In watching last night's game unfold, I couldn't help but think back to prior years - even last year while under Terry Collins - and think about how many times the Mets would appear to simply go through the motions in games like this and accept the game for what it was.
On a night when Johan Santana didn't have it, they could have easily folded the tents early and just look towards today's game. But, they didn't. Despite falling behind by five runs through the first five innings, the Mets continued to work counts, foul tough pitches off, and take quality at bats off of Travis Wood and the Cubs bullpen. As a fan, I firmly believed they had a chance to win that game - in years prior, I would've thought that game was over really early.
They came awful close to pulling off a second consecutive dramatic victory last night. Yeah, 'close' doesn't count in the standings and the result was ultimately disappointing. But this team just never seems to quit regardless of the score and how bleak things look - they always believe they can win. In prior years, this didn't appear to be a part of the Mets personality, but it's proving to be more and more valuable as this season wears on. They play hungry and with a purpose, win or lose, and it really has been refreshing to see over the first half of the season.
Often times, the popular opinion is character and chemistry are overrated. To a certain degree, that is probably accurate as talent will always prevail over a long season. But I don't think it's overrated with these Mets. In fact, I think their character and desire to feed off each other's successes (and learn from their own failures) has been vital for them this season. Losing has been unacceptable to this team dating all the way back to their voluntary workouts in Spring Training; that attitude has been evident in their play each and every day regardless of the outcome and yesterday was a primary example of that.
There is no question this team has it's flaws, and they will need improvements by those on the roster and fortifications from outside the organization (sooner rather than later) if they are to remain in contention. It's a team which needs all of it's parts to be functioning concurrently every single day in order to succeed. As the second half begins, each game becomes that much more important, and losses, especially those like last night, might get harder and harder to take as time rolls on. And so, regardless of who they fortify this team with this month or where they will get improvements from over the second half, their character will play an important role on what course they take down the stretch.
The common belief among both the media and the fan base that this team is one losing streak away from having all of their dominos fall. Often times, one loss brings out such a large amount of pessimism from a lot of people. But these Mets always seem to bounce back and are becoming a team that just won't go away in a lot of people's eyes. That is a testament of their own ability to deal with the challenges of tough defeats and their ability to rebound from them from the manager all the down the roster. Yeah, quality starting pitching helps, and that has been and will need to continue to be this team's greatest strength this year. But as they continue to not go away and fight until the end - win or lose - it's hard not to believe in these New York Mets this season.
I might sound a little 'rah-rah' right now, but why not? The Mets are fun to watch again, and I look forward to every game. It's been a long time since that was a case on a day-in and day-out basis.