Thursday, November 3, 2016

A Different Thought

 
And so it was the Cubs that won the 2016 World Series. Just as everyone told you they would. The team that was foisted on society ended up winning the ultimate prize, beating the Cleveland Indians in a classic and harrowing 7th Game to take home the crown for the first time in 108 years.

And, quite honestly, it made me sick.

People seem to have this impression of the Cubs as these loveable losers, but there wasn't much I found loveable about them or their fans. Sure, the same could be said about the fans of most teams, but rooting for the 2016 Cubs seemed to be about as chic as rooting for that other New York team between 1996-2001. You didn't know why you were supposed to other than it seemed like the "cool thing to do."

So I was hoping that some team would be able to step up and stop the Cubs freight train, but nobody did. The Indians pushed them to the limit, going ahead 3 games to 1 and on Sunday night it certainly looked like they were primed to seal the deal, and I was certainly enjoying that, but their luck ran out. The Cubs got it together, rose up and outwilled the Indians in one of those games where neither team wanted to fade quietly into the night.

But for most of the night, this game was headed the way of most of the rest of the series, which wasn't great on a game-to-game basis. Friday's Game 3 was close and so was Sunday's Game 5. Otherwise, none of the games were particularly dramatic. Neither was Game 7, at least not early. Corey Kluber, who'd been heroic in two starts prior, ran out of gas and got hit hard. At 5-1, it seemed like the Cubs were going to coast home. But Aroldis Chapman, himself overworked, also looked spent and out of nowhere, the Indians managed to fight back, tie the game at 6-6 on a Rajai Davis Home Run, and send the game into Twilight Zone Territory. Rain fell, a tarp was pulled on as the game moved to Extra Innings, and then the whole thing turned into a Buzzfeed article. The 2016 World Series is going to be remembered by everyone as this great, classic series, with the underdog Cubs storming back to win it all. You know, basically ignoring the fact that the Cubs were such enormous favorites going back to Opening Day, and the fact that everyone essentially basically spent the entire season patting them on the back and congratulating them over a World Series Championship that they hadn't won. They'd kind of done this last year too, until the Mets punched them in the mouth and put them in their place.

But, this year, they sealed the deal. And if you want to call me bitter, go right ahead, because, you know what, I am. I believed that the Mets, if they'd been given another shot at the Cubs, would absolutely have taken them out. They stoned them last year, and when they played each other during the regular season, a partially-neutered version of the Mets still took them out. Another Armageddon could have gone one way or another, but as I said about a month ago, I wanted to see the Mets have that chance. But it didn't happen. Instead, we had to sit on our hands and watch as the Cubs managed to finish their deal behind one of the major players that prevented the Mets from reaching the goal last year, and if you weren't sick of Ben Zobrist already, well...

And, you know, seeing the Cubs celebrating, and seeing their fans peeing themselves, and seeing hipster idiots running around New York City today wearing Cubs hats kind of got me thinking. Maybe we've been going about this all wrong. Mets fans have by and large been conditioned to approach the season with the old Crash Davis term of Fear and Arrogance. More Fear than Arrogance, to be sure, but a little arrogance. This hasn't worked, since the Mets are now 30 years removed from their last World Series Championship. But the Cubs, who hadn't won a thing since Teddy Roosevelt was President, spent the entire year with their chests puffed out, celebrating the title they believed they'd already won, and though it was enough to make you laugh at them then, you can't do that anymore because they went and did it.

So, yeah, I think we need to start having a different attitude here. If the Fans believe it, let's make the team believe it to. Perhaps all Mets fans need to start acting like we've already won something. Let's be the arrogant pricks walking around, thumbing our noses at every other team. Let's take over opposing team's ballparks and shit-talk their fans. This isn't so crazy. As it's composed now, the Mets are going to have 5 Starting Pitchers that can pistolwhip an opponent at any given time. Noah Syndergaard's just getting warmed up, Matt Harvey's got his head back on straight, Jacob deGrom and Steven Matz are healthy again, Zack Wheeler's gonna be back and that's not even getting to guys like Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo and, of course, Bartolo Colon. Who's going to stop these Mets? The Mets have already proven what they can do when everything clicks, so I think we should just proclaim it now. It's gonna click in 2017. Sing it loud and proud. #MetsIn2017.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Not Buying It

