Major League Baseball
Inside the Mets’ stunning turnaround from an 0-5 start
Major League Baseball

Inside the Mets’ stunning turnaround from an 0-5 start

Updated Apr. 19, 2024 11:40 a.m. ET

NEW YORK — When top baseball executive David Stearns builds a roster, he tries to look for players who are spark plugs — guys who promote strong team chemistry. But it's not always a winning formula. Chemistry, Stearns believes, is tough to predict. 

"Sometimes you get it right, and sometimes you don't," he said.

Through the Mets' first 18 games, which included a gut-punching 0-5 start, Stearns saw indicators from his players and coaches that he just might have gotten it right. He's not the only one. Pete Alonso, now a six-year veteran, said this year's group has a strong sense of individual accountability. Alonso said the 2024 Mets are receptive to criticism, routinely sharing information, and keeping an open dialogue. It's a full team buy-in. New Met Harrison Bader, a self-described spark plug, noticed players are being themselves, with an organization-wide objective of doing what's best, not just for the flashier superstars but for the collective group.

The Mets' goal, since the start of spring training, was to collectively elevate in every facet of the game. Three weeks into the season, it's working.


"More than anything, the energy coming from the team has been great for all of us to see," Stearns said earlier this week. "That's really tough to manufacture from a front-office perspective. It just has to sort of happen. 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 genuinely enjoying spending time with each other."

New York has the best record in baseball since April 5, winning 10 of 13 games as it begins a benchmark series at the Los Angeles Dodgers on Friday (Saturday's game will air on FS1 at 4:05 p.m. ET). Stearns credited first-year manager Carlos Mendoza and his staff for promoting an atmosphere that allows the players to feel comfortable being themselves. In the early goings, it seems no one is benefiting from that welcoming climate more than the team's two youngest players: Francisco Álvarez and Brett Baty. The fun-loving duo, who've shared a tight bond for years, is an integral part of the club's upbeat energy.

"One thing about baseball is, it's a game," Álvarez told FOX Sports. "We have to play the game. We can't make it too serious."

Álvarez and Baty came up through the Mets' minor-league system together, and while Álvarez got most of the attention for being a teenage slugging catcher, it didn't take long for him to recognize a star quality in Baty. The self-confident backstop said he first noticed Baty's leadership capability and preeminent presence at the plate as early as when they played for the high-A Brooklyn Cyclones in 2021. Álvarez has been hyping up Baty ever since. 

But this year, we're seeing Baty come out of his shell, too. After Baty pulled into second on a two-run double in the Mets' 6-1 win over the Royals last week, he stuck his tongue out toward the Mets dugout and pointed his pinky, ring, and middle fingers to his head. It was an homage to Carmelo Anthony's "three to the head" celebration from his days on the New York Knicks. A few days later, DJ Stewart lined a single and duplicated Baty's celebration. Stewart said he liked seeing that confidence from Baty, and it made him want to do it too.

Shortstop Francisco Lindor noticed Baty is a high-energy player who thrives off positivity. So far, the team has helped Baty keep up the attitude.

"Sometimes, he has a bad day, and I'm like, ‘Dude you can hit .300 with steady homers and 100 RBI. You are the best hitter I've seen in my life,'" Álvarez said, purposely exaggerating for his teammate. "You have to believe it. And this year he's completely different. When I see how he plays, I want to keep playing. It's infectious. Sometimes he's low and I pick him up. I say, 'Let's f---ing go, man. Let's go!' He's my friend. Like the other day, he got a base hit, then I got a base hit, and I sent him a kiss."

As he spoke to FOX Sports, Álvarez reproduced that kiss by turning his body towards Baty's empty locker and making the smooch sound with his lips. On the field, not only did Álvarez crack himself up with this playful gesture, but he got Baty to bust out a laugh because he wasn't expecting it. Staying loose and flashing confidence aren't the only things Álvarez is modeling. Baty said when he feeds off Álvarez's energy, it's not just fun and games from the youngest Mets. Baty also learned a key philosophy from Álvarez that the third baseman has carried into this season.

