By Paul DiSclafani:
Actually, in 54 years, this is only the second time we Mets fans have gotten to enjoy October baseball two years in a row.
Last year, the Mets needed a strong August and September to overcome the Nationals and win the NL East. When they got to the playoffs, they were a dangerous team with a murder’s row of young, fireballing starters. They got by the Dodgers in five games and then smoked the Cubs before they even knew what hit them.
It wasn’t until they got to the World Series against Kansas City that their warts were exposed. Mets fans had to endure watching the Royals do everything the Mets were unable to do – hit in the clutch, use speed to their advantage, play good defense and put the ball in play most of the time.
It took months for the Mets fans to come to grips with that World Series loss. The one thing that we knew we had, our stud pitching, was just going to be better. Once we resigned Cespedes, we were ready to roll.
I won’t waste your time recapping the entire season, but a 15-7 April (after a 2-5 start) put a smile on everyone’s face.
But a funny thing happened on the way to the forum.
Mets players started dropping like flies. Our once vaunted pitching staff, which in April sparked talk about having six starters, was down to just two. And our plans for a repeat as Division Champions, was now a distant memory.
In the middle of August, even getting one of the two Wild Card berths was a pipe dream. Not with this team. Not with these pitchers. Gsellman, Lugo, really?
But here we are, getting ready for the Wild Card game, and at home, no less!
Terry Collins summed it up best during the wild locker room celebration:
“(Asbrubal) Cabrera played hurt, Ces played hurt, the pitching fell apart on us, the guys were banged up and they pitched with discomfort and we brought kids up and put them in tough situations and they responded. They have great heart and great character. To be on this stage, to win, you have to have great character, and we’ve got it in here.”
Had the Mets dominated the 2016 season like we expected and been the favorite going into the post season, that would have been nice. But we’ve seen that movie before (1986) and there was a lot of pressure to win the whole thing just because they were supposed to. Of course, they DID win the whole thing, but almost every win was a struggle.
It might be nice to just sneak in this year, wouldn’t it? The Mets are definitely playing with house money this post season.
The big difference between Mets and Yankees fans is simple. If the Yankees DON’T win the World Series, the fans just expect them to be back next year to win it at that time. No other team’s fan base can use that logic. Getting TO the World Series is a big deal. Not winning the World Series is a big deal. For us Mets fans, just getting to the playoffs is a big deal.
I know I have been on the roller coaster all year and I’m ready for another ride beginning on Wednesday.
THE JOSE REYES FACTOR
Ok, I admit it. I lost all respect for Jose Reyes when he signed with the Marlins I was happy to see him go and even happier when he failed miserably away from the Mets.
But he was just what the doctor ordered when he got here. And I suddenly remembered why I loved him when he was here. He has provided the spark we needed, he has the speed we lacked and he has been hitting in the clutch.
And you know what? He is sooooo happy to be back. And he has certainly grown up and matured.
When asked about being back with the Mets and enjoying the celebration, he said, “I can’t even describe this moment right now. Winning here with the team I grew up with as a player and a person. In May and April, I didn’t even know if I would be playing baseball and here I am, with this team. I still can’t believe I’m a part of this team.”
Welcome back, Jose.
THE PROBLEM WITH THE WILD CARD
Baseball is not football. Football is a once a week sport that plays 16 games over 17 weeks. Football drama unfolds over 60 minutes and the sport declares a winner.
Baseball unfolds over six months and 162 games. Sometimes the final standings and playoff positions come down to the final weekend of the season, building drama until the last day of the season.
But Major League Baseball has been trying to manufacture drama in the form of a one-game playoff for a few years now, and it just does not work. Both Wild-Card games found the home team being shut out and were, quite frankly, bore-fests.
The only time baseball works in a single game, winner-take-all situation, is after the drama from the previous six games have played out.
Football touts itself as “Any Given Sunday” in which any team can win one game any week. But that doesn’t happen in the playoffs. It is extremely rare that a football playoff game is a blow out or a lopsided affair. And in football, the quarterback plays every game.
But one baseball game? No matter how bad a baseball team is, every team wins 60 games. And baseball is setting up the one game Wild-Card so that the teams will have to use their best pitchers to get INTO the Wild Card game and then have to use someone else for the actual game.
Imagine if the NFL decided to schedule their playoff games two or three in the same week, so the best players might not be available?
At the very least, the Wild Card should be two out of three. Give the teams that fought over 162 games the chance to regroup after a bad outing by their pitcher, or a bad call or a bad hop.
I liked the Wild-Card as it was originally intended, to be awarded to the best team that didn’t win their Division.
Matt Harvey Tweeted his congratulations to his Alma Mata UNC for their last second FG to win a college football game yesterday. Then after some fans reminded him that his current employer also accomplished something, he tweeted how proud he was – almost an hour after the Mets clinched. I love him as a player, but I think he is a selfish phony … How great are the locker room celebrations? I smiled for almost two hours yesterday … Ok, ok, I’m back on the Jay Bruce train. But do you pick up his option for next year? … Name me any baseball team that has lost three of their five starters, three of their four infielders and had a catcher that drove in less than 20 runs and still made the playoffs … Please, no talk about if the Mets can beat Chicago in a short series until Thursday, ok? … Here’s hoping that the Cardinals win today and the Giants lose today and have to play a game on Monday afternoon …
Paul DiSclafani is a featured author at “A View From the Bench”, an official affiliate of MLB.com. “A View from the Bench” is recognized in the Top 100 of MLB.com/blogs.