By Rich Coutinho
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It used to be Mets fans wondered if the clubhouse had any leadership and it was a legitimate question. Today, you walk into the Mets clubhouse and they are leaders in every corner of that room and that has given the Mets a toughness and resiliency on the field when things are not going so well. Consider this past week when the Mets dropped both ends of a doubleheader and gave up 11 runs in one inning yet still managed to escape the week with a 5-3 record.
Johan Santana pitched two brilliant games and the Mets got some timely hitting, but to me Sunday’s game in Denver illustrates what this Mets team is about. They blow a 4-0 lead and after taking a 5-4 lead they give up a game tying home run but they refuse to quit. And they win the game. It was not perfect and you certainly do not show this game video to youngsters aspiring to be baseball players but this sport is about surviving tough moments and this Met team routinely does that.
And Terry Collins deserves much of the credit here because he not only leads this team but has empowered other people to lead as well. Daniel Murphy has become one of those players and speaks to the Met definition of a leader. We all think a leader needs to be perfect and at the same time, commands a type of reverential awe. But to me, a leader is a person who can learn from his imperfections and show others that you are always measured on how you respond from tough moments. And Murphy has had plenty of them in his career. But he has never quit or thought he was not good enough to play. And here we are in 2012 with him playing now his third position on the Mets and contributing. All he does is work hard and that is why he commands respect in the Mets clubhouse.
Another example is R.A. Dickey who has gone through more in his life than any of us could possibly imagine. Most people would become fearful of doing anything let alone become a professional pitcher in the big leagues. And let’s not forget he had to re-invent himself using the knuckleball to complete his dream of being a successful pitcher. His recent string of quality starts illustrate how much he prepares both physically and mentally for each start. His mentoring of Josh Thole goes unreported in this town but I firmly believe he is a big reason why Thole has turned his defensive game around in the early going this season.
The script of the 2012 Mets has yet to be written but some solid building blocks are in place. Their 2 stars-Johan Santana and David Wright—are off to great starts. They bounce back from tough moments in games very well and show those same qualities when they lose tough games. As we head into May, they own the best record of any baseball team in NY City and are only one game back in a division most said was too tough for them. They are 10-5 against those NL East foes and 7-2 at CitiField. They have beaten pitchers like Cliff Lee, Tommy Hanson, Josh Johnson, Mark Buerhle, and Heath Bell. Their trio of Santana, Niese, and Dickey has been as good as any threesome in baseball. And oh by the way, they’ve done it with one of their big bats — Ike Davis — residing well below the Mendoza line.
I know Met fans were told by the “experts” that this team would be dismal and horrific. I also know those same experts said that about the 2011 Diamondbacks. All I ever asked you to do is watch for yourself and formulate your own opinion. Mine has always been that this team is better than everyone thinks and their starting pitching might surprise. I still think that and there is plenty of room on the bandwagon for non-believers. But hop on board fast cause in a month there might be no more room on the bus.
Is the Mets locker room in good shape? Sound off in the comments below!