The Mets almost always get the first test. They won another home opening on Friday, a 10-3 defeat to the Arizona Diamondbacks with sun-bathed City Field. This is their 61st season, and the 40th time they have won the first game at home.
It runs at .656 winning percentages for the Mets in their annual presentation to New York fans. In all other games, their winning percentage is .479. The first impression does not always last.
However, this time things could be different. The Mets have the best score in the major leagues, 6-2. They are missing two-time Cy Young Award winner, injured Jacob deGrom, but their starters have a running average of 1.32. They lost two outside players on the Covid-19 injury list on Friday, and they still beat the poor Diamondbacks.
“It’s great to be New York’s Matt today,” said Francisco Lindor, who didn’t have enough great days last year in his tough debut season with the team. Lindor scored three runs on Friday, walked twice, stole the base and crashed his second and third home runs of the season. In 2021, his third Homer didn’t make it to May 15, and in June he carried an average of punches below .200.
For the Mets and their fans, Friday was an opportunity to believe in what the organization can be at its best. The Mets finally paid tribute to Tom Seaver, who died in 2020, a statue he earned many years ago: the 10-foot-tall The Franchise in Side monument. Imagine all the parents and grandparents who can point to this, now and forever, as the definition of drop-and-drive, the mechanics of a master.
The statue, by William Behrends, stands near the entrance to Jackie Robinson’s rotunda, a large entrance to the stadium built by Fred Wilpon. Hit the Wilpons as much as you want because they ignored the history of the Mets when the stadium opened in 2009, but they realized that honoring Robinson would outweigh the loyalty of the team.
The displays inside the rotunda, reminiscent of Ebbets Field, are a powerful and enduring reminder of the most important person in baseball history. On the 75th anniversary of Robinson’s debut for Brooklyn, a player named after him, Robinson Canó, hit the first home run of the day.
Canó – who wears the number 42, as all players do once a year to mark the moment when the color line has fallen – is a troubled torchbearer, returning this season after a one-year suspension due to another failed test for performance-enhancing drugs. But the Mets were glad to have him in the lineup on Friday, and Mark Canha and Brandon Nimmo were not available.
Both players were positive for the corona virus – as was bench coach Glenn Sherlock – although they were said to be asymptomatic. Canha was fully vaccinated and reinforced, and Nimmo did not reveal his status. A player can return 10 days ago with two negative PCR tests, but vaccinated players are usually allowed to return faster than unvaccinated ones.
“It’s part of life in the 2020s,” manager Buck Showalter said, “let alone baseball.”
Without Canha and Nimmo, Showalter gave Jeff McNeil his third start in the left field and put Canó in second place. Travis Jankowski – who starred at Stony Brook University a decade ago – started in the center field and stood out three times. Starling Marte started his usual start well and did everything: stolen ball, homer, two singles and three runs.
The Mets signed a four-year, $ 78 million contract with Marte as part of Stephen A. Cohen’s pre-lockout spending. It was big money for a 33-year-old player who relies on his feet and who was once suspended for performance-enhancing drugs, but that was in line with Cohen’s mission to win now.
The Mets list at the opening was the oldest in the mayons, with an average age of 31.3, but they play a youthful spirit; Marta, who loves cartoons, wears a necklace with a glittering Mickey Mouse pendant. He sounds delighted with his new surroundings.
“We always help each other,” Marte said through an interpreter. “After the bat, the guy will come in and give me directions, or I’ll refer to another person. But it’s really special to have guys at such different levels of experience that they can contribute and be willing to help each other. “
Marte, who finished last season with Oakland, was not the only 33-year-old to be kicked out of Aa who cut costs and ended up in Flushing. Starter Chris Bassitt made six strong innings on Friday and won for the second time this season.
For old-timers, it was reminiscent of the throwing line of Seaver’s last inaugural appearance in New York: a great six-inning score against the Philadelphia Phillies for the start of the 1983 season. That season ended badly for the Mets, who finished in last place and then lost Seaver to the Chicago White Sox when they failed to protect him in the draft free agent compensation.
Now the biggest Matt is at home – forever, in bronze, a callback to the team’s glory days in the afternoon that promised even more.