By James DiSclafani
I know, I’m a little late to the party, but nearly two weeks removed from the 2015 World Series I can finally bring myself to talk about it. I needed the time to let myself recover (both physically and emotionally) from the toll the postseason took on me and so that I could try to look back at the 2015 season with a clear head, not entirely besmirched by the painful memories provided by the Kansas City Royals.
I think every year it is possible to have a different relationship with your sports teams. Each courtship is unique in its own way with different characters and moments that help define that relationship. As sports fans, we invest so much time, energy, and real emotion into our teams that calling it a relationship is really the only way to accurately capture your emotions. Joy, sadness, anger, love, grief, you name it, they’re all there. By the end of it, we know each other’s quirks and flaws and each team is special somehow and every year, win, lose or draw, we break up only to start the cycle over next season. I almost married the 2015 New York Mets, and I’m pretty sure I’ll never be able to get over them.
First, let’s congratulate those same Royals who caused us all so much pain. They were the better team, plain and simple. Every time the Mets made a mistake they took advantage of it, and any mistakes that they made, the Mets failed to fully capitalize and consistently left the door open. As much as it comes down to the Mets not executing in key situations, and though I truly hate them for it, credit the Royals for being able to rise to the occasion where we failed.
What truly hurt the most about losing the World Series was not just HOW the Mets lost (in CLASSIC and heartbreaking Mets fashion), but the fact that this very specific team had a chance to be truly special. Not because they had an overly talented roster. Other than obviously otherworldly starting pitching the Mets were fairly average-to-below-average in talent. Just like the 1969 Amazin’ Mets were special, this team had that chance.*
By and large the national sentiment was that this team was not supposed to compete in 2015. Sure, some had the Mets as a second wild card team and everyone knew about Harvey and deGrom, but they wouldn’t get past the Nationals just yet.
And then the season started.
Mets fans knew in the beginning of April that this season had a chance to be more than we had hoped for. After a 2-3 start, the Mets ripped off 11 straight wins (though according to anyone on the Internet wins in April don’t count for anything) getting to 13-3 and I officially had a crush on 2015 New York Mets.**
There was something a little different about this team, something more. Citi Field had an electricity to it that had never been felt before, right from Matt Harvey’s first start back in front of the home crowd. A packed house, everyone on their feet with a raucous “HAR-VEY, HAR-VEY” chant on a Tuesday night in April. He went on to strike out five of the first seven, the crowd on its feet for all of the first three innings. Mets fans didn’t care if they weren’t supposed to compete in 2015, and more importantly, neither did the Mets. Make no mistake, it doesn’t matter that it was early in the season and against one of the worst teams in the baseball, the Philadelphia Phillies, that night in early April was a statement – the Mets are here.
Unfortunately, sort of lost in the emotion of that night was the injury suffered by our Captain, David Wright, a hamstring injury that would turn out to be something so much more. A few more injuries (Cuddyer, TDA, Murphy), combined with a shaky bullpen (minus the emergence of Jeurys Familia), and largely uninspired play had the Mets sitting at a dead even .500 in the beginning of July. Terry Collins’ job seemed on the line (admittedly I was more than ready to move on from Terry, regardless of the lineup he was forced to trot out there every day and the names in the bullpen) and you had to question whether the Mets might be sellers come the impending trade deadline.
Partially because the Nationals were nowhere near as good as advertised and entirely because the Mets young pitching had allowed them to hang around and inspired hope in the front office, they had one final push to make. A nine-game road trip out to the west coast just before the All Star Break could make or break their season. Not only did they survive, but the Mets took seven out of nine setting the stage for a flurry of moves that would change their season.
By this point, my relationship with these Mets had advanced well past the “crush” stage. We flirted through the majority of May and June and come July, the Mets were officially to be considered a Summer Fling. They were fun, they had STUD young pitching as Harvey continued to return to form and deGrom dominated seemingly every time he went to the mound. We had the emergence of Noah Sydergaard with his 100 MPH fastball, unhittable curveball, and the awesome persona of the Norse God, Thor. Bartolo Colon was arguably every Met fan’s favorite player, and rightfully so. Steven Matz (along with Grandpa Matz) was electric, and to top it all off, this team was actually smack dab in the thick of things. Meaningful baseball that I had not seen for longer than I care to recall.
