When the Cold War ended, the United States found itself in the rare position of not having an enemy. The U.S. needs one, and conveniently, many Middle Eastern countries presented themselves. The Mets also need an enemy, and right now, they do not have one.
For the first few years of the Mets existence, they had the Dodgers and Giants as enemies; not really for baseball purposes, but for city abandonment reasons. When the leagues split up into divisions in 1969, the Cubs quickly became the enemy, with the Cardinals joining them in the 1980s.
Realignment took the Cubs and Cards away, but the Braves filled the enemy void. When the Braves faltered, the Phillies became the hated foes.
But now the Braves and Phillies, still no favorites, are not very good, but it is hard to call them the enemy when they are not competitive. The Nationals seem to be the logical choice as the new enemy, but there does not seem to be the hatred for the Nats as there were for the other established enemies. Maybe it takes some time.
Things are starting to brew up, though. Recent comments by Bryce Harper and Jayson Werth that were seen as anti-Mets (which were in reality just showing confidence in their own team rather than insults of the Mets) could get things going.
Maybe the Mets need to make some comments like that about the Nationals. Although the Mets do not seem to have players who would speak out like that. It has always been that way — did anyone ever answer the Jimmy Rollins or Cole Hamels comments that spurred the Phillies hatred?
Really, the only player on the Mets who might make inflammatory statements about another team is Matt Harvey, and the Mets have been very effective in putting a muzzle on him. You don’t want players making stupid comments that could spark another team, but you do wants them to show some confidence, some bravado.
Until that happens, the Mets might have to go without an enemy for a while. In the meantime, we always have the Yankees to hate.