David Lennon is an award-winning columnist and author who has been a staff writer at Newsday since 1991.
ATLANTA - 'Capitan! Capitan!"
David Wright was in the middle of an interview while the Mets packed after their first four-game sweep at Turner Field in two decades, and Juan Uribe wanted the clubhouse TV switched from Ravens-Broncos to a game involving their own sport.
"We play baseball, right?" said Uribe, who didn't stop badgering Wright. Standing there, having a conversation with the Mets' captain, we got the sense this wasn't a first-time occurrence. But it was all in fun, and the smiling Wright, trying to placate Uribe -- or at least quiet him down for a few minutes -- yelled for somebody nearby to change the channel.
No one did, obviously. Not with fantasy players to track, and most of the Mets were too busy getting dressed at their lockers or stuffing duffel bags for the charter back to New York.
On Sunday, the Mets prioritized resting their regulars over winning and still won anyway, beating the Braves, 10-7, in 10 innings. Daniel Murphy hit a tying three-run homer with two outs in the ninth and the Mets relentlessly pushed the Braves until they ultimately folded up.
Many teams in the Mets' position, at the end of a tiring 10-game trip, with a chunk of their starters on the bench, already would have been thinking about the in-flight meal by the eighth inning. But the 2015 Mets seem incapable of that. It's not in their DNA, and with Sunday's victory, No. 82, the Mets sealed their first winning season since 2008.
Only Wright, and maybe longtime PR guru Jay Horwitz, truly understand the meaning of such a streak. And to clear that hurdle at Turner Field maximized the significance. As Horwitz said, the place had been a "house of horrors" for the Mets, and Wright was "thrilled" that that narrative no longer follows his franchise.
"I've talked about '07 and '08 until I'm nauseous," Wright said, smiling. "I'm glad I don't have to talk about that with this group. These guys have no idea what it was like, coming here, losing those tough games."
No need to remind them. If these Mets aren't totally oblivious to the nightmare seasons of the recent past, they're not about to thumb through the media guide for a refresher. Even Terry Collins didn't take over as manager until 2011, which is considered Year One of Sandy Alderson's rebuilding process.
And it wasn't supposed to be finished this early. First place? Up by 9½ games with 19 remaining? No way.
"It's really hard to imagine that we would be sitting where we are right now," Collins said. "Even though we thought we had a good team, this was far and above what we expected."
Sure, the NL East is incredibly weak this year, and the Mets have a particularly easy road down the stretch. But nobody handed this team anything. For all the times they were kicked in the teeth -- by Wright's freakish back condition, Jenrry Mejia's two drug suspensions, the Matt Harvey PR mess -- the Mets punched back.
They backpedaled into D.C. after a rough weekend in South Beach, their lead down to four games, and completely demoralized the Nationals with three straight comeback wins. Once the Mets got to Atlanta, they made the Braves look every bit as bad as their 56-88 record.
"There's a silent confidence when we take the field," Wright said. "You never feel like you're out of the game. Like today, there was just a feeling something was about to happen. And I think when you have that attitude -- it's not cocky, just confidence -- you feel like you're going to win the game before it even starts. We believe we're going to win every day."
Believe it? The Mets are doing it, and the seven-game winning streak they are bringing back to Citi Field is the longest active one in the majors. Their first division title in nine years is only a matter of time, and this past week cemented that. For Wright, the clubhouse -- even at Turner Field -- is a happier place than it's been in a very long while.