Mets President David Stearns walks on the field before a...

Mets President David Stearns walks on the field before a game between the Mets and the Milwaukee Brewers at Citi Field on Friday, March 29, 2024. Credit: Jim McIsaac

Chemistry is a weird thing.

It has a tendency to get overblown in sports — you can have all the team chemistry in the world, but if you can’t hit, pitch, or field, it’ll get you all of nowhere. But you also feel its absence when it’s gone.

To wit, the Mets had plenty of chemistry in 1999 — the year that gave us Mojo Risin’, Grand Slam singles, and a three-game sweep of the Pirates that bare-knuckled them into a wild-card play-in game. And they sure didn’t seem to have very much last year, the infamous “Worst Team Money Can Buy.”

Let's get this out of the way: There are solid, quantifiable reasons the 2023 Mets were as bad as they were. They didn’t finish 29 games back in the NL East because the vibes in the clubhouse were off. Edwin Diaz’s patellar tendon didn’t rupture because his teammates weren’t having enough fun during spring training.

But team chemistry — which, in this case, I’ll define as the ability to feed off each other, to not catastrophize failures, and the propensity to pick up underperforming teammates — does have its place. And this current Mets team is showing signs of the type of internal cohesiveness that felt absent last year.

"The last couple of nights, the last week, just the energy coming from the team, I think it’s been great for all of us to see," president of baseball operations David Stearns said Tuesday. "That’s really tough to manufacture from a front office perspective and it’s a product of the coaching staff working really hard to create an atmosphere. It’s a product of players believing in each other and, I think, genuinely enjoying spending time with each other.”

With Tuesday’s 3-1 win over the Pirates, the Mets are 9-3 in their last 12 games — against teams with a combined .615 winning percentage. They’ve scored 38 runs in the seventh or later, second only to Atlanta, and are hitting .258 when trailing. In six of their nine wins, their opponent scored first.


But by far, the most impressive thing — and maybe the best indication of that energy and cohesiveness that Stearns referenced — is that they did all this despite beginning the season 0-5.

“It feels like every night has been someone different,” said Joey Wendle, who came in for an injured Brett Baty and stroked a go-ahead double in the seventh.

A lot of that has to do with improved hitting and pitching (who woulda thunk?), but you can’t fully discount the idea that this team, and rookie manager Carlos Mendoza in particular, kept the reins steady when so many were ready to prematurely call this season a bust.

That’s not a logical leap, either. Baseball is an almost uniquely psychological sport — a grueling 162 games where failure is the norm, and where minute movements can be the difference between a poor season or a good one. It’s the reason why a pitcher can go from dominating to completely losing sight of the strike zone, or why a hitter can lose his timing after a decade of professional hitting.

The ability to maintain a sense of optimism, and even humor, in the midst of slow-moving chaos is its very own skill set. Having teammates and coaches that keep you stable can only help – evidenced by Reed Garrett, who credited veteran voices in the bullpen with helping him hone the splitter and slider that helped strike out six batters in two innings Tuesday.

"Having a great group of guys around you to really show you what your stuff is and what you can do with it is really special,” he said, specifically mentioning Edwin Diaz and Adam Ottavino.

It’s all its own alchemy, and in a sport where almost everything has been optimized, it’s one of the few things that exceeds the bounds of modern metrics.

“You would love to try to do that,” create a team with an eye toward energy and chemistry, Stearns said. “We try, but it’s really tough to predict. And it’s because it’s not the individuals, it’s how the individuals mesh with each other, and sometimes you get it right and sometimes you don’t.”

It’s too early to know exactly how successful the Mets will be at maintaining this, and there’s no doubt that the season presents challenges that will test the mettle of whatever it is they’re trying to build in Flushing.

Realistically, they're not going to blow anyone away. They’ve been winning, yes, but the defense has sometimes been subpar, and they’ve yet to throw out a base stealer. Their ace is still on the injured list, and — fair or not — J.D. Martinez’s continued absence has triggered people on social media to compare him to Jed Lowrie (i.e., an unseen player that might as well be a figment of everyone’s imagination). Stearns said Martinez, recovering from an ailing back, might finally join the team after their West Coast trip.

But credit where it’s due — they passed the first, early season hurdle.

“We all have a pretty good perspective here that it’s a long season and you can still smile and joke and have fun with each other,” Stearns said. “I think during those times, it’s often the things you don’t do [that make a difference]. I think during those times, it’s being yourself and being consistent and it’s not deviating.”

It'll be a tricky line to toe, especially in a division as stacked in the NL East. But if they can pull it off, the Mets will have managed to find the best sort of chemistry: The one that's formed when you win.


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