There's a famous Maya Angelou quote, popular among cross-stitch pillows, memes and internet forums alike, which says that "if someone shows you who they are, believe them."
It means a few different things, depending on your perspective, but, in baseball terms, it mostly comes down to this: If a team is playing poorly, doesn’t seem to improve, and if that same team is acting as if losing is acceptable, then you should believe they don’t have what it takes to make a good run, or a deep run, or do anything worthwhile in the playoffs.
And, for the last few weeks, it seemed like the Mets were telling us who they were. Before Wednesday’s game, that meant nine losses over 11 games. It meant Pete Alonso vociferously saying everything was fine – strongly and loudly enough that the fiddle players on the Titanic would have probably given him the side-eye. It meant acting general manager Zack Scott calling the team "mediocre," the offense "painful" and saying the players weren’t doing enough to stay healthy.
But though the Mets do look like they’re sinking – and yes, it absolutely still looks like that, no matter what Alonso said – Wednesday’s win against the Nationals should provide another layer to this team showing us who they are. Or at least what they can be.
It wasn’t pretty, and it was against a team so thoroughly stripped of parts during the trade deadline that they qualify as the National League East jalopy, but it was a win. And it was a good one.
The Mets offense, among the worst in baseball, cobbled together 13 hits against four Nationals pitchers. They came back from two three-run deficits. Alonso, who was appropriately lambasted for saying everything was going to be fine after the Phillies swept the Mets last week, seemed determined to prove that his optimism wasn’t blind or misguided. He was 0-for-21 going into Tuesday’s game, which was suspended in the second inning and continued into Wednesday, but broke out to go 3-for-5 with an RBI and, maybe just as indicative of a breakout, had two very hard-hit balls that veered just foul.
All of which is to say that Scott is probably right. This team is mostly mediocre and was in first place for as long as it was simply due to sheer happenstance – because they happened to be in the National League and on the east coast, where mediocrity goes to thrive. But, as he believes, it also certainly has the ability to be more.
Look, no one is saying that winning against the Nationals is worth a parade in the Canyon of Heroes, but what Wednesday did show was a measure of spunk the Mets have always had from the very beginning. Whether we were all rolling our eyes over Donnie Stevenson or rats versus raccoons, this team has proven to have chemistry since its 2021 inception, and while that alone means nothing, when put together with fundamentals such as good baserunning, timely hitting, and even gritty, imperfect efforts like what they got from Rich Hill, it can lead to good things.
"I think it shows who we are," Luis Rojas said, ever the optimist. "I know we haven’t shown up to be like this offensively, but these guys have hit like this in their careers…I liked the conviction we took behind the swings up there today. It was good to see that repeatedly. It shows the hard work these guys have been putting in."
Conviction. That’s a good word.
When we hear Alonso or Rojas pledging belief despite the struggles, it’s easy to scoff. I scoff, too. The Mets haven’t been to the playoffs in half a decade and haven’t won a World Series since Ronald Reagan was president. They are a franchise known for disappointment and this last stretch, despite new, fancy ownership, looks like the same old Xerox, just in color.
We can assume that – they can’t. They must believe they can improve. And Alonso and Rojas clearly have conviction. Yes, we’re allowed to maintain it won’t be enough, but we’re also allowed to give them room to change our minds.
They’ve shown us who they are. We know this team will move in fits and starts, promise the world and then maybe deflate. But they genuinely believe they can be more. Now, let’s see if they can convince us.