The Mets aren’t necessarily going to win the NL East or gallop their way to a third World Series championship because of this new teammate they are calling the Home Run Horse, and Saturday night’s 10-3 thrashing at Citi Field by the Blue Jays reminds them and us that there will be nights when they will come up lame.
They will need Jacob deGrom resuming his latest Cy Young push, and it would help if and when Carlos Carrasco and/or Noah Syndergaard join the party, not to mention the $341 million version of Francisco Lindor that Steve Cohen expected.
But during the marathon slog that is the MLB season, a little fun can go a long way.
You watch the Yankees play these days, and you can’t help but think they are weighed down to some degree by the weight of great expectations as they wait for Aaron Judge to ride back in on what they better hope is a white horse.
The Mets have weathered one storm after the next, from the firing of general manager Jared Porter, to Michael Conforto and Jeff McNeil being hamstrung, to the seemingly-endless rehabs of Brandon Nimmo and J.D. Davis, to the stunning early May firing of hitting coaches Chili Davis and Tom Slater.
Once upon a time, Casey Stengel’s 1962 Mets were hailed as Loveable Losers, a 40-120 slapstick crew that was embraced by fans distraught over the Dodgers and Giants leaving for the West Coast following the 1957 season.
“I’ve been in this game a hundred years,” the 71-year-old Stengel said, “but I see new ways to lose I never knew existed before.”
These 2021 Mets are Loveable Winners, dominant at Citi Field and peering down at the rest of the NL East from their first-place perch. At least mostly, Saturday’s drubbing notwithstanding.
The chicken-or-the egg debate: Have the Mets been winning because they’re having fun, or are they having fun because they’re winning?
It is clear that there is a one-happy-family camaraderie on these Mets, fostered to a large degree by the force of Pete Alonso’s Polar Bear personality and Home Run Derby bat. If the artist formerly known as Donnie Stevenson can hammer a 450-foot home run, he can feel free to skip along the dugout with a stuffed horse on his shoulders.
The Home Run Horse, sporting a mask and sunglasses atop his head, stayed in the barn Saturday during Taijuan Walker’s second straight off night.
And you might have thought the Blue Jays, who belted five home runs, hijacked the Home Run Horse when no one in the Mets dugout was looking, but what the hay?
“Baseball’s such a difficult game you learn throughout the course of the season, throughout the journey of a career that you gotta enjoy the good moments in this game,” Kevin Pillar told The Post. “The Homer Horse is just another way of doing it. … Baseball’s such an individual game when you’re in the box, as much as it’s a team sport, you’re up there by yourself, and when you do something good, it’s fun to get the dugout’s acknowledgment, it’s fun to get the bullpen’s acknowledgment, and kind of make it a group effort.
“It’s just a way of bringing us all together and enjoy the success that an individual has to help our team success and just bring everyone together.”
Lindor’s greatest contribution to date has been his infectious smile and cheer even during a time when he drew the ire of Citi Field boobirds. Even when there was a calamity in the clubhouse tunnel one night, Lindor and McNeil concocted that rat versus raccoon goof, which went over like a lead balloon, not that they were terribly offended.
Oh, and Nimmo? He might be The happiest man in baseball. Apologies to Bobby Bonilla, but New York hasn’t come close to wiping the smile off Nimmo’s face.
The Al Davis-Tom Flores Raiders routed the Dick Vermeil Eagles in Super Bowl XV after wild man John Matuszak led a parade of Bourbon Street curfew-breakers that added up to more than $15,000 in fines while Vermeil kept his players confined to a nightly 11 p.m. curfew.
“It’s tough to have a paramilitary group within the confines of a culture that isn’t paramilitary. You have to adjust,” Davis said afterward.
Matuszak didn’t buy the argument that the Eagles either simply didn’t play well, or were burnt out: “He didn’t let them go out all week. You can’t treat a man like a boy and then expect him to play like a man. If I want to go out, I go out. Vermeil can’t understand that. I couldn’t play for him in a million years, and I wouldn’t want to.”
The rollicking, raucous 1986 champion Mets would have understood. Author Jeff Pearlman’s book title described it in his book this way:
“The Bad Guys Won! A Season of Brawling, Boozing, Bimbo Chasing, and Championship Baseball with Straw, Doc, Mookie, Nails, the Kid, and the Rest of the 1986 Mets, the Rowdiest Team Ever to Put on a New York Uniform — and Maybe the Best.”
The champion 1998 Yankees were a businesslike machine and won 114 games. The Bill Belichick-Tom Brady Patriots won six Super Bowls and no one dared call them The Fun Bunch, and only Rob Gronkowski might have dared trotting out a stuffed Touchdown Horse or whatever. A GOAT head coach and a GOAT quarterback will do the trick more often than not.
These Mets have only one GOAT, and he’s been sidelined with forearm tightness. They have been Loveable Winners in part because of all the unlikely heroes who have been asked from time to time to step up and hold the fort, from warrior Kevin Pillar to Jonathan Villar to Tomas Nido to Joey Lucchesi to Luis Guillorme and most recently to Tylor Megill.
The Mets, entering Saturday’s might against the Blue Jays, had hit 18 homers over the first six games of the second half. Now it’s 18 over seven. Back in the 1960s and 1970s, they called it Fun City. A fun team lives in Flushing. They’ve laughed in the face of adversity. The remainder of the long, hot summer will determine whether there will be enough Home Run Horsing around to have the last laugh.