This one hurt.
It’s taken me a few days to decompress and think rationally, but losing to the Royals on Sunday night absolutely destroyed me.
Sure, it was a great run in a surprising season and was a fun, exciting ride to a championship series that ended at the hands of a better team, but it also may have been the worst outcome possible for the Mets going forward.
I’ve taken a few days to collect and put together my own thoughts as well as reading and listening to bloggers, mainstream media and other Mets fans. The overwhelming feeling is that this is just the beginning of a long, sustained run of success for the team and that getting back to the World Series is all but guaranteed.
As for me? Well, I just don’t see it.
Now, now. Don’t rush to judgment! Hear me out first. I’m not trying to be “that guy” and troll for the sake of it, but when objectively looking at the situation the team is in, I can see it becoming very difficult for the Mets to have this opportunity in the near future.
Which is why a I took losing a very winnable World Series to a better team so hard. Had the breaks gone the Mets’ way, we could have been partying Sunday night instead of mixing booze with prescription medication in an attempt to forget what had just happened.
Sometimes you only get once chance. One opportunity. To do everything you ever wanted. One moment. Yo, Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” is fucking great. But, honestly, as much as it pains me to say, the Mets not only didn’t capture it, but the future does not necessarily set up favorably. We examine the reasons:
1. The Rest of the League Will Not Continue to Suck
The Mets were, at best, the fifth best team in the National League and that’s not even counting the Nationals who were superior on paper, but were a trainwreck and couldn’t get anything going in the right direction for any period of time.
The Pirates added another early exit in the Wild Card game. The Cardinals were the most consistent team in the league all season, but were beaten handily by a young and sure to improve Cubs team. The Giants couldn’t force their way into the dance, the Dodgers engaged in their annual disappearing act and the Cubs, who had gone 7-0 against the Mets in the regular season, fell victim to an historic offensive performance by Daniel Murphy, a collection of unhittable flamethrowers and, finally, the bad luck of being BABIP’d to death (which ended up haunting the Mets against the Royals).
Simply put, it’s unreasonable to expect the better teams to have repeat performances. Everything came up Mets-house from the Nationals folding, to favorable match-ups against the Dodgers in lieu of an opening round showdown against any of the Central teams, then finally getting past a young Cubs team that couldn’t catch up to the Mets’ arsenal of arms.
Call it fate, destiny, whatever you will. Whatever you choose, remember that getting all those ducks in a row twice is unlikely if not impossible.
2. “Terrible” Terry Collins
The Mets just gave their manager a two-year extension coming off the first postseason run of his managerial career. It’s not surprising. Getting your team to the World Series – on paper – does look like quite the achievement.
Except it was the way he got them there. His inability to manage innings for his starters, define roles for relievers, be able to set a competent and consistent lineup, stick to his own decisions or (in something that isn’t being talked about enough) position his fielders late in close games to prevent extra-base hits. (This is in reference to Collins and his staff not positioning Michael Conforto to “no-doubles” depth in the 9th inning of Game 5 which led to Eric Hosmer’s drive becoming an RBI double instead of the inning’s first out.)
Collins came into the job as a placeholder for when a serious manager could be identified. His history as a minor league coordinator and developer of talent seemed like it would be useful as the Mets were entering a period where they would depend on a number of young players to mature into everyday regulars at the big league level.
Pitching coach, Dan Warthen has, to this point done a terrific job with the young arms he’s be required to helm. Collins, Tim Teufel and Tom Goodwin have not exactly had the same luck with the position players. Consistent inconsistency and lack of progression have hampered more than a handful of players and led to a lineup dependent on mediocrity.
My feelings on Collins went from indifference his first two years to downright disdain over the last two. This team went on the run they did IN SPITE of their strategy-challenged manager and it’s very reasonable to say that they’re not World Series champions today because of him.
Did I mention that Michael Cuddyer got three at-bats in a World Series game instead of Juan Uribe? Because that happened.
3. Pitchers Get Hurt. It’s Science.
We all hate Scott Boras and the influence he exuded over Matt Harvey at the beginning of September when Harvey went from the Dark Knight to Two-Face overnight, but taking our fandom out of the equation…he wasn’t exactly wrong.
Because of all the mediocrity and failings around the rest of the National League, the Mets went on a deep playoff run probably a year (or more) ahead of Sandy Alderson’s even best expectations.
The result of this is that – with the exception of Steven Matz who missed a significant amount of time with injuries – the Mets’ young starters all saw very significant jumps in the number of innings they pitched this year. While we will have to wait and see the effects, if any, all these extra inning and pitches will have had on the staff, injuries to pitchers are now to be expected and not the cause of surprise.
Zack Wheeler is on schedule to return from Tommy John early in the 2016 season and he may be needed to help lighten the load on the rest of the rotation if they don’t react well to having a shorter offseason than normal to rest those troublesome elbows and shoulders.
Regardless of age, strength or mechanics, we’ve learned – especially over the past few years – that pitchers sometimes just break without warning and it would be unreasonable for the Mets (with their history of bungling injury prevention, diagnosis and treatment) to all of a sudden set the bar for pitcher health.
4. The Wilpons Are Still Broke
You would think that a World Series run and all the tickets, merchandise, food, beer and excitement money raked in by the team would be the jolt the franchise needed to get back to black ink to maybe even dream about sniffing green again.
The narrative that the Wilpons finally doubled-down and spent the money necessary at the trade deadline to bring in the pieces needed to solidify the roster is simply untrue. Sure, they did take on some salary commitments, but the money used to cover those was easily found in the money from the insurance payout the team received due to David Wright missed such a large number of games after being diagnosed with Spinal Stenosis earlier in the year.
Winning has a way of blinding the truth. Or at least being able to mask the taste of lies, but with a payment to the Madoff trustees of $30M looming for the Wilpons along with their regular debt payments to MLB and Bank of America, it’s hard to see the team going out and spending to improve upon a roster with some glaring needs and holes.
While the team will be forced to makes moves with the likely defections of Yoenis Cespedes, Murphy, Tyler Clippard, Bartolo Colon, Juan Uribe, etc, adding salary above anything already coming off the books could prove to be troublesome for an ownership group that should have been forced to sell in the immediate aftermath of the Madoff mess.
We also have to remember that every year that passes by brings that collection of starting pitchers one year closer to arbitration raises and free agency and, at some point, they’re going to need to get paid. All of them. And that just looks impossible by current Wilpon expenditure.
I’m not hoping for any of this to happen, mind you. I’m just uber-aware that all of these points exist and are distinct possibilities. I would love for this team to all of a sudden turn into some kind of superpower, but there just seems to be too much in the way for this to turn into something lasting.
I would love to be wrong. I hope I’m wrong. But if I’m not, it makes blowing this opportunity against the Royals even more distinct. Nobody is ever guaranteed a second chance. Eminem never had to sing “Lose Yourself Again” because he slayed Papa Doc the first time around.
There were entirely too many comparisons of this team to the 1986 team, but, in reality, this year’s Mets were – more likely – the 2006 team. On a date with destiny until they got in their own way. Hopefully, this team will get another shot at Papa Doc, but it is nothing close to a sure thing.