So what’s it really like to play for a team that is coming off of an appearance in the World Series? Well, if you asked any of the players from the Kansas City Royals last year, they would tell you how much fun their having and how they plan to continue their success. But if you ask any of the players from the New York Mets, they’ll tell you they need to play better. Those were nearly the exact words of Mets infielder Kelly Johnson.
“We know we gotta play better baseball all around more consistently” stated Johnson. “It’s still mid-season and we’re still getting guys back and getting everything into the swing of things. I think we’ll be alright.”
If being “alright” is his kind of optimism, the team may be in a little bit of trouble. They play six of their next eight games against one of the leagues worst teams, the Atlanta Braves. The only two games that break up this home stand against the Braves, are against the Kansas City Royals. The Royals are not the same team of the last two seasons and they’ve struggled just as much as the Mets. One would think this is the perfect time for the Mets to work on their offense, no?
Johnson started the 2015 campaign with the Braves, the team that he began his career with in the majors. Mid-way through that season he was traded to the Mets along with Juan Uribe and cash considerations on July 24th for minor league right handers John Gant and Rob Whalen. But, for the third time in his career, he found himself back in Atlanta to start the 2016 season. Low and behold, Johnson is back and better than…well, not ever. He’s just back. But it’s better to come back to a team that was just in the World Series opposed to a team like, oh, Atlanta?
“Winning helps a lot of things” said Johnson. “Even though we’re not blowing the doors off of teams and doing what the Cubs are doing, we’re still winning more than we’re losing. Any time you’re in a tough situation where wins are hard to come by, you’re on edge and the guys start to feel the pressure more. That’s not just the players though, that’s all the way around the organization too.
Johnson seems to really understand the difference between being with the Mets opposed to being with the Yankees, as he had spent time with the Bronx Bombers in 2014. The Mets do not attempt to buy championships, nor do they treat every game as a playoff game. That is not the worst thing either. There are 162 games in a season, if you play every game like a playoff game, you’ll wear yourself down and Johnson seems to know that and enjoys playing in the National League more.
“The American and National League are a lot different and the A.L East is a real tough division. All the teams there are spending money and they’re trying to win every game and treat them all like playoff games” added Johnson. “I mean, it’s a different type of baseball.”
Although playing every game like a playoff game may wear the club down, maybe that’s how the Mets need to play if they plan on making a run at the wild card this season. Their health is sub par, even though catcher Travis d’Arnaud is on his way back, but they all need to step up and fill every void necessary.
At least, Johnson can keep smiling while playing for a struggling team. The on-field jokes between him and his former teammate, first baseman Freddie Freeman of the Braves, continue nearly every game. Freeman is known to run with Johnson to second base on a double or tug on his pants as he’s leading off towards second.
“We’re buddies anyways off the field. He’s always looking to have fun. But that’s good, that means you’re having fun and just play your best baseball and enjoy yourself” said Johnson.
Now, if only Johnson can play his “best baseball” and urge the Mets to do the same, they may actually win a couple of games against the leagues worst team. After all, the last thing they want is to have a losing home stand before facing the division leading Washington Nationals. It’s not like the schedule gets any easier after that.