doing whatever it takes to win the game. It became more about grinding out the rest of the regular season. From the head coach to the players, they wanted to get through the regular season, and the way the Colts discussed things, they would just gear back up for the playoffs. The chatter got less and less as the Colts got deeper in December.
The last week of the season, when the Colts needed a win to make the playoffs, their training facility was dead quiet. The enthusiasm about winning the coach once had was now replaced with the grind it out mentally.
In my experience in sports, it’s really hard to find 5th gear once you downshifted into 2nd gear. It’s almost impossible to find a 6th gear once 2nd has become acceptable.
The Indianapolis Colts lost that last game, and missed the playoffs. They are now off to a pretty rough start to open the 2022 NFL season.
Now look at the 2022 New York Mets, led by manager Buck Showalter.
The Mets were playing great team baseball early in the summer. Their play, as May wrapped up, was some of the best team baseball I’ve ever seen. When the Mets were on their “A” game- when they were working deep counts, and making opposing pitchers work hard, the Mets were a really tough team to beat.
Then the trade deadline hit, and the Mets feel a bit flat with their acquisitions. Then the injuries to some big pieces piled up. Soon, Buck Showalter, in his post game pressers, was talking more and more about grinding games out, and just making it through the season, and less and less about doing what it takes to win ballgames.
Once you stop doing what it takes to win games, once you change that focus, you get what we Mets fans have seen over the last 4-6 weeks from the Mets.
They couldn’t get out of 2nd gear when they needed it. This is how you get one hit in an elimination game. This is why some Mets fans were vocal in their disappointment when the Mets got swept by the Braves. Because they could see that coming.
The Mets played the last 4-6 weeks of the regular season like winning games didn’t matter. Then, when it mattered most, they couldn’t play winning ball.
So the Mets getting eliminated, barely managing one hit in an elimination game, was pretty predictable.
The Mets – and their fans – really need to ask why this mentality near the end of the season was even allowed in this first place.