The Chicago Cubs of 2016 feel like something that's been foisted on us, sort of like Taylor Swift, the Cronut, or any dopey meme. Society told you that you have to root for the Cubs. They're the "loveable losers!" They "Haven't won since 1908!" Nobody's actually sure why they're supposed to root for the Cubs, but of course everyone seems to kiss their feet anyway. Since Day 1 this season, it's felt like everyone was supposed to just capitulate to the Mighty Cubs, get out of their way and run for their lives. For a team whose fan base already acted completely beknighted, well, this season they've been beyond obnoxious.

Unfortunately, the Cubs steamroller couldn't be stopped. They broke from the gate like a house on fire and didn't let up. They won the NL Central mostly by formality and by this point the Media Machine took hold and essentially turned the Postseason into the Cubs Coronation. The National League portion of the Postseason was totally unbearable. I liked none of the teams to begin with. The Cubs predictably beating the Giants was of scant consolation after what the Giants did to the Mets. I did enjoy watching the Nationals get beaten by the Dodgers and even more getting to see them lose another deciding game in their home ballpark, but the result of that, a Cubs/Dodgers NLCS, was just one shit show ending and another beginning. I rooted for the Dodgers, not so much because I wanted them to win, but because someone, anyone had to put the Cubs in their place. I would have loved to see the Mets get a crack at them, even in their mostly-neutralized state, but that didn't materialize. Of course, the Dodgers knuckled under themselves, and on Saturday night, Clayton Kershaw caved to the momentum and the Cubs won the pennant. Did you know that this was their first pennant since 1945? Well, even if you had no idea who the Cubs were before Saturday, everyone and their brother made sure you did.

So, now we're on to the World Series, and if you can believe it, there is another team here that the Cubs have to play, and they're a pretty good story in their own right. The intrepid Cleveland Indians, a team I've always had a soft spot for, somehow navigated their way through the American League playoffs in spite of the loss of two of their best pitchers, Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar, and boasting a lineup of few, if any, household names. Compare this to the Cubs, whose entire roster has been shoveled down our throats. But make no mistake, the Indians didn't make it here by accident. This is a good team, led by Terry Francona, who's been in this situation before.

This is of course a matchup of teams with checkered pasts. Did you know that the Cubs haven't won a World Series since 1908? Oh, wait, you did. Everyone told you that 418,614 times over the last week. But the Indians haven't won since 1948, now the second-longest drought. So one of those streaks is going to end this season.

Conventional wisdom has you picking the Cubs. Or did someone just tell you that the Cubs were the team to pick. Whatever it is, I'm picking the Indians. Never mind my disdain for the Cubs or my dislike for their annoying fans. Never mind the fact that I'm still steaming over the fact that the Mets didn't get another crack at them. I just think the Indians are better put together for this kind of a series. They attack early on offense, don't strike out much, and have an absurdly good bullpen, led by Andrew Miller and Cody Allen, that can shorten games and will put pressure on the Cubs. The Cubs are a strikeout lineup which is masked by the fact that they're also a Home Run lineup, and guys like Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant and hotshot newcomers like Javier Baez and Addison Russell who have used this Postseason as their personal coming out parties.

So, yeah. This is going to be a really good series, and I don't think a short series. But if you can wipe away the Cubs Pie that's been shoved in your face all season, you'll be able to look beyond the hype and the insistent assertion that the Cubs are the "Team of Destiny" and see that the Indians are going to win in 7.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

2016 Mets: Resiliency & Character, Part II

OK. Enough dawdling and wallowing in the misery caused by not being able to get to the Giants bullpen. There's a second half of the report card to be done and we must get to it. The Mets used 22 Pitchers over the course of the 2016 season, and if you're surprised and think that's kind of a low number given the amount of injuries, well, you're not the only one. This is down from 26 Pitchers in 2015, and oddly matches the total of 2014. But if it makes you feel better, the 2013 Mets used 29 Pitchers and maybe 4 or 5 of them were any good. The 22 that surfaced for the 2016 Mets were far better than that. Or at least they were when they were healthy.

