In his book about the historically dreadful 1962 Mets, legendary journalist Jimmy Breslin noted that despite a brain trust of brilliant baseball men, larger forces appeared to prevent the club from achieving success: “It is simply that everything about the Mets seems to run in a pattern, no matter what anybody tries to do.”
More than half a century later, it still sometimes feels as if the Mets are cursed — not necessarily doomed to perpetual last-place finishes but rather to a steady drumbeat of weird and unpleasant drama: late-season collapses and Ponzi schemes and dispiriting injuries and that one time Mr. Met flipped the bird to a fan.
There had been hope that with billionaire hedge-funder Steve Cohen replacing the tightfisted Fred Wilpon as team owner, they would shed some of that baggage. Indeed, the early months of Cohen’s tenure seemed to presage a new era (even if allegations about his pre-baseball life didn’t line up with his new persona as an owner). Not only was Cohen a free spender but he reveled in communicating directly with the team’s oft-ignored fan base via his favorite platform, Twitter. Within months, the Mets had signed shortstop Francisco Lindor to the type of big-money, long-term contract that previous ownership had been shying away from. And the team, not hailed by many as a preseason favorite for anything, exceeded expectations on the field, climbing to an early first-place perch in a weak National League East division.
But then the Mets seemed to remember that they are the Mets, and all the familiar drama returned with a vengeance. (In May alone, players invented a fictional hitting coach and blamed a fight in the tunnel to the clubhouse on a squabble over whether they had spotted a rat or a squirrel.) In the end, this season was the usual kind of roller coaster, full of the usual kinds of disappointments. At least Cohen, in a gift to New York sports fans, has tweeted through it all, firing off his unfiltered thoughts during the club’s ups and especially during its downs. Here’s the story of the 2021 Mets as told through 15 of his most memorable observations.
March 2: The Mets play their first home spring-training game. Everyone is very excited for the upcoming season.
March 26: How different is Cohen from Wilpon? He’s openly speculating on Twitter about potentially signing recent acquisition Lindor to a massive contract. Everyone loves Uncle Stevie!
April 9: On April 8, the Mets win their Citi Field opener — their first game in front of home fans since 2019 — to kick off a stretch of five wins in six games. So many good vibes right now. What could possibly go wrong?
April 29: The Mets drop two in a row to the Red Sox, making for six losses in eight games. They’re now in first place by half a game, but Lindor’s batting average is down to .194 and the early-season shine is beginning to wear off. A Mets fan asks Cohen if he has any advice on an anxious off day. He does.
May 16: The happiest story line of the first half of the Mets’ season is the mind-blowing performance of ace Jacob deGrom. Through his first six starts, his ERA clocks in at a minuscule 0.68. But in mid-May, deGrom is placed on the injured list with “right-side tightness.” Cohen chooses to remain positive.
June 1: DeGrom is back, and he’s dominating, finishing May with a 0.71 ERA. The Mets, meanwhile, enter June four games up on the Phillies. In tweets five days apart, Cohen correctly reads the mood of the fan base.
July 19: The Mets are still in first place, but deGrom is hurt again. Fans are looking ahead to the trade deadline, hoping Cohen and his front office will bolster the roster for the stretch run. He humors them by asking for some advice.
The team ultimately makes two notable moves at the deadline, acquiring pitcher Rich Hill and infielder Javier Baez. More on Baez in a moment.
August 1: The Mets begin the month in a very Mets-y way. Weeks earlier, the team selected the highly touted Vanderbilt righty Kumar Rocker with the tenth pick in the MLB draft. Fans saw a potential future cornerstone of their rotation, but the team reportedly had concerns about Rocker’s health and ultimately didn’t sign him, getting the 11th pick in next year’s draft as compensation. The whole thing is a bummer all around, up to and including Cohen’s take, which goes over … poorly.
August 8: The Mets’ nosedive in the standings coincidentally begins right around the time Cohen hits “Send” on his draft-pick tweet. They open the month losing six of seven, prompting Cohen to visit the team’s clubhouse in advance of their game in Philadelphia. Cohen reports the mood there is agreeable.
The Mets then go out and get two-hit by former Met Zack Wheeler in a 3-0 loss.
August 18: Things are starting to get bleak on Cohen’s Twitter. After the Mets lose five in a row to continue their August swoon, Cohen questions how his team’s offense could be this unproductive. The Mets win at San Francisco that day … then lose seven of their next eight.
Cohen is correct that the numbers don’t lie. As of this writing, the Mets have the fourth-worst slugging percentage and OPS in the National League — ahead of only three teams nowhere near the postseason picture.
August 26: A fan tweets at Cohen, “The Mets are on the verge of going 1-12 against the Dodgers and Giants. I don’t care how good you think those teams are, 1 and fuxking 12?” Cohen responds with a sarcastic fact-check.
August 29: After fans boo the team for their lousy recent play, the Mets begin a mini-rebound with two victories. But then Lindor, Baez, and outfielder Kevin Pillar give a thumbs-down gesture to fans when they cheer, in a hysterically ill-advised bit of payback that makes for perfect tabloid fodder. Says Baez, “I want to let them know that when we’re a success, we’re going to do the same thing, to let them know how it feels.”
September 5: Baez goes four for four with a home run in a win, the Mets’ seventh in eight games. Still, they’re three and a half games out of the playoffs. Cohen has thoughts.
September 16: With the Mets looking for a new president of baseball operations, a report in the New York Post cites “a former MLB executive” who says, “Prospective hires will have had a full season to witness from afar the organization’s warts under the new ownership.” The former executive specifically mentions two incidents involving the team’s front office: former GM Jared Porter, who was fired in January for sexual harassment of a female reporter while with the Cubs organization, and acting GM Zack Scott, who was arrested last month for DWI.
But the former executive also addresses the owner’s Twitter habit. “Cohen is out there tweeting about the organization and about stuff that he shouldn’t be tweeting about like he’s a fan,” said the former executive. “Why would somebody want to sign up for that? I think it’s a huge issue.” Cohen, naturally, tweets his response.
The knives are coming out for Cohen as his team holds on to the slimmest chance of making the playoffs. With 13 games remaining, the Mets are five and a half games out of first in the National League East and seven games out of an NL wild-card spot. FanGraphs has their playoff odds at just 0.3 percent. Once the brightest spot in a promising season, deGrom hasn’t pitched a game since July 7, was shut down in August because of more arm trouble, and just last week was able to throw off a mound at all. (The Mets’ downplaying of deGrom’s ongoing injury issues has been its own ongoing subplot for much of the season.) Everything seemed so possible, until it didn’t.
Cohen has quickly learned that an approachable style and deep pockets aren’t enough to cure all that ails the Mets — at least not in one year. But whatever happens over the season’s final two weeks, he’ll still probably be at his keyboard providing running commentary on what went wrong. That bit of entertainment alone constitutes a step up from the Wilpon days. For now, it’s what Mets fans have to cling to.