When Steve Cohen first purchased the Mets, a certain somebody wrote that the changing of the guard at the top of the organization could represent a complete identity change for the New York Mets. The Wilpons had their hands in so many facets of the team that simply removing them and installing somebody else in their position could change everything we knew about the lame, annoying, boring Mets.
Unfortunately, the first year of Cohen’s ownership didn’t exactly live up to that promise. It was a turbulent season all around. Whether it was due to members of the old guard still holding leadership positions in parts of the organization, the lack of time to implement new processes in just one offseason, the weirdness of the first year coming off the pandemic, or some unspoken agreement to lay low in Cohen’s first year and not completely blow up the free agent economy, the 2021 season felt like far too close to a Wilpon year for comfort.
But this year, that identity change has finally occurred. The Mets are finally something different now. The way they decided to build the team on the field was one thing—the strategy of “sign the best players at positions of need and build an elite team” is unquestionably not the typical Mets’ offseason plan—but they’ve gone so far beyond just being a great team this year.
This team is fun. This team has a personality. They’ve made coming to the ballpark every night an experience. I don’t mean just on the field, either, where a bunch of entertaining and ebullient All-Stars perform a brand of baseball so competent and satisfying that you have to double take to make sure you are, indeed, watching New York Mets—but off the field as well. As a younger fan, people of my generation hear stories about the excitement surrounding the team in the 1980s and how “Shea Stadium was the place to be” in those times, and we just have to take people’s word for it. We had never witnessed a Mets team like that captured the city like those teams did. But now, in 2022, we’re getting a taste of what it truly means when Queens feels like the “cool” place to be.
Last night felt the perfect example of that. A raucous, near-sellout crowd was in attendance to see an elite team play behind the best pitcher in baseball, and the night was highlighted with an incredible live performance by Timmy Trumpet blaring “Narco” as Edwin Díaz trotted to the mound in a moment that perfectly blended baseball and music. It was an entrance fit for WrestleMania. It was unique, it was cool, and it was so, incredibly fun.
The Mets have made Diaz’s entrance one of the staples of the Citi Field experience, with a dramatic blackout of all of the new LED screens in the park before the first beats of “Narco” hit, trumpet giveaways, and Mr. and Mrs. Met having their own dance routine to it. But the way the team has thrown its arms around the “Narco” craze is just one thing they’ve done; they’ve really been trying fun stuff like this all season long to improve the in-game experience. They have smoke machines for when the team emerges from the dugout to take the field in the first inning, which is a type of “rah rah” entrance usually only done in football. They tried a “Blackout The Park Night,” which is something that would’ve looked really cool if it worked. The in-between inning antics have become much more entertaining and sometimes poke fun at the opponents. They even invited Shakira to come and hang out with the team. And, perhaps most importantly, they’re finally honoring their own history.
Under previous ownership, the Mets ranged anywhere from ambivalent to flat out embarrassed by their own history. Citi Field infamously opened with nearly no Mets history acknowledged, and in the years since former players were almost never honored unless they had won a World Series with the team or went into the Hall of Fame as a Met. They never followed through on the Seaver statue until it was too late, they waited eight years to even retire Mike Piazza’s number, and fans were rarely rewarded for caring about Mets history and following the team for years.
Not anymore. Just this year alone, the Mets have unveiled a Tom Seaver statue, retired Keith Hernandez’s number, invited Johan Santana back to commemorate the 10-year anniversary of his no-hitter, held their first Old Timers’ Day in nearly 30 years, and kept a 50-year promise to Willie Mays to retire his number 24. They did what they could last year to honor the past more as well, retiring Jerry Koosman’s number and inducting Ron Darling, Edgardo Alfonzo, and John Matlack into the Mets Hall of Fame.
They’ve embraced the multi-generational impact of players across the 60 years of Mets baseball, and not just players who played for the 1986 or 1969 teams, either. The Mets finally acknowledge that other teams matter. The 2006 Mets matter. The 1999 Mets matter. The 2015 Mets matter. The 1962 Mets matter.
It’s so easy to make baseball fun and rewarding for fans, and the Mets have finally done that. This is how it’s supposed to be. This team is fun, and going to a Mets game is fun. It must be, because they’ve drawn tremendous crowds all summer long; their average attendance of 33,978 fans per game would be the third-most in Citi Field history behind 2009 and 2016. People want to come out and see the Mets again, and it’s because they’ve made themselves must-watch TV every night and made going to Citi Field a great night out. This is truly baseball like it oughta be.