Thank you. Here's Side 2.

Bartolo Colon - A+
Bartolo will continue to get high grades for as long as he continues to defy logic as far as age and physical conditioning is concerned. There is simply no explanation as to how a 43-year old man who pushes 300lbs can not only win 15 games and lead the team, but also make 33 starts and not miss a single one all season. Viewed as a swing guy at the beginning of the season, Colon wound up being the constant. Never complains, always positive, great mentor for the younger guys. Hit his first Major League Home Run in May in what was one of the great moments of the season. 15-8, 191.2 IP led the team. 3.43 ERA. 128 Ks, 1.210 WHIP isn't great but included only 32BB, and someone who pitches the way he does will give up his share of hits.

Noah Syndergaard - A
Some time last offseason, I was discussing the spate of Pitching the Mets had and I mused that Syndergaard, just based on his performance in the Postseason, could easily be the best of the group. Now, close to a year later, I'd say I was probably right. I would have given Syndergaard this grade even before his outing in the Wildcard game. Yes, he had some uneven moments and a few instances where he simply didn't have it, but that's to be expected when you have a young star Pitcher in his first full season in the Majors. More often than not, however, Syndergaard was brilliant and fully justified the lofty hype placed on him. All business on the mound, totally unafraid to make an ass of himself off the field. Not afraid of the spotlight and slowly gaining the reputation as a big game pitcher. 30 starts, 14-9, 2.60 ERA led the team. 183.2 IP, 1.149 WHIP included 43 walks, 218 Ks also led the team.

Jacob deGrom - B
For a year when he really never looked quite right, deGrom continued to acquit himself as one of the best pitchers in the NL for most of the Summer. His season was slow to get in motion due to some family business, but once that settled and he got his sea legs under him, he was as good as anyone for about 3 months. Still, battled a lot with some lost velocity and mechanical issues that really seemed to bother him more than it should have. But he persevered, which is a testament to just how good a pitcher he is. But, at the end, it caught up with him and his final three outings featured him getting knocked around but good, and he was last seen doing the last thing any Mets fan would want to see him doing and willingly waving for Ray Ramirez. Of course, shortly thereafter, it was announced he was lost with ulnar nerve surgery, which I believe is what knocked Bob Ojeda out of the 1987 season. Not really worried about him going forward since if nothing else, he's proven what he can do with less than his best. 24 starts, 148 IP, disappointing 7-8 record, a 3.04 ERA and 1.203 WHIP more indicative of his late struggles, 36 BB, 143 Ks.

Steven Matz - B
You could probably copy and paste everything I said about deGrom here. After getting bombed off the mound in his first start, ran off two months of total brilliance when I thought he'd run away with the NL's Rookie of the Year. But then stumbled, which I initially chalked up to simple regression, but then it was revealed he had a bone spur issue in his already-troublesome elbow. Gamely tried to pitch through it and reeled off a series of inconsistent starts. Ultimately shut down in August after a shoulder injury flared up after a game in which he took a No Hitter into the 8th inning. Now, the shoulder is healing and the bone spur has been removed. Time to show what you've got. 22 starts, 132.1IP, 9-8, 3.40 ERA/1.209 WHIP, 31 BB, 129 Ks.

Matt Harvey - D
Ugh. Harvey getting cuffed around by the Royals on Opening Night was just a harbinger of a lost season. A year where Harvey struggled with all sorts of mechanical problems ended in July with him getting blasted off the mound by the Marlins and then shelved with a rather disconcerting vascular issue that pitchers haven't exactly had a good track record returning from. Stopped pitching with confidence and often looked confused and uncertain on the mound. Lightning rod for rumors based on his personality and off-the-field behavior, but in reality probably just an insecure headcase that needs to spend some time with a Sports Psychologist. 4-10, 4.86 ERA and 92.2 nasty innings included a 1.468 WHIP, 111 Hits and 76 Ks. 

