If there is a forebear these Mets would want to emulate, it is the gang from 1973 that seemed dead in the water, a last-place team, that was sparked by Tug McGraw’s rallying cry of “Ya gotta believe.”
And maybe, just maybe, Pete Alonso was channeling McGraw on Monday when he used a form of the word, “believe” three times in two sentences while talking to The Post’s Mollie Walker.
“If you don’t believe in yourself then who else is going to believe?” the first-baseman asked rhetorically. “We always believe in ourselves.”
Belief is important. So is talent. So is health. The 1973 Mets were decimated by injuries pretty much throughout the season. Big-timers such as Cleon Jones, John Milner, Bud Harrelson, Felix Millan, Jon Matlack and Jerry Grote missed chunks of the season before reuniting at full strength late in the year to spark a 24-9 run down the stretch that vaulted the team to the NL East title with a record of 82-79.
This year’s Mets have also been decimated. Major League Baseball has an epidemic on its hands, but that’s for another team. This team has been without Francisco Lindor for an extended period of time. Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Brandon Nimmo, Michael Conforto, Jeff McNeil, Luis Guillorme, Dominic Smith, Dellin Betances … well, you name him and he has probably been on the injured list.
But entering Tuesday’s opener of a three-game home set against the Giants, there was some good news. Lindor was in the lineup, activated after recovering from a strained oblique that had sidelined him for 36 games. For the first time, he and Baez — who came off the injured list Sunday — were going to be in the middle of the infield in same lineup.
“They’re both good players, they’ve both had good careers, they both have a lot of energy,” acting general manager Zack Scott said before the game. “They’re both very good defenders, very good baserunners and bring a lot to the table that can impact the game.
“They’re exciting players and they play with a ton of energy, which is always fun to watch.”
Syndergaard, out all season, is on the precipice of a rehab assignment that could lead him back to Queens for meaningful September work out of the bullpen. That would be fun to watch. And deGrom, though not eligible to return until at least Sept. 13, is having an MRI exam Wednesday, the results of which will determine the short-term course of action. If he is able to get back on the mound again this year, well, fun!
These three games against the Giants, who entered with the best record in the majors at 80-44, represent the final run of the gauntlet for the Mets, who came in at 61-63. For after finishing this 13-game stretch against San Francisco and Los Angeles, there are 15 straight against ne’er-do-wells Washington and Miami.
So we’re saying they still have a chance … augmented by the fact that the Braves, who recently swept nine games against the bottom-feeding Nationals, Marlins and Orioles to build a comfy lead in the division, will play their next six against the Dodgers and Giants after finishing with the Yankees on Tuesday.
With schedules like these, why wouldn’t Alonso — who had a slash line of .327/.397/.673 with four homers and 10 RBI over his last 13 games — believe the way that McGraw did?
McGraw’s cry, issued at the end of a clubhouse meeting at which the team’s dastardly chairman, M. Donald Grant, urged on the team. The beloved late lefty reliever’s sloganeering was probably meant to be facetious.
And you know, it is not as if the Mets immediately turned it around. The meeting came on July 9, with the club 34-46, in last place and 12 1/2 games behind the Cubs. They split their next 48 games, but somehow gained 6 1/2 games in the standings.
Finally it all clicked in late in August, 10 out 13, 12 out of 16, 14 out of 20 and 24 out of 33. McGraw, who had been 0-4 with 11 saves in 18 chances with a 6.20 ERA before the meeting, converted his final 14 save opportunities while going 5-2 with a 2.21 ERA.
And the Mets managed to take the division title with a .509 winning percentage that became the lowest in MLB history for a pennant-winner, following the five-game LCS victory over mighty Cincinnati.
About the same time 48 years later, Alonso believes. Maybe there’s reason.
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