Breaking news: 2020 was tough.
Ok, now that we’ve established that, we can revel in a few of the moments that brought us out of the mire and gave us some sort of joy in this hellscape of a year. The Mets didn’t make the playoffs, squandering the easiest path to the post-season that will ever exist, but still gave us a few memorable games and moments that reminded us why we love this team. Happy New Year to all.
In the middle of the largest collective player protest in American sports history, Rob Manfred suggested to Jeff Wilpon a fake walkout to give the Mets and Marlins an undeserved spotlight in a meaningless game. We know all of this because Brodie van Wagenen was “caught” on a “hot mic” airing his grievances about Manfred and Wilpon to someone in a “leaked” video. Exasperated by the stupidity of his bosses, Brodie finally hit the punchline that continues to ring true about baseball’s commissioner: “At a leadership level he doesn’t get it. He just doesn’t get it.”
It’s hard to find a move of his that was more universally applauded than this one. In terms of public disobedience, Brodie’s actions don’t come nearly as close as the players’ walkout that night, especially since he likely knew he wasn’t keeping his job for much longer even before the protests began. But in terms of baseball-specific catharsis this season, nothing felt better than Brodie telling all of us what he truly thought about Manfred.
Because Manfred doesn’t get it, and we all know that. We all saw how he allowed the owners to renege a handshake deal with the players on prorated salaries. We all saw baseball finally agreeing to construct a playoff bubble, only to pop it foolishly by selling tickets to the bubble in a COVID hot zone. We all saw a player test positive during the last game of the season, only for that player to rejoin his team on the field for a reckless celebration. To say baseball’s leaders don’t get it is to state the obvious, but people have been shadow-banned from the game for saying less.
Brodie later released an “apology” for his actions to keep the train moving. He didn’t need to. In a year of tremendous greed and stupidity from both inside and outside baseball, Brodie found his moment and the appropriate words for his bosses. - Christian Romo
In the best of times, sports can serve as a distraction from the real world, and never was that more necessary than 2020, a year that will go down in history for all the wrong reasons. While baseball looked different with no fans, new rules, a shortened schedule, and fewer close-contact celebrations (for the most part), the sport returned in July and gave us something to take our minds off of reality for three hours a night. But when confronted with the horrific deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery (to name a few) at the hands of police across the country, the sports world took a stand in a rare showing of unity. At the onset of the season, teams across the league (along with athletes in other sports) took a knee during the National Anthem in a sign of solidarity, and some donned “Black Lives Matter” paraphernalia to show their support for a movement whose voice was growing stronger by the day.
About one month into the season, the police shooting of Jacob Blake inspired more civil unrest and prompted some teams to boycott their games. With the Mets playing the Marlins on August 26, Dominic Smith emerged from the dugout and became the lone player to take a knee during the anthem that night. After the game, Smith was brought to tears as he discussed what these unjust murders meant to him as a black man in America who had his heart broken by these stories far too many times. What followed was an outpouring of love and support from fans, players, coaches, and journalists across the country for Smith’s words and his story.
I have been a big fan of Smith since he debuted, but seeing him wear his heart on his sleeve and show his emotions really resonated with me above anything that happened on the actual playing field. Some fans prefer their athletes to “stick to sports” and be emotionless robots, but I appreciated Smith for speaking out about why this matters so much to him, and I truly believe he connected on a personal level with countless fans across the world who shared his thoughts but don’t have the platform to speak up. That night, Smith stepped up as a leader, and given how his teammates rallied around him in the days and weeks that followed, it showed just how much he means to this clubhouse and to the city. The night that followed became known for the Brodie hot mic incident and the orchestrated walk-off, but it was Smith’s organic peaceful protest that struck a chord for me.
Sports are great as a distraction, but I would argue they are far more valuable when they can unite us around an important cause, and we were reminded this year that there’s more to our love of baseball than just what happens on the field. Between that and the incredible charity (BaseballGenerations) he started that is having a great impact in his hometown, Smith has become a terrific role model, and someone that we are very fortunate to have on our team. - Vasilis Drimalitis
Let’s face it, no matter what way you slice it 2020 was horrible both on and off the field. The team completely underachieved and at times looked like they completely forgot how to play baseball. In a year where more teams made the playoffs the Mets Metsed and of course were sitting home in October. While they were tough to watch at times this year, there is no denying that they are a fun group of guys who legitimately love playing the game and were more accessible to fans this year than in years past. Shockingly it was this team who went viral multiple times this year but this time it was in fun ways and not their usual embarrassment!
The first was when they were mic-ed up in spring. The standout was Dominic Smith who seemed completely at ease chatting with the announcers and whoever else would listen. J.D. Davis, Pete Alonso, and Jeff McNeil also had their moments and it was great that the rest of the baseball world got a taste of the guys we are lucky enough to root for every day.