Logan Verrett -  C-
Woefully unexciting fill-in type who had a great April and was only marginally useful thereafter once the league caught up with him. Was at one point the first option for swing starter but got passed over as the season went on and other options presented themselves. 35 games, 12 starts, 91.2 IP. 3-8 record, 5.20 ERA, 1.560 WHIP. 43 BB, 66 K.

Seth Lugo - B+
There was no particular logic that dictated Lugo would perform as well as he did. A decidedly-fly ball pitcher, this obviously worked for him at Citi Field but he made it translate into success on the road as well. Not a guy on anyone's radar at the beginning of the season but was enormously important down the stretch, winning 3 games and running off a sub-3 ERA in September. Overall 17 games, 8 starts, 64 IP. 5-2 record, 2.67 ERA, 1.094 WHIP. 21 BB, 45 Ks. How this holds up in the future I'm not sure but if nothing else he proved himself a legitimate option in case of emergency.

Robert Gsellman - A-
Lugo and Gsellman might be considered interchangeable just based on how they surfaced with the Mets this year, but while Lugo's sustainability is questionable, I think Gsellman showed he's a bit more the real thing. Consider that his Major League debut involved him getting thrown into a Nieseian Mess in the 1st inning of a key game in St. Louis and all he did was stop the bleeding and allow the Mets to win the game. From there, took a spot in the rotation and ran with it. Yes, I took to calling him "Fake deGrom" because I couldn't pronounce his name. But he showed he can hack it here. 8 games, 7 starts and the 8th may as well have been a start, 44.2 IP, 4-2 record. 2.42 ERA, 1.276 WHIP, 15 BB, 42 K.

Rafael Montero - F
He actually made a couple of relief appearances in April. He wasn't very good and was returned to the Minors rather quickly, so quickly that when he returned in late August to take a start against the Marlins, I'd forgotten he had pitched this season altogether. Made 3 starts and again wasn't especially good. Bloom's off his rose, I'm afraid. 9 games, 3 starts, 0-1, 8.05 ERA, 2.053 WHIP, 19 IP, 16 BB, 20 K.

Jeurys Familia - A-
I'm not including his performance in the Wildcard game in this evaluation. Frankly, I'm more inclined to chalk that up to his having a bad night at the worst possible time. Without Familia and the performance he had this season, the Mets probably aren't in that position in the first place. After emerging as a star closer last season, Familia improved on himself this season, not blowing a Save until late July and in several instances pulling himself out of his own hot water. Still, prone to off nights here and there and sometimes he's not quite game enough to fix his own messes. Also one of those closers with a weird non-Save Situation Thing that I can't figure out. But, all that being said, after so many years of dealing with 2nd rate guys filling the Closers role, it's nice to finally have someone with legitimate teeth coming in for the 9th inning. 78 Games, 77.2 IP. 3-4, 2.55 ERA, 1.210 WHIP, 31 BB, 84 Ks, 51 Saves set a new club record.

Addison Reed - A
I'm not sure where this season came from, I know Reed closed games with the White Sox and has had some prior success, but he did essentially arrive with the Mets as a castoff last year. I'm not complaining, though. Reed took off with the 8th inning role real early in the season and never looked back. In spite of some occasional hiccups, steadied games and more often than not locked down games in front of Familia. 80 games, 77.2 IP, 4-2, 1.97 ERA, 0.940 WHIP included an eye-popping 13 BB and 91 Ks. And 1 Save.

Hansel Robles - C+
Robles is, as far as I can tell, the antithesis of a relief pitcher. Has great stuff but is a goddamn headcase and you can never tell whether he has it from one day to the next. Would follow up games where he was totally lights out with games where he'd walk 4 guys and give up 3 runs. Very little in-between. Could stand to learn a little more maturity as well, or at least not let the sophomoric behavior of his opponents get in his head. 68 games, 77.2 IP (nice grouping), 6-4, 3.48 ERA, 1.352 WHIP included some bad, 36 BB, and some good, 85 Ks. Also 1 Save.

