The Mets Must Beware The Vibe Killers

The New York Mets are rolling right now, with immaculate vibes flowing through the clubhouse, which should be protected at all costs.

JUPITER, FLORIDA - MARCH 08: Francisco Alvarez #4 of the New York Mets looks on prior to a spring training game between the Miami Marlins and the New York Mets at Roger Dean Stadium on March 08, 2024 in Jupiter, Florida. (Photo by Rich Storry/Getty Images)

High-speed cameras and armies of data analysts, coaches, beat reporters, and bloggers can dissect every pitch and every play, but there is a force in sports that is impossible to breakdown or coach up: the vibe. 

A force for good that surrounds a team while also serving as a tractor beam for fan and media interest, the vibe must be constantly fed, lest it turn very bad or simply disappear.

Do not doubt the power of the vibe. Not while the Grimace Mets keep rolling, their successes punctuated by air smacks and bromance.

Not after the feel-good Knicks and Rangers went deep into the playoffs this past season. The Knicks, by the way, respect the power of the vibe, passing up bigger names to trade for a fourth former Villanova star in Mikal Bridges and further solidify “Nova York.” 

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Despite their recent rut, the Yankees are also riding a vibe, powered by Nestor Cortes’ hypnotic foot dangle, Aaron Judge’s incessant bomb bopping, and Juan Soto’s swagger and all-around dominance. Right now, New York is vibe city. 

The Mets entered the vibe not because of a purple McDonald’s mascot throwing out the first pitch at Citi Field. Instead, in the time-honored tradition of the movie Major League and every story you’ve ever heard about a struggling team in the midst of a turnaround, the Mets had a great meeting.

From all accounts, the message was simple: let go of the pressure, defy expectations, have fun. 

That’s how the LOLMets – who had become the jkjkMets for how they teased goodness before finding increasingly creative ways to disappoint – became the LFGMets again. 

The vibe extends off the field and out of the clubhouse. The fandom is less insufferable and more fun. Citi Field is electric. Everyone wants a piece of this moment. Just ask Steve Cohen, who was surrounded by Met and celebrity royals during the start of the Subway Series Tuesday night. 

And yet… 

I understand the logic at play with the above scenario reported on by the New York Post’s Mike Puma; that the Mets might add at the trade deadline while also dealing from their enviable starting pitching depth.

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Christian Scott and Jose Butto have promise, Senga is the ace of the staff (when healthy) and locked in for at least next year. Sean Manaea, Jose Quintana, and Luis Severino? They’re mercenaries who may well be pitching elsewhere next year once they hit free agency or opt-out. And yet… 

Vibes do not necessarily operate by or respect logic. 

Each of those arms is connected to a personality that is of particular and hard-to-gauge value to the chemistry powering this Mets team and this magical, mysterious vibe. 

Doesn’t it seem like Manaea is a unifying and chill force among the starting pitchers?

That Quintana is a sage veteran leader? That Severino is just really freaking good?

I know 9-man rotations aren’t a thing, but pitching depth has a way of disappearing when you cut into it. Vibes can vanish even quicker if you accidentally disturb the chemistry within a clubhouse or even hint at the idea that management doesn’t believe. 

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This brings us to Mets President Of Baseball Ops David Sterns, a very smart man. The idea of trading some of those pieces was a sorta silver lining when the Mets seemed headed for a summer of futility. I was ready for it, saying the Mets needed to tear down if they didn’t go on a run and win 10 in a row (so, the streak never reached 10, it took a minute longer than I was asking for, but am I the true Grimace?)

Now that the Mets are good again, the most important question facing the team is whether Stearns has the ability to accept this new reality and reimagine his plans for the organization in 2024 and beyond. Will he respect the power of clubhouse chemistry and the temperamental nature of the vibe? Will he remember 2022? 

Still with the Brewers, Stearns attempted the precision move of trading from a strength with a team in playoff contention. Josh Hader, the team’s star closer, went to the Padres in a move made with the future in mind because the team figured they would lose him as a free agent a year and a half later.

At the time of the trade, the Brewers were three games up on the Cardinals in the NL Central. By season’s end, they were seven back and missed the playoffs.

From then-Brewers pitcher Eric Lauer, a few weeks after the trade in a piece on titled, “Vibe Check”

“There was a shock factor to it,” Lauer said. “Everybody was taken aback by it a little bit. As far as who we have in the clubhouse and what we have here, I don’t think we’re in any worse position to win as many games as we should. The only thing I can think of was, from the top down it seemed like there was a weird behind-the-scenes message that was sent that a lot of people didn’t jive with.“It didn’t send us the right message from the upstairs people trying to say, like, ‘We’re doing this and we’re trying to put you guys in the best position and we’re trying to win right now with you guys.’ It seemed more of a, ‘We’re trying to develop for the future.’”

To his credit, Stearns has voiced some regret about the move while defending its intentions. Will the Hader deal influence how he navigates the trade deadline? Will he ultimately sacrifice prudent asset management and long-term plans at the altar of the vibe, wizened by past insolence and fully understanding its powers? Hell, I hope so. The Vibes Mets are the best Mets.