Once things were shut down, Steve Gelbs, Dominic Smith, and J.D. Davis started doing a weekly segment called the Cookie Club which again gave fans greater access and insight to the players. Dom and J.D. are undeniably close and play off each other so well while Gelbs just sits back and let’s them do their thing. They also talked about how they were getting ready for the season and how to stay prepared when at the time there was no start date. It was interesting to see and hear from them since this was all so new to everybody and they were willing to share their insight to everyone who was missing baseball. It was a joy to watch given the state the country was in and it was a nice 20 minute distraction every week.
Finally, baseball did return and once again it tried to provide greater access to the players since fans were not allowed in the stadiums. They mic-ed up the first base bag which caught J.D. Davis being J.D. Davis and once Gary Cohen heard it he had a fit of uncontrollable giggles. - Linda Surovich
As often happens in sports - and has happened for the Mets in the past - one of 2020’s best Mets moments was born from one of the franchise’s darkest moments. On September 2, 2020, we learned that Mets legend Tom Seaver - “The Franchise” - had passed away earlier in the week. The Mets family had lost its most iconic member.
The next night, the Mets honored Seaver by putting dirt on their knees - symbolic of his unique delivery on the mound - hanging his jersey in the dugout, displaying Shea Stadium style graphics, and wearing a 41 uniform patch. They ultimately honored him with a rollercoaster walk-off win as well, which easily ranks among the highlights of the 2020 season.
It was a game the Mets seemed unlikely to win from the start. Robert Gsellman, forced into duty as a starting pitcher, did not get out of the second inning in the final meeting of 2020 between the Mets and the Yankees. But Chasen Shreve and Jeurys Familia held the fort in middle relief and the Mets came from behind to tie the game in the fourth. The Yankees then took the lead again, but the Mets came clawing back in the eighth against Zack Britton to pull within a run. In the bottom of the ninth, Jeff McNeil led off with a walk and Billy Hamilton made a crucial blunder as a pinch runner, getting thrown off attempting to steal third base. J.D. Davis’ home run that followed off Aroldis Chapman should have ended the game, but instead merely tied the game at seven runs apiece.
By the time Pete Alonso strode to the plate in the bottom of the tenth, it was pouring rain. But the game continued on. It was no secret that Alonso was struggling in his sophomore season after his incredible 2019 debut campaign. He looked lost at the plate all season and was mired in an especially nasty slump (4 for his last 42) heading into the at-bat. He had been 0-for-4 on the night with a pair of strikeouts, along with a couple of miscues in the field. But things changed in an instant when he sent a ball soaring into the Flushing night sky for a walk-off home run - the first of his career.
“I feel like [Seaver]’s smiling down on us today,” Alonso said after the game. “It’s extremely special.”
It was a moment that brought legendary radio voice of the Mets Howie Rose to tears. “I said Tom Seaver was a Renaissance man,” Rose said after Wayne Randazzo delivered the play-by-play call of the walk-off blast, voice cracking. “He was a great pitcher. He was a great wine maker. And he is one hell of a script writer too, evidently.”
“The only thing that would have made tonight more special is if you had been there,” he went on to say after the game. It was one of those moments where you just know, if we weren’t in the midst of a global pandemic, Citi Field would have been electric. But it was also a moment of catharsis - both of the pain caused by the pandemic and the pain felt by Seaver’s loss - that sports are in a unique position to provide. - Allison McCague
There are many things from this past year that I would like to forget, but there’s one moment from this ill-conceived 60-game baseball season that will always make me smile. If you had told me beforehand that my favorite part of the season was going to be a walk-off home run at Yankee Stadium, I would have taken a comically long long sip of water only to spit it out, in an effort to illustrate the absurdity of your suggestion.
It was game two of a doubleheader in The Bronx, one day after the Mets’ game against the Marlins was postponed in protest of police brutality. The Mets had already won the first game in comeback fashion, on the strength of three home runs in a five-run, sixth-and-penultimate inning - including a go-ahead home run from Dom Smith. But due to a previous game being rained out, and a scheduling quirk necessitated by the condensed season, the Mets were the home team for the second game.
The Mets were down 3-2 entering the seventh-and-final inning, with sometimes-dominant closer Aroldis Chapman on the mound. After a leadoff walk to Jeff McNeil, Amed Rosario was brought in to pinch hit for Luis Guillorme. Rosario entered the game hitting a grotesque .207/.207/.315 with no walks and only five extra base hits in 92 plate appearances. Calling upon a hitter with little power and no patience to face a control-deficient relief pitcher did not seem like a recipe for success. But after pinch-runner Billy Hamilton stole second base, Rosario was able to crank a 2-0 slider over the left field wall and send the visiting home team home happy.
I had to look up these specific details because I did not remember most of them. But what I did remember, and will always remember, is that the Mets hit a walk-off home run against the Yankees. In Yankee Stadium. That is a thing that happened. It will never not have happened. For all that was truly terrible about 2020, this one weird, amazing, hilarious little moment could not have happened in any other season. It was not as meaningful or important as many, many other things that happened this year (including that one thing that most of us have been dreaming about for years) but Mets fans will always have that image of their team, clad in road grays, celebrating at home plate of Yankee Stadium. - Rich Resch