Roughly two hours before his team took the field to face the Chicago Cubs, Mets manager Buck Showalter was asked about how much his team pays attention to the size of its lead over the Atlanta Braves atop the National League East.
“What is it?” Showalter asked, not knowing his team held a 1.5-game lead when informed. “Now I know.”
Showalter instead uses his phone to check NFL scores and his fantasy team. No need to be “captain obvious” and harp on the fact that the defending World Series champions are nipping at the Mets’ heels.
“We just look at the end game. It’s obviously why we get up in the morning,” Showalter continued. “But what’s [obsessing about the standings] going to change? I’ve learned to do it better that way. It requires some discipline because you do care a lot. Don’t confuse it with that, that’s why we get up in the morning.”
Each passing day raises the stakes that much more. The Mets haven’t won the division since 2015 and have only done so six times in their first 60 years as a franchise.
What was initially forecasted as an easier path to an NL East crown, though, hasn’t been that.
The Mets entered September with the easiest remaining schedule in the majors, yet they’re 4-5 in their last nine games entering Tuesday night’s matchup with the last-place Cubs. Those nine games have come against teams with losing records in the Washington Nationals, Pittsburgh Pirates, Miami Marlins, and now Chicago — who they lost to on Monday night at Citi Field.
“You can’t get caught up in that world,” Showalter said. “There might be family and friends who are always tweeting and twirling and talking whatever… They get that all the time.”
Just 20 games remain in the regular season and the focus in the Mets’ clubhouse is solely on what can be controlled.
“You don’t install [that mindset]. We come with it,” he said. “We talk about it. It’s about us. It’s about today. It’s about who we’re facing pitching-wise… and when that’s done, we turn our attention [to the next pitcher].”