"One thing I have gotten from him is his love for winning," Baty said of Álvarez. "He hates to lose. I think he hates losing more than he loves winning. I started the same way, but I felt like I kind of lost that a little bit in the minor leagues. It's hard to have a winning mentality in the minors. You gotta learn how to do it. Especially for young guys coming out of high school, when the only things they see are lineups being set every single day, there's no pinch hits, it's harder for young guys to understand that winning is the only thing that matters. But part of development is learning how to win."

The 10-8 Mets have done more of that lately. 

The club has responded to losing its first five games of the season by winning each of its next four series. The pitching staff, without ace Kodai Senga throwing a single pitch, boasts the best ERA (3.15) in the National League. The offense, without J.D. Martinez taking a swing, flashes the ninth-best OPS (.815) in MLB with runners in scoring position. In the past 10 days, the Mets overwhelmingly defeated the Braves in Atlanta, snapped the Royals' seven-game winning streak, then swept the red-hot Pirates to close out their homestand. Their new manager just might have a lot to do with it. Amid the early-season ups and downs, Mendoza has stayed steady. There was never any panic from the rookie skipper. Rather, he kept his focus on the long season while remaining upbeat about the strong group inside the clubhouse.

Mendoza's buoyant spirit in the dugout is the antithesis to how former manager Buck Showalter preferred to celebrate his team's accomplishments. Showalter would often hold the same pose — arms crossed over the dugout railing, chin resting on his wrists, stoically observant with an emotionless expression — from start to finish of a Mets game. Mendoza, green and enthusiastic, is the Energizer Bunny with a full drum set compared to Showalter. The Stearns hire is seen pumping his arms, clapping his hands, hollering and overjoyed alongside his players. Mendoza gets hyped at the big, score-altering moments just as much as he does at the smaller points, like when the opposing pitcher commits a balk to bring in a run or when the Mets pull off a double steal.

Mendoza seems to appreciate baseball for its entertainment value. He's allowing young, developing players like Álvarez and Baty to be themselves and have fun. He doesn't hold back when he wants to rejoice. Look no further than what he was looking forward to most ahead of his first Opening Day as a manager? "Honestly, the trumpets," Mendoza admitted, referring to Edwin Díaz's entrance song that turns Citi Field into a nightclub. The Mets look like a better team this year, and the swag and selflessness they're carrying into each game has as much to do with their success as any other change from last season.

"Winning baseball is really good baseball," Lindor said. "You bunt, you go first to third, you steal a base exactly when you need to steal a base. You take your glove out to your teammate, or when you see something on the field, you tell them. Then, after the game, you lift. You show up for the team in the training room. The little details — that’s winning baseball."

Another big talking point within the Mets clubhouse has been the love from the Citi Field crowds. Take Lindor's shoddy start to the season as an example. Lindor has a 38 OPS+, the second-worst BABIP (.156) among 188 qualified MLB hitters, and just 11 hits in 73 at-bats in his first 18 games. Contrasted against the death threats Lindor received on social media earlier in the year, Mets fans opted to remind the shortstop that he's beloved at Citi Field by giving him standing ovations.

Through the team's first two homestands, fans made it a point to cheer for Lindor every time he dug into the box. A year ago — really, for nearly all of Lindor's four-year stint in Queens — it was a given that we'd hear booing and heckling as responses to the shortstop's slumps. Rather than what we've seen and heard most recently from New York crowds, Mets fans flipped the script, à la the 2023 Phillies with Trea Turner, and opted to encourage their struggling star. Not only has that choice been noticed within the Mets clubhouse, but players said the support has allowed them to be less tense and have more fun.

"I'm not going to lie, everybody in here is feeling it," Mendoza said. "The support from our fan base has been incredible."

So many factors have gone into the Mets' gripping 10-3 run after their 0-5 start. But it's only April, and their embattled fan base has seen it all go downhill too often, and too fast. The Mets will need to keep this energy up through the long season to earn their flowers. They can prove their consistency as soon as this weekend, against yet another formidable opponent. A date with the superteam Dodgers awaits.

Deesha Thosar is an MLB writer for FOX Sports. She previously covered the Mets as a beat reporter for the New York Daily News. The daughter of Indian immigrants, Deesha grew up on Long Island and now lives in Queens. Follow her on Twitter at @DeeshaThosar.


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