The Mets Begin, Gottman-Style

So, as many of you know, I now work at The Gottman Institute as their content manager. And at TGI, we have a motto, which is 5:1, or five positive interactions for every negative interaction. Dr. John Gottman, through 40 years of research, found that people in committed relationships need to hit that ratio in order to have a positive and successful relationship into the future.

He did it with data and science. It’s no joke. It’s a fact.

Well, I’m in a committed relationship with the New York Mets, as of today, we are doing just that. We’re 5-1 and in first place in the National League East. And we just beat our rivals, the Washington Nationals, to take the lead. Kid Conforto showed back up in the lineup a couple weeks ahead of time and got two RBI, and Bruce hit a grand slam to push the game beyond contention.

I’m no therapist, nor am I a baseball analyst. But I can tell that this kind of ratio, while unsustainable across a baseball season of 162 games, is a great start.

And we even have a new team mantra, or sign, or handshake. I don’t even know what it is, but suddenly, after every good play, all of the Mets make a pepper grinder motion with their hands.

The grind of 162 games. The seasoning it takes to make a lineup with some pop. And the grit it takes to play this game like it’s meant to be played.

And the 2018 New York Mets are surely hitting the ground running, pumping on all cylinders, full speed ahead, pick your cliche, I don’t care because my team, at least right now, is playing some wicked good baseball.

Staub Passes, and a New Mets Live

It’s 2018. A lot of things have changed, obviously. I barely wrote for almost two years. The last real writings I did get down to paper before I got carpal tunnel were posted here. I live in Seattle now. I drove across the country to get here. I’m very far away from my friends, family, and my New York Mets.

But I was back at home to watch Opening Day with my father, and man, these 2018 Mets, at least so far, do not disappoint.

Sure, Syndergaard strikes out 10 in his first outing. We score 9 runs. But none of those runs come from the long ball, which is not how this Mets roster has operated over the last few years. We started playing small ball. Slapping opposite-field hits, stealing bases, drawing walks. That’s a kind of strategy that’s less enthralling but more gutsy and brave, more risky and dangerous and dirty and, honestly, fun to watch.

But we’ve still got a lot of sluggers. We’ve still got a lot of power pitching. But we also have a new, young manager in Mickey Callaway who seems willing to do what’s needed in combining new and old managing strategies into making this team win. And even though David Wright is still on the bench, rehabbing his way into, hopefully, an elder captain’s role of pinch hitting and teaching younger players, we have Todd Frazier, this weird New Jersey dude who’s a bit scrappy and can hit and is old and wise and funny enough to lead these young guys from the far side of the horn.

It’s a new, yet old, New York Mets. Ron Darling and Keith Hernandez, those beloved ’86 alums, lead the SNY broadcast team with humor, emotion, and sharp critical eyes alongside the veteran no-nonsense Gary Cohen “put it in the books!” at play-by-play. Rusty Staub died on Opening Day, and Hernandez wept openly to the media. Darling seconded Rusty’s greatness, and now the 2018 Mets wear his signature on their sleeves for the year.

I once saw Rusty deliver the first pitch at a Mets game at Citi Field. He tottered onto the field, balding but still with a shock of red hair. He was overweight, slow, but smiled and waved happily to the crowd. He assumed the stance slowly, but simply underhanded the pitch in. It bounced in front of home plate, and he didn’t care, and neither did the catcher.

They met halfway between home plate and the rubber and hugged before Staub waved to a lot of fans that adored him, many of which were not old enough to have seen him play for the Mets. He was no star. But he was one of us.

There’s still something magical happening in National League baseball in New York City, and that’s been happening for a while now. David Wright was the spark of these post-Shea, post-Piazza Mets, and he might still come back to punch a few over the fence again. 2015, with Terry Collins at the wheel, was a fragile but thrilling journey into a new Mets greatness. There’s no way to tell if the 2018 Mets will tap fully into a real chance at a championship, but after a couple of days of spirited and emotional play at the start of the season, I have a feeling that this one will be worth the ride.