The bullpen doors open. The lights dim. The SNY cameras pan to Number 39, following him down the tunnel and onto the field. Anticipation builds.
Edwin Díaz emerges. The trumpets aren’t far behind. They sound triumphantly. The fans lose their minds.
The Edwin Díaz experience at Citi Field in 2022 was unique, exhilarating, and, quite frankly, impossible to properly explain. “Narco” became a cultural phenomenon that went beyond the baseball diamond. It went viral. It sparked debate. It invited derision and loathing from rivals. It spawned imitators and copycats. It brought joy to millions. And it won’t be around in 2023. That sucks.
“Narco” was not unique to last season. Let’s not ignore the fact that Edwin Díaz has used “Narco” in the past. He used the song pretty much every year except for 2019, in fact—Linda Surovich already expertly analyzed how “Narco” was the key to the closer’s turnaround in 2021 after an abysmal debut season in New York. All that is to say that “Narco” was not born in 2022.
So why did it suddenly attract the attention of the baseball landscape, and the whole sports world? Well, what was unique last year was Díaz’s utter brilliance. It was close to that, and perhaps even beyond that, of Jacob deGrom’s dominance in 2018, equally ho hum but quite a bit flashier and eye-catching. When Díaz entered the game, Mets fans were confident it was in the bag, and deep down the opponents probably felt it as well. He was magnificent in a way that so few closers are. He executed on 32 of 35 save chances, and didn’t blow one after May. He posted a 1.31 ERA, a 0.90 FIP, a 0.83 WHIP, and a 3.2 bWAR in 62.0 innings. He struck out over half the batters he faced. He was an All Star. He was must-watch TV. And so much of that was due to a song by a Dutch DJ/production duo, in collaboration with an Australian DJ/producer.
“Narco” would have been nothing with Díaz. Had he simply been a good closer, it’s doubtful anyone would have cared about Timmy Trumpet or this silly, fun song. But then again, nobody would have cared about the “Enter Sandman” entrance if Mariano Rivera wasn’t the greatest closer of all time. “Simple Man” would not have tugged at the emotional heartstrings if it didn’t perfectly embody Jacob deGrom and serve as the perfect sountrack to another stellar performance on the Citi Field mound.
So thanks in large part to his amazing season, “Narco” became a hit. At first it was confined to Citi Field. Fans bought foam trumpets, or mimed along with air trumpets as the song reverberated across the Queens sky. Mr. and Mrs. Met danced along on the field with trumpets of their own. Even opponents would congregate at the top step of the dugout and danced along. Díaz, meanwhile, looked stoic as he jogged across the outfield, taking his place on the mound ahead of what would surely be another shut down performance. All this is more incredible to consider because of how down fans were on the closer due to his, let’s call it subpar, opening act in Queens back in 2019. Many were ready to write him off, even after solid 2020 and 2021 seasons. But Díaz won the trust of the fans last year and never let it go. He became almost as beloved a figure as anyone in that clubhouse. And with that, “Narco” became something every Mets fan hoped to experience during their trips to Citi Field.
Then, SNY started having fun with the videos. They became cinematic. They were epic. They piqued the interest of baseball fans far and wide. They became the talk of the town, the stuff of legends. Fans across the country shared the video. The play counts jumped. Other outlets began to share SNY’s video. There was his outing against the Yankees in July. There was one against the Braves on August 7, a game which started off as deGrom’s first Citi Field appearance in over a year. There were plenty of other such instances.
And through it all, Díaz never wavered. It would be easy to imagine that the hysteria would eventually seep into the mystique and start to corrode it, but it never did. Díaz continued to perform at a world-class level. Even with the legend himself, Timmy Trumpet, visited Citi Field to play the song, Díaz still performed exquisitely. It was something you had to experience for yourself to truly appreciate.
Major League Baseball can often be very stuffy and worried too much about appeasing traditionalists rather than highlighting the fun side of the game—it must be reiterated that this is, after all, just a game. With the World Baseball Classic, we have gotten to see how other countries celebrate the sport, having fun with individualized chants and dances. “Narco” doesn’t quite match or surpass that, but it was a window into a world that MLB could be if it only it was less worried about chastising bat flips and celebrations and started embracing the personality of its players. This is how you continue to grow the sport.
It’s in part to this, and in part to Díaz’s brilliance, that “Narco” took off. When the news broke that Díaz was injured, and then that he would likely miss all of this upcoming 2023 season, the immediate reaction was to consider its effect on the team on the field. This is obviously reasonable, but as someone who likes to attend close to a quarter of the team’s home games in any given season, I can’t help but lament how the fan experience will be ever so slightly lessened this year without “Narco” pumping through the speakers. Some of the most fun games I attended last year featured his entrance, some of which came close to capturing a playoff atmosphere. It will truly be missed this year.
The Mets are by no means finished without Díaz. They can, and likely will, win a lot of games, probably enough to make the playoffs. Hell, they may even outlast the Braves and the Phillies and win their first division title since 2015. While Díaz is probably the most irreplaceable player on their roster, he’s far from the only good one, and not the sole reason they won 101 games in 2022. The remaining players, many of whom are All Stars, will regroup and compete, starting on March 30th in Miami against the Marlins. Life marches on. Winning ultimately cures all ills. And if the Mets are good in 2023, the absence of “Narco” won’t be as prominent.
But it will make the Mets fan experience a little less fun.