Jerry Blevins - B
Fine job in general as a lefty specialist. Had some rough moments but also looked really good for most of the season. 73 Games, 42 IP, like a true lefty specialist. 4-2, 2.79 ERA, 1.214 WHIP, 15 BB, 52 K, and even picked up 2 Saves.

Jim Henderson - C-
Started out looking like he was going to be the season's big surprise after a strong start, but ultimately showed he couldn't be depended on multiple days in a row, and then got hurt, which was disconcerting after he'd missed two seasons with major shoulder problems. Came back and was mostly pedestrian. Sort of got lost in a crowded bullpen. 44 Games, 35 IP, 2-2, 4.37 ERA, 1.400 WHIP, 14 BB, 40 K.

Antonio Bastardo - F
Brought in to be a lefty specialist or a swing guy, I guess. Absolutely excruciating to watch. Worked at a pace to rival Trachsel or Matsuzaka. Traded back to Pittsburgh after spending the month of July getting blasted. 41 Games, 43.1 IP, 4.74 ERA, 1.420 WHIP, 21 BB, 46 K.

Erik Goeddel - D
Goeddel is just one of these guys who "Trades high" because he has "Great stuff" but routinely can never get it together on the Major League level. Feels like it's always something with him. I could see him getting either non-tendered, pawned off on some other team, or given one more shot but I have no idea what to expect. 36 games, 35.2 IP, 4.54 ERA, 1.318 WHIP, 14 BB, 36 K. 

Gabriel Ynoa - D+
Seemed a bit overwhelmed at times. One decent start in an emergency situation, followed up by a start where he was pulled after the 2nd inning. 10 games, 3 starts, 18.1 IP, 1-0, 6.38 ERA, 1.800 WHIP. 7 BB, 17 Ks.

Sean Gilmartin - F
Feh. 17.2 IP, 7.13 ERA, rest of numbers won't tell you anything redeeming. 

Fernando Salas - A
Appeared in one of those Waiver Trade deadline deals from the Angels. Fine work in a variety of roles. 17 games, 17.1 IP, 2.08 ERA, 0.635 WHIP, 19 Ks and actually didn't walk anyone in his time here. 

Josh Smoker - B
Liked very much what I saw out of him. Fearless, hard throwing guy who seems to have a decent head for pitching. Numbers kind of look uglier than they should due to one bad outing. Probably better than a specialist particularly since he was markedly better against righthanders than lefties. 20 games, 15.1 IP. Won 3 games, 4.20 ERA, 1.304 WHIP, 4 BBs, 25 Ks. 

Jon Niese - C
This is another one of those instances where I'm giving someone a better grade than they deserve for snarky reasons. See, Niese was supposed to not be our problem anymore. The Mets traded him away, he made some obnoxious sour grapes comments as he was leaving, and he was now toiling (poorly) for Pittsburgh. But somehow he ended up back here, with a massive egg on his face and the same old noodnick we remembered him being. He started in the bullpen and then had to start a couple of games and was perfectly terrible, pitching to a 11.45 ERA in 11 innings that encompassed 6 games and 2 starts. But in that second start, as he was in the process of handing a 3-run lead back to the Cardinals, he got hurt, left the game, and was never seen again, and as a result the Mets instead got 7 starts from Gsellman, which ended up working out a lot better for them than 7 starts out of Niese would have.

Josh Edgin - D
Convinced he's a lost cause and probably never recovered mentally from that Home Run he gave up to Ryan Howard 4 years ago. Returned from the Big Boy Surgery, yes, but was eminently hittable. 16 games, 10.1 innings, 5.23 ERA, 1.548 WHIP, 6BB, 11K. Take it or leave it. 

