The 2006 Mets haunt me. I am not alone in that, I don’t think. For many people in my age range, a great percentage of whom are likely the regular contributors for this site, our Mets fandom is defined in large part by that point in time when we were young and the Mets took the baseball world by storm—only to be denied their rightful place in history by Yadier Molina and Adam Wainwright. In hindsight, that year—that glorious, tragic year—marked a turning point in our relationship with this game and this team. There is B.C. (Before Cardinals) and A.D. (After Death of innocence). It showed us how euphoric this game can be when your team is standing at the top of the mountain of glory, and how gut-wrenching it is when they are violently shoved off their perch from that mountain.
I’ve written about the magic of that year before. How could I not? Even now, a lifetime later, the ghosts of that team still linger in my brain, as they do for so many of us.
To be fair, it’s not like the Mets haven’t had moments of similar euphoria since then. They have, even if those moments have been all too limited. But certainly the stretch run of 2015 showed the team dominating in a magical way similar to how they did in 2006. And you can point to other moments of glory; the 2016 Mets also had an impressive run towards the end of the season. Hell, the 2019 Mets did as well, even though they came up short. To be a Mets fan is to savor those brief moments of triumph and try not to linger too deeply on the disappointing end result.
Still, throughout it all, the 2006 Mets stand alone in one key respect. They are and remain the first and only team in my lifetime of fandom whose excellence and dominance was clear from the get-go. Unlike other squads like the 2015 Mets, the 2006 Mets did not really have any prolonged stretches of weakness. They did not spend weeks in the early parts of the season plugging John Mayberry Jr. and Darrell Ceciliani into key spots of the lineup, and they didn’t have any month in which their winning percentage was lower than .556.
From the very beginning of the season to the very end of it, it was clear that we were watching a truly great team, one that made mincemeat of its division rivals. And for whatever other magical moments may have happened to this franchise since then, I’ve still been waiting for the day when another Mets squad would offer me that same joy of watching a team dominate from start to finish.
Enter the 2022 Mets.
Look, the obvious caveats apply here: We have only just entered June. There is a lot of baseball still to be played. Things can go wrong. Guys can get hurt. A tough loss here and there can turn into a lengthy losing streak. A crucial loss to a division rival can turn into the beginning stages of a 2007-esque collapse. It is too early to proclaim this squad as the one who will finally overtake the 2006 Mets as the most dominant ones of our lifetime.
And yet, when’s the last time you felt this good about the Mets entering June?
It probably hasn’t been since 2007, when the team seemed to be repeating the dominance of the previous season, only to ultimately come up short. It remains to be seen if a similar fate is in store for us now, but the Mets have a 10.5 game lead in the division. That is the largest division lead the team has had since—guess when? 2006. The 2022 squad’s record through 51 games (34-17) is three games better than it was in 2006 (31-20). Their run differential at this point (+72) is better than it’s been at any point since then through this amount of games, and a whopping 41 runs better than the 2006 team’s (+31).
Still, my interest is not to directly compare the overall quality of this current team to the 2006 one. Rather, it’s to compare the air of confidence that we were all riding throughout the entire 2006 season to the one we’re riding right now. Again, things can go wrong in a hurry, but at this point in time there is no indication that such an outcome is imminent the way it’s felt in previous moments of success—like last year, for instance. This time, it feels real. And if it is, it will mark the first time since that magical squad where they were able to ride this train of being demonstrably better than most of the competition not just through one or two excellent months, but for an entire season.
The Mets’ early success has already changed my outlook on this team’s prospects in a pretty remarkable way. Let’s take this upcoming road trip, for instance, which is the beginning of a brutally tough June schedule. Sure, the idea of playing the Dodgers, Padres, Angels, and Astros in short succession does not exactly fill me with joy—especially with David Peterson and Trevor Williams still making two-fifths of the team’s starts. And sure, the Mets may not maintain their current record going up against these kinds of teams. Even the very best teams will have tough stretches, after all, and it wouldn’t be at all surprising if the Mets endured one this month.
Still, as they prepare to jump into the gauntlet, I find that I’m not as scared for them to do so as I may have been in previous seasons. And why not? Because a team that’s as good as the 2022 Mets have shown themselves to be should be able to face similarly excellent squads and go toe-to-toe with them. That’s how postseason runs are born. And the last time I could honestly say that I didn’t fear going up against any other team was—well, you can probably guess at this point.
This current squad is not perfect, to be clear. They are at the very ends of their starting pitching depth at this point. The bullpen has shown some level of shakiness. The offense could probably use another bat. Any of these small concerns could very easily grow into larger ones. But the 2006 Mets weren’t perfect, either. Their rotation left much to be desired, and that weakness would be one of the things which would come back to doom them in the playoffs. Despite that, the team’s strengths were enough to make them a juggernaut, and up to this point the same has been true of the 2022 team.
Of course, the only way to truly excise the ghosts of 2006—and 2015, and 2000, and basically every year since 1986—is to do what those other teams couldn’t and win in the postseason. And alas, we’ve all seen time and time again that success in the regular season is no guarantee of success in October. But that, ultimately, is getting ahead of ourselves. For the moment, all we can do is enjoy and savor the baseball we’re watching right now. Because if there’s one lesson that 2006 forced all of us to learn, it’s that if you want to make God laugh, you tell Him your plans. The 2006 Mets were supposed to win it all and supposed to be the beginning stages of a long stretch of prolonged success for the franchise—but then God laughed.
He may well laugh at the 2022 Mets before it is all said and done. But for now, their level of play is bringing me back to those days as a 12-year-old child in the summer of 2006 when the Mets were on top of the world and anything was possible. And oh, how I’ve missed this feeling.