Every once in a while you experience something that feels too good to be true. Waiting for that alarm clock buzzer to go off and snap you out of a dream. As I watched Wednesday night’s game, and the Mets went in to cruise control from the moment Lucas Duda launched a home run in the top of the first, I was convinced someone was getting one over on me. Could this be one of those Jimmy Kimmel pranks? Is he going to make me a viral laughingstock as a hidden camera captures me cheering in excitement for an event that never actually occurred? Damn you, Jimmy. At last, it took until Thursday in the PM hours, when the TV guide told me there was going to be a Mets-Cubs game on TBS and was instead treated with an episode of Seinfeld (not that there’s anything wrong with that), that it really sank in: The New York Mets are going to the World Series.
For the past several years my father and I have made the trip down to Port St. Lucie to take in some of Mets spring training action. If you’ve never been before, although Port St. Lucie isn’t exactly the most exhilarating place on earth, it’s a chance to get an up close and personal experience with the teams current and rising stars. The real beauty of spring training? The Mets are still in first place. For at least that month of March you can be as optimistic as you want about your team. In years past, that was about as good as I was going to feel about this franchise.
For the majority of our trips we knew the season wouldn’t end with a banner rising before it ever began. But, you could see the foundation slowly being built. That’s what has really made this year’s postseason run that much more special. I’ve literally watched this team grow up before my eyes. Each and every trip gave us a new glimpse into this starting rotations potential. Starting with Matt Harvey in 2012, a surprising Jacob deGrom emerged in 2014 while Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz showed their promise just this past spring. For anyone that was able to watch these guys throw, even in the raw stages of their development, you knew better days were coming to Queens.
One name I left out, who deserves as much credit for this team’s success as the starters, is Jeurys Familia. I remember him coming up and the debate was is he a starting pitcher or a reliever? What made the front offices decision easier to send him to the pen full-time was the depth already in the rotation all the way down to the minor league level. Familia became a reliever out of necessity and boy did that turn out for the best. In March of this year, we sat no more than an arm’s length away from Familia as he threw a bullpen session. My father remarked “I just don’t see it,” in regards to his potential. Let’s just say I wouldn’t count on him getting a job in the Met scouting department anytime soon. One of the biggest differences in this Mets team compared to years past is having a closer that you aren’t petrified to see come in with the game on the line. Dare I say Mets fans are actually confident to see a closer in the game? What a world we live in.
Although I believe the saying “pitching wins championships” holds true, you still have to score runs in order to win baseball games. Up until the trade deadline the Mets offense wasn’t just bad, it was flat-out laughable. I feel like we should stop picking on John Mayberry Jr at this point. Scratch that, I don’t. When he was batting cleanup in late July, it was hard to believe I wasn’t watching an Independent League offense. I couldn’t even fathom this team making a run with the offensive output they were receiving. Ok, let’s just say it, the season was doomed if something didn’t change, and fast.
The Washington Nationals, who were the odds on World Series favorites, kept the Mets in the NL East race as the MLB trade deadline neared. I strongly believe that Sandy Alderson would have sat idle if the Nationals were playing to their potential and were out to a big lead in the division. But, fortunately, they weren’t. This left the door open for the Mets to make a real run at the postseason down the stretch and Sandy hit it out of the park with his acquisitions. He traded for Juan Uribe, Kelly Johnson, Addison Reed, Tyler Clippard, Yoenis Cespedes and promoted top-hitting prospect Michael Conforto. Uribe and Johnson added much-needed depth to the bench and allowed manager Terry Collins some flexibility to play the hot bat or a lefty-righty matchup. Reed and Clippard slid right into the 7th and 8th inning role to solidify the backend of the bullpen. Conforto quickly emerged as a rising star who has become the starting left fielder against right-handed pitching and will surely be next year’s full-time starter. As for Cespedes, I’m not sure the Mets would still be playing if it weren’t for him. He put the offense on his back down the stretch and led them to a division crown with ease with his MVP caliber play.
The Mets were faced with the Dodgers in the NLDS and Cubs in the NLCS in order to advance to the World Series.
There are only two words needed to sum up how the Mets moved on: Daniel Murphy. He is the hottest hitter on the planet and is in the midst of possibly the greatest postseason run in the history of the game. There isn’t enough time in the day for me to full express how I feel about Murphy right now. I might have to name my first-born child Murphy, or at least a dog. The same player who has had us scratching our heads for years with some of the bonehead plays he’s made, now has us scratching our heads in disbelief as we question ourselves, “Is this really the same Daniel Murphy?”
The pitching has been nothing short of remarkable. DeGrom, if he wasn’t already, has turned himself into a household name with his three road victories in beating the likes of Kershaw, Greinke and Jon Lester along the way. Harvey, after a rough but gritty opening performance in the NLDS, threw a gem that set the tone for the rest of NLCS. Syndergaard has blown us all away with his 100 MPH fastball and his willingness to do whatever it takes (pitching in relief of Game 5 in the NLDS) for the team to win. Matz, who has made only eight career starts, has kept the Mets in the game in each of his starts and has proved he’s clearly worth of being in the same discussion as the big 3.
What I’m trying to get at is watching a plan came into fruition has made this run all the more special. Sure, it probably took longer than most would have liked. Myself included. And there have been some brutal, and that’s putting it nicely, seasons in recent years. It’s important not to have a short-term memory and think it will always be this good. Remembering those dreadful seasons only adds to the ecstasy that is winning the National League Championship. The champagne showers have washed away many painful memories. Enjoy this weekend. We all return to the edge of our seats/barstools on Tuesday night.
As Jake Taylor said in Major League, “Well, I guess there’s only one thing left to do…Win the whole F’ing thing.”