The Times They Are A Changin’

The 2011 Mets have been a far cry from their 2009 and 2010 counterparts, and we’re not just talking about their won-loss record. This year’s team feels different than the teams that frustrated fans over the past two seasons. Gone are the malcontents who had no business being on the team and replacing them are players who play hard and have fun doing so.

With apologies to Bob Dylan, the times they are a-changin’ for the Mets. Here are some examples to show just how much things have turned around for the orange and blue.

Injuries were used as an excuse for the team’s lack of performance over the past few seasons. If the team went on a losing streak, it was always “when we get so-and-so back, the team will get better”. That defeatist attitude is no longer evident this year, as injuries to key players (David Wright, Ike Davis, Johan Santana) have been used as motivation for role players to step up their game.

Chemistry last year was affected by the Luis Castillo/Oliver Perez situation, the quick return of Carlos Beltran from his injury, sending Jeff Francoeur (a normally calming influence in the clubhouse) to the bench demanding a trade, and the Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em K-Rod incident. This year’s team is a cohesive unit that enjoys playing with each other and has no off-the-field problems with its players. Would last year’s team be doing “the claw” with all their problems? Methinks not.

Last year, the team failed miserably in clutch situations, while this year, it seems like they do their best work after the first two men have been retired in an inning. The Mets currently lead the National League in hits, extra-base hits, on-base percentage and slugging percentage in two-out situations. New York’s 167 runs scored with two outs rank second in the league to the Phillies’ 168. However, the Phillies have played 88 games, while the Mets have played 87.

In 2009 and 2010, the Mets were a combined 61-101 in road games. Last year, they didn’t win a series on the road against a National League team until they took two out of three at PNC Park against the lowly Pirates in late August. This year, the Mets have the most road victories (26) in the NL and have allowed only two walk-off wins on the road, compared to 12 last season.

As a result of their poor performance in 2009, attendance dropped at Citi Field in 2010, as the luster of the new ballpark faded quicker than the team did in the standings. The team struggled to draw fans early this season, but as the team has gradually improved from month to month, the fans have been coming back. The Mets’ have drawn at least 30,000 fans to Citi Field in each of their last eight home games. Prior to that, they had fewer than 30,000 fans in attendance in 23 of their first 33 home dates, including a Citi Field-low paid attendance of 21,015 against the division rival Atlanta Braves on Sunday, June 5.

From the Mets’ performance on the field to the fans’ performance at the turnstiles, the atmosphere around the Mets has changed for the better. The disgruntled fanbase from years past is now subscribing to the philosophy of Sandy Alderson and Terry Collins. In other words, the fans are starting to like this team.

Better leadership. Better effort. Better results. The times are indeed a-changin’ for the Mets, and for the first time in years, that change is producing positive energy and positive results. Change is good.

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