And, of course,
MANAGER
Terry Collins - B+
Over the years, I've become more and more supportive of Collins, and really, I'm not sure there's a single more divisive person involved with the Mets right now. Mets fans either like Collins or they can't stand him, and it's a pretty good barometer of just how smart that Mets fan is. If, like me, you realize that a manager is only going to be as good as the players he's got, you realize Collins' value. For 4 years, Collins had virtually nobody on the team and still managed to keep them moderately competitive for parts of seasons before harsh reality set in. Then, last year, he took the Mets from out of nowhere to the World Series, and this season took a team that was just decimated, kept them together, kept them playing hard, got meaningful contributions out of guys fresh off the bus and got them to a Wildcard game. I know that some of this is beyond Collins (and guys like Frank Viola deserve a wealth of credit as well). And I know that Collins has his limits tactically, but the moments I could call a move he's made truly stupid are pretty rare. People may not like it, but a Manager's job isn't to please the fans. As such, the more I started to hear fans yell and scream for Wally Backman because he was going to "Show some fire" and "kick some ass" and "flip over tables," and because he's a beloved '86 Met, the more I began to dislike Backman and support Collins even more. I know that some fans I've spoken with were at least curious as to what Backman could bring to the team, but in reality, he probably wouldn't have been much better than Collins. I had no sense as to whether he'd be an actual improvement. If the other option were someone of the Bobby Valentine ilk, I could see it. The telling thing for me about Backman was that if people really felt he was cut out to be a Major League Manager, someone would have hired him years ago, and that never happened. Even the Marlins, a team who's entire existence is based around pissing off the Mets, never hired him, and they have a new Manager every two years.

Point here is, I think that Mets fans ought to be a little more appreciative of the job Collins has done here over his 6 seasons. It's been far from perfect but at the same time he's kept teams together and kept them playing hard, and even in instances when it seemed like things were completely hopeless.

So, that's that for 2016. Hope you've enjoyed the summation. Now, we have to sit back and watch what should be a completely unbearable NLCS, and I'm saying that before we even know who the Cubs are going to face. We'll always have last year, though.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Static and Silence

Sometimes, all the superstitions, and good karma, and good omens and signs that you try to build up prior to a Baseball game can be no match for the irrepressible talent of the participants in the game itself. We got a bitter taste of this first hand last night as the Mets fell to Madison Bumgarner and the San Francisco Giants 3-0, losing the Wildcard game and rather abruptly ending their season for 2016.

I've been to more than plenty Postseason games over my years with the team, but I'm not sure I'd ever been to a game quite like this. I am, generally, nervous before these games, and I know I'm not the only one. But going in to Citi Field last night, I was a different kind of nervous. Generally, it's more like the need to jump around and release energy and scream a lot. Like last season against the Dodgers. Last night...I'm not sure. It was pretty close to legitimate fear, and probably because the Mets were going into a win-or-go-home game against a guy whose raison d'ĂȘtre is coming up big in these kind of games.

That was the mood in the audience all night. At introductions, they were roaring. As the game progressed and Noah Syndergaard matched Bumgarner zero for zero, everyone was with it. Fans were standing and jumping from the player introductions straight through the middle of the 1st inning. Up on every 2-strike pitch. Up for entire innings. I know. I have the knots in my calves to prove it.

This was a crowd of 44,747 that literally had their assholes tighten up every time a pitch was delivered, and I mean this was legitimate. Whether it was Syndergaard or Bumgarner, each time they wound up, 44,000 sphincters collectively went SHOONK! The entire stadium would go silent to the point where you could hear Noah's heat crack into Rene Rivera's glove all the way up in Section 509, row 16.

There is no shame in how this game played out. Bumgarner's track record speaks for itself and while the Mets approach early in the game—to be aggressive and try to attack him early—was well-intentioned, in execution it ultimately spelled disaster. Bumgarner sliced through the Mets on a paltry 21 pitches through the first 3 innings, and though the Mets did what they could to wait him out from there, they'd already played into his hands.

I'm not sure I could properly put into words just how good Noah Syndergaard was in this game. You can anoint guys, and give them a persona just based on potential, but as a capper to his first full season in the Majors, I'm not sure you could throw a much better game than Syndergaard did short of going the full 9 innings. There were days I'd watched Harvey go out and pitch like he had smoke coming out of his ears, and that's how Syndergaard looked in this game. Everything was working from the 1st inning. By the 6th, he still hadn't allowed a hit, but I don't know if anyone was cognizant or even cared about that—we just wanted him to keep striking guys out and keep the Giants scoreless. Only when Denard Span singled with 2 out in the 6th did the Giants notch one in the H column, and that went nowhere as Brandon Belt's horrifically scary-looking fly ball was run down by Curtis Granderson at the Center Field fence, sending everyone into a frenzy and eliciting screams of "Endy Chavez, JR!" from me, among others.

