“I mean, it’s tough not to when you see him hitting a home run it seems, like, every day now,” Mets first baseman Pete Alonso, a.k.a. the Polar Bear, who broke Judge’s MLB rookie record two years after Judge set it, told me on a sunny mid-September afternoon outside the Mets’ dugout at Citi Field. The two sluggers finished the season tied for the MLB lead in runs batted in with 131, which was a franchise record for the Mets. (The Yankees record, for what it’s worth, is 185. Lou Gehrig in 1931.)  “This is the highest level,” Alonso went on. “There’s no Moon League, there’s no Mars League—so you have to respect your opponent.” At this point Mets fans might want to steel themselves, because what Alonso said next about Judge won’t be easy for them to hear: “He’s the best player on the planet right now. He’s having an absolutely insane year, and I hope he continues. I really do.” (He didn’t. After homering every 2.4 games through September 20, the night he tied Babe Ruth with his 60th, Judge homered just twice more over the season’s final 15. But two was all he needed.) 

If this sort of Mets-Yankees fraternizing feels strange, like dogs hyping up cats, it’s an indication of what a rare season it was, for both franchises. No matter how much professional respect Alonso might have for Judge, after all, he was only gushing aloud like that because it’s easy to be magnanimous when you’ve been raking all season, too. 

He wasn’t alone. All-Star shortstop Francisco Lindor spent 2022 shattering every franchise record for the position—26 homers, 107 RBI—and reassuring Mets fans that his team-record $341 million contract was money well spent. Second baseman Jeff McNeil, whose 2021 highlight was getting into a fight with Lindor, won the MLB batting title. Manager Buck Showalter, in his first year with the Mets, won his fourth Manager of the Year award. Mets closer Edwin “Sugar” Díaz was unhittable, striking out 118 batters in 62 innings and turning a trumpet riff from “Narco” by Blasterjaxx into baseball’s most intimidating entrance music. He’s in the culture now, Mets lore forever. Díaz even entered the halls of global sports memedom on August 31, when Timmy Trumpet himself—he of the trumpet riff—played Díaz’s entrance theme live at Citi Field. The only Mets fan who didn’t enjoy the “Narco” phenomenon, in fact, was Jerry Seinfeld, our cranky conscience, who declared it “bad mojo.”

“I’m not superstitious,” said Lindor, reclining against the back wall of the Mets dugout, when I asked if he agreed. “I don’t care.” He spoke with the sunny confidence of a man who hasn’t been here long. Lindor has one of baseball’s widest, gleamiest smiles, and he told me that it feels as though Mets fans are only just getting to know him now, in his second season in Queens, not least because he spent most of his first season wearing a mask (and popping out to shallow left field). “This is my personality,” Lindor said, sitting in the home dugout, gesturing to that smile. “And if this is covered, I can’t show most of my personality. It’s just different. It’s a different year.”

Devin Gordon

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