It’s almost impossible to believe the Mets will play beyond game 162…
For the last seven years anyway, game 162 had simply been accepted as the last day of the year for the Mets.
The October darkness in the daylight at Citi Field served as the ominous sign of the long and cold winter without baseball in Queens, and the beginning of a ponderance that maybe, just maybe, 20XY would be the year the Mets break through.
But the Mets broke through after last year’s long and cold winter. In the October shadows of 2015, there was no lamenting of what could have been or what might be next year.
It was just the end of another game for the Mets.
Because there will indeed be a 163rd, 164th and 165th game for the Mets, at least.
It’s almost impossible to believe, considering everything that’s happened to this franchise since the last time game 162 simply served as a break to what became a deep run into October.
Think about even 2015 for a second, which in and of itself has become a remarkable baseball story.
Six and seven months ago, much of the fan base chuckled at all the talk from Terry Collins, Sandy Alderson and even David Wright that this team was about today and no longer about tomorrow, that this team could actually rise to the top and overtake the mighty Nationals and their vaunted pitching staff.
They battled through broken rosters and elbows, innings fiascos, flying sandwiches, and all of the classic New York challenges of overcoming the aura that they are the junior varsity not only in New York, but in their own division to the Bryce Harper/Max Scherzer-led Washington Nationals.
As it turns out, the New York Mets defeated the Washington Nationals by seven games in the National League East in 2015.
It’s not the team they left the stable with by any means. They were
Who is laughing now? For a change, the Mets walked the walk, winning 90 games for the 11th time in their history.
“This team believed early on,” David Wright said as he chatted with the media after Sunday’s series finale. “Back in spring training, a lot of guys said it — that they thought we were a playoff team. It got a lot of chuckles, people thinking it’s just talk, so it’s nice to go out there and back up that talk. We’ll take that same mindset into next week.”
Sure, the last six games were hardly inspiring and confidence inducing. They didn’t hit, they bumbled the ball around, and they lost five of six as a result. And yes, that no-hitter Scherzer through on Saturday was painful to watch, mainly because the Mets just had no chance at all against one of the greatest pitching performances of all-time.
But that wasn’t a team playing for anything. And as Scherzer pointed out himself, no-hitters are fluky and simply the luck of the draw in a lot of cases. And in three of those five games, the Mets featured their B and C unit, reminiscent of their pre-July 24 days. And yes, their offense – even when the A guys were out there – was very lackluster.
The 1969 Mets were no-hit after clinching the National League East, and that worked out pretty well.
When this team has it’s cards in hand and money on the table, they have proven to be among the mightiest in the game.
Look no further than their two previous series against the Nationals, during which the Mets torched them, stunned them, and essentially ended their season with two direct blows to the gut.
That is what this team is capable of right now, even in the face of the two big coyotes wearing Dodger blue.
What’s more, because of those minimal expectations to start the year and their surprising rise to the top, they’re playing with house money going in.
Sure, the Mets want to win the whole thing, the fans want to win the whole thing too. That’s a self inflicted pressure, which is preferable to the pressure of expectation.
But there is fresh air blowing through the Mets clubhouse for a change, thanks to their deep core of young starting pitchers who are primed and excited for October’s grand stage.
“This is what we play for,” Jacob deGrom said following his Division Series tune-up. “To go to the postseason and try to win the World Series. We’ve had a lot of fun this year but we know we have a lot of work to do.”
The Dodgers, meanwhile, are coming into the tournament with a payroll most have lost count of these days, and nothing less than winning the World Series will be acceptable for them.
The Mets may win the Division Series, they may not. That’s the beauty of the playoffs. It’s a total crapshoot. But the Mets may have already won 2015 in a different way, as the foundation they’ve been laying through those dark October shadows has finally hardened.
They can now hopefully build on that foundation, while playing with their house money in 2015.
The culture truly began to shift last summer. It could be felt in the clubhouse, and in their quality of play. Sure, they finished below .500, but players inside that clubhouse began to evolve and realize the tide had finally begun to turn.
“It’s different now. The team has changed. A year from now, it will be us,” one player said in the clubhouse last August.
He was right. And that player reminded me of what he said this past week.
“What did I tell you last year?” he said with a smile.
What a story the Mets have been. It’s truly unbelievable.