Mid-July brought the All Star Game, where the rest of the world found out something Mets fans already knew. Matt Harvey was the big name in NY, but Jacob deGrom was a force to be reckoned with and the Ace of the best pitching staff in baseball. 10 pitches, 3 outs, 3-K’s, and the baseball world was put on notice. From here on out it was clear, the Mets could win this division outright – but they needed to get some actual, Major League help.
Enter the wizard, Sandy Alderson. For as much grief as Alderson has gotten as the Mets GM (some parts more deserved than others), he has consistently been the master of the trade. Before the trade deadline in 2015, Alderson made major league talent appear out of seemingly thin air. The Mets gave up nothing for major league bats from the Braves in Kelly Johnson and Juan Uribe (more on Uribe in a bit) and of course, minutes before the deadline, he absolutely fleeced the Tigers out of Yoenis Cespedes. Those two moves, along with some bullpen additions in Tyler Clippard and Addison Reed (we won’t mention Eric O’Flaherty here) and we had our big guns. We had a shot at the crown and if the Mets were going down, at least they were going down swinging.***
Any truly great championship run has to have several key factors. If you want to be a championship team, there are certain “moments” that are a part of your identity and help to mold the narrative and story of your season. These are the moments that are almost exclusive to sports. They give you chills when you think about them, where heroes are born and legends formed. They’re the things you can’t imagine truly happening, until they do.
The 2015 Mets had these moments in spades. It was one of the things that made us fall in love with them and their players. The Wilmer Flores walk off home run to beat the Nationals in extra innings, just the DAY after he was supposedly traded and openly wept on the field. David Wright’s home run on his first at bat back, in a season where no one was sure if he would ever be able to play baseball again. The improbable come from behind wins against the Nationals in August and September that all but clinched the division and left the Nats dead and buried. Hell, even Kirk Nieuwenheis hit 3 home runs in a game at one point. The point being, this team wasn’t just your run of the mill squad, this team was magic. Everything they did from the trade deadline on was sprinkled with a little bit of pixie dust and to be a part of it as a fan was something unforgettable.
The other thing you need in order to win a championship, is a locker room that is willing to fight and die for the guy next to you, and a few championship character players that provide the glue. For the 2015 New York Mets you didn’t have to look any further than two guys that transformed the Mets clubhouse into a championship caliber locker room: Juan Uribe and Yoenis Cespedes. Uribe, while of course not entirely the offensive impact of Cespedes, was as important to this team as anyone else on the roster. Forget how well he held down third base while we waited for David Wright to get back, his character in the locker room, his demeanor (widely regarded as the funniest guy on the team), his “hog shows” (google it) kept the Mets loose and focused on the ultimate goal through the dog days of August and September. Certain players are born with the “clutch” gene, that “IT” factor that fails to show up on any stat sheet. Juan Uribe had more of “it” than anyone on the Mets roster the moment he stepped through the door and in order to win a title in any sport you need players with the ability to deliver in the biggest moments on the biggest stage. I will forever believe that Juan Uribe not being healthy enough to be a consistent contributor played an ENORMOUS factor into the Mets not winning the 2015 World Series.
As for Cespedes, he brought a different type of swagger to the Mets. He wasn’t just insanely good, he was really cool. A five tool stud who would rip cigs in-between innings, throw you out from the warning track in CF, and then pimp a moonshot off your best pitcher. Through the middle of September, I would have paid literally any amount of money to keep Cespedes here after the season.****
Directly after the trade deadline, my relationship with the Mets officially got serious. We had the horses, we had the offense, and eventually, we had the lead over the Nationals. During the season, I had a ticket plan which made me eligible to purchase postseason tickets for every home game the Mets could play. In mid September when those tickets became available to purchase, I got engaged to the 2015 New York Mets and was now all in. This team could do it, with this pitching throwing the way they could, in a 7-game series – the Mets, MY Mets, could win the World Series.
Somehow, we made it through the NLDS against the Dodgers. More pixie dust from none other than Daniel Murphy leading the charge. We had beaten two of the best pitchers in baseball and in all honesty, I didn’t think I would make it. I was fairly certain that Game 5 against the Dodgers would physically kill me because my heart just couldn’t take this much pressure for the rest of the postseason. But these Mets overcame, again, just like they had all season, because they were different, they were magic.
