David Lennon is an award-winning columnist and author who has been a staff writer at Newsday since 1991.
The day after Johan Santana's no-hitter, the Mets woke up believing that anything is possible. It felt like a new era in Flushing, and by ending a 50-year curse, Santana liberated the franchise from something much greater than a statistical anomaly.
"This really gives our team some credibility," Terry Collins said. "I know the fan base is much more excited, so that will help. It will start re-establishing who the Mets are in New York for sure."
What the Mets used to stand for was failure, and not just your ordinary, cookie-cutter, better-luck-next-year kind of disappointment. Their failure had to be complete humiliation, the type that is chronicled on websites and mocked on David Letterman.
But Santana changed all that by throwing a no-hitter that was as inspirational as it was entertaining. Coming back with a patched-up shoulder, shutting down the defending world champions, bringing his manager to the brink of tears. This was nothing to joke about. It was a performance to marvel at, and perhaps magical enough to jump-start a special season.
When R.A. Dickey followed Santana with his own shutout of the Cardinals yesterday, this time by the score of 5-0, the whole afternoon felt a little spooky. Are there some bigger forces at work here? Dickey's gem pushed the Mets to seven games over .500 (30-23) for the first time in two years.
"I think what's awesome about it is that we don't have to explain it," Dickey said. "It's organic. A lot of times you have clubs that pick up a lot of momentum and you can't figure out why. I don't feel an obligation to explain it. I think that's what's fun about the dynamic of this clubhouse."
Said the knuckleballer with the knitted Yoda figurine camped in his locker cubicle, "He's not going anywhere." Santana has his own talisman. It's a Mets-themed garden gnome that has perched on the top of his locker since Port St. Lucie.
Fun is not in short supply with these Mets, and maybe that's been the missing ingredient. Santana's no-hitter opened up another Costco-sized can of it for the entire group.
"The glass looks half-full all of a sudden," said Terry Francona, who went from obscurity to immortality when he helped the Red Sox end the Curse of the Bambino by winning the 2004 World Series, Boston's first world championship since 1918. "Some of the things they've had to deal with seem to be sort of in the rearview mirror now. There's a lot of reason for optimism."
Want more beyond Santana? Dickey improved to 8-1 with a 2.69 ERA, and the Mets' starters have won their last six decisions dating to May 25, with a 1.53 ERA in that stretch and 59 strikeouts in 59 innings.
The Mets also save their best for baseball's elite. With Saturday's win, they have 22 victories over teams with a record better than .500, the most in the NL and tied with the Orioles and Rays for tops in the majors.
"I think we have a lot of confidence," David Wright said, "and you gain confidence from winning." But he wouldn't bite when asked about this year having any cosmic significance, especially in the wake of the no-no. "We're talking about 50-something games, so it's early," he said, "But so far, so good."
Forgive Wright for his pragmatism. After eight-plus years of having his hopes dashed -- or flat-out squashed -- he's not about to take any leaps of faith. Not in June.
No wonder he's so beloved by Mets fans. Wright is a kindred spirit, Employee No. 5, and he's experienced the heartache -- along with the concussions, the broken back, the slings and arrows from ownership.
That's why Wright was as jubilant as anyone in the building Friday night when Santana struck out David Freese. He pumped his fist and charged the mound before disappearing into the giddy pile of young Mets, many of whom think this is how it will always be in Flushing. Thanks to Santana, they have no reason to believe otherwise.