By Jason Keidel
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Was that so hard?
After all the talk of trading Jon Niese, Zack Wheeler, or any other member of the Mets’ bejeweled pitching staff, they improved their offense while keeping their conveyor belt of young arms.
The Mets gained about 40 homers, thousands of fans, and three games on Washington in just a few days without unloading one player who would have impacted this season. No, Yoenis Cespedes, Juan Uribe, and Kelly Johnson aren’t Murderer’s Row, but it was a statement. And we heard it.
They didn’t even have to produce to inspire their lethargic lineup. Curtis Granderson, Daniel Murphy, and Lucas Duda put some punctuation on the Mets’ sweep of the Nationals, putting them in a virtual tie for first place in the NL East. It was the first time they hit three homers in an inning since 2007, and this is the first time the Mets have been this relevant this late since 2008.
Five pitches. Three wins. Three new players. Zero aces dealt.
And one phone call from Wheeler to Sandy Alderson, begging the general manager not to trade him. It speaks to loyalty, to heart, and the home team. If the Mets make something of this season or the following few, that call may be remembered as the flashpoint of a cultural change.
For as long as this fan can remember, the Mets have been the least self-aware team in the sport, numb to the needs of their customers. It was always about the cold calculus of payroll, of numbers, of accounting, while never being accountable.
Mets fans weren’t clamoring for Mike Trout. They wanted effort, a move or two that would give the offense a jolt. For the impact, for sure, but also the symbolism, the implicit nod to the fan base. And they finally got one.
I don’t know anyone who watches every pitch of every inning, especially during the interminable 162-game baseball season. But if you watched every tense pitch and tight swing over the weekend, you felt something that hasn’t existed in Citi Field since it rose from the Queens concrete.
Add to that the Wilmer Flores saga and you’ve got some sweet mojo. Ron Darling said he can’t remember a more turbulent week than the one Flores had. One moment he’s smearing tears across his face, sure that he was traded for Carlos Gomez; next he’s hitting a game-winning homer in extra innings, safely swathed in his favorite jersey.
Are the Mets better than the Cardinals, Giants, and Dodgers? No. But they only have to be better than Washington. And if they make it to the playoffs, no one will want to see Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, and Noah Syndergaard in a short series.
So thank you, Alderson, or whomever cracked open the vault, opened the ears of ownership, and made the Mets contenders, an essential zip code for two more months. At least.
Follow Jason on Twitter at @JasonKeidel