Then came the Cubs in the NLCS. In reality, the Cubs had no idea what they were about to run into. They were too young and probably too good, too fast to deal with this pitching that had grown up so quickly before our eyes. I was there as we all screamed “ARRR-IEEEE-ETTT-AAA” and the Mets (more specifically Daniel Murphy) blew the roof off of Citi Field. Again, HOW could anyone possibly beat this pitching rotation in a 7-game series? Who cares that the offense was entirely reliant on the home run and was generated from essentially 2-3 guys for the whole series? You had to go through Harvey TWICE, deGrom TWICE, and Thor TWICE. Not possible, bring on the Royals.
This was probably the delusional phase of a relationship, when it literally doesn’t matter what the other persons flaws are you just ignore them because the sex and everything else is still new and great.
The first two games of the World Series are what I imagine the few weeks leading up to getting married to be like. Nerve wracking, doubt creeps in, but at the end of the day you press on because you have faith. Down 2-0 off one brutal loss in Game 1, I was shaken. But this Mets team was different, it was resilient and to be honest, I was head over heels in love with the 2015 Mets and there was no turning back now. As soon as they won the NLCS, I threw my pessimistic, stereotypical “The sky is falling” Mets fan attitude in the trash. That didn’t exist anymore, because it didn’t have to. This team would fight for me, this team would not let us down.
Then the moment that should have changed the entire World Series happened. “Meet me at 60 feet 6 inches”.
The atmosphere on Friday night for game 3 was unlike anything I’m likely to experience ever again. The best way to describe it was apprehensive electricity, the entire crowd was ready to explode – but we needed something to light the fuse. Noah Syndergaard did that with his first pitch message to Alcides Escobar, a 100 MPH, high and tight and a blatant message as the crowd erupted “We’re not done yet.”
Regardless of the score or how the Mets ended up winning the game, that game was over as soon as Escobar hit the dirt. Now it was simple, the sweep would be great, but just get us back to Kansas City. You couldn’t beat Harvey twice, deGrom twice, and Syndegard twice – get us back to KC and let’s win this thing.
The rest is history. The Mets gave away Game 4 in the most typical Mets fashion possible and despite a near Herculean effort from Matt Harvey in Game 5, the Royals did what they were able to do all series long. Death by contact.
The pixie dust ran out, Murphy turned back into a pumpkin, Cespedes didn’t perform and at the end of the day the Mets were the Mets. That right there is specifically what makes losing this World Series so incredibly heartbreaking. These weren’t supposed to be the same Mets. The 2015 Mets were special, unlike almost any other Mets team I have ever rooted for. This team that was so easy to fall in love with for so many reasons. It was supposed to end with the fairy tale that is David Wright holding a World Series trophy over his head, cigar in his mouth, tears in his eyes, and somehow that didn’t happen.
The worst part about it is, I shouldn’t be this heartbroken. The Mets are in a better place than they’ve ever been going into 2016. They have the best pitching staff in baseball and it’s not even close. They’re only going to get better with the eventual addition of Zach Wheeler. With a good offseason from the front office, there’s a legitimate chance this team turns into a 100-win juggernaut in the next two years, but it doesn’t matter. If the New York Mets win the World Series next year, will I be upset about it? Of course not! I’ll be there, and I’ll cheer and it will be one of the best moments of my life, but there will always be that little thought in the back of my mind. What if the 2015 Mets had managed to pull it off? The underdog team that was still a year away, with all the Made-For-DVD moments and memorable faces, how incredibly special would that have been?
I left Game 5 of the World Series in the top of the 12th. It’s not because I’m a bad fan or any of that nonsense. It’s because I couldn’t watch the Kansas City Royals celebrate on my field while all Mets fans drowned in misery. I’ll never forget what it felt like walking away from Citi Field that night. I heard the Royals fans cheer inside our building when it was finally over, and I was angry, upset, and even envious. That was our fairy tale and I just wasn’t ready to break up yet.
I’ll fall back in love with the 2016 New York Mets, just like all fans do every year, and who knows how that story ends. I just know that I had never experienced anything quite like 2015 New York Mets, and I may not again.
I almost got married to the 2015 New York Mets, but they left me standing at the altar, wondering what could have been.
* – I may not have been around for 1969, but trust me I’ve seen the VHS of that season enough times to know
** – The later the season went the more excuses Mets Haters would come up with, “Wins in April Don’t Count,” “Talk to me after the All Star Break,” “The Division Title doesn’t mean anything if you don’t get out of the first round.” I swear to god it never ends, nothing is good enough for you people.
*** – Fine, we know Clippard didn’t work out in the long run, but at least we didn’t have to keep pitching Bobby Freakin Parnell
**** – They should probably still bring him back, but I just wouldn’t write him that blank check anymore