Syndergaard ended up with 10 strikeouts against a lineup that doesn't strike out all that much, which only illustrates just how on he was...but also illustrates the fragility of Pitching in this day and age, because by time he hit the 7th inning—and cracked 100 pitches—he was out of steam, and it wasn't really up for much debate. We'd already gone through sending the guy back out there and the ensuing chaos, but there wasn't any particular good use in sending Syndergaard back out there if he was starting to tire out. Particularly when you have Addison Reed and Jeurys Familia specifically to work these innings. Reed did his job, in spite of getting hosed by Mike Winters' erratic strike zone. Familia came in for the 9th and there was no reason to think he wouldn't do his job as well...

And that, of course, is where the clock struck midnight on the Mets for 2016. The Mets normally reliable closer had a bad night where he couldn't find the plate. He left a pitch up to a 8th-place hitting journeyman. The air was sucked right out of the building. Bumgarner came back out and finished what he started. And that, my friends, was that.

These Postseason games at Citi Field have sort of turned into a total Shit Show as far as egress is concerned, but maybe that's not a bad thing. It is helpful for me, at least, and George as well, to slowly exit the stadium after a game like this, process it all, and then start to get over it. Most people, I'd like to think, used this time to do that, but I think a game like this brought out some of the best, but also some of the worst in Mets fans. Some were anointing Familia as the new Benitez. Some blamed Terry Collins for not leaving Syndergaard in, or not taking Familia out, or using Eric Campbell and Ty Kelly as pinch hitters in the 8th inning. Or because they stepped in gum. Or Yoenis Cespedes for not hitting. Or whatever. I can understand that just making it to this Postseason Arena is enough to make you greedy, because if the Mets could overcome what they had to overcome just to get to this point, well, hell, let's see how far we can go. Especially on the heels of 2015. It makes it very easy to lose the perspective of just how miraculous it was to get her altogether. If 2015 was amazing because the team had a young core that gelled really quickly and sort of overachieved, I think 2016 is just as amazing because all the young core guys (and several other not-so-young guys) got hurt and the team basically had to rebuild itself on the fly...and still managed to make it to a Wildcard game. Blame blame whoever you want, everyone involved deserves some credit for keeping this thing going to this point.

But I am disappointed. By the 9th inning, I had visions of a walkoff, and pulling my hood over my head, wrinkling my face into a scowl and in my best Bill Belichick voice mutter "On to Chicago." And I was looking forward to having the opportunity to watch the Mets ruin the Cubs' Dream Season. But that's not going to happen, and that's really a shame. I know the Mets were undermanned and overmatched, but they managed to carry on.

There's ultimately a lot of pride that Mets fans should take away from a loss like this. First of all, as I said, the fact that they got to a Wildcard game in the first place is incredible given that they were trotting out 4th options in many places most games down the stretch. But these guys play, and more importantly they've now had that crucible. I said it before but the depth the Mets have developed in certain areas is pretty impressive all things considered. It's a privilege to be able to play in this Postseason arena and teams that make it every year might take this for granted, but this is only the second time the Mets have made it this far in consecutive years, and really, if you look at everything that's gone on this past season, between injuries and bad luck and more injuries, just think about what would have happened if the Mets were healthy all year. Hearsay, yes, but the way this roster is put together right now, is it so outlandish to think about 3 Postseason years in a row? Overly optimistic, perhaps, and it's very much a long way away from now, but that's how this team has been set up.

So, that's it for the Mets in 2016, about a month sooner than I would have liked. But, that's life on the Lower East Side. This year, I gave Citi Field my traditional farewell pound and said to the old joint that I'll see you again on April 3rd, 2017. When we'll start this story over. And hopefully, we'll get it right.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Fight Test

I realize I've promised Part II of my season report card but those take a long time and the Mets have a game now. So it will have to wait, win or lose.

I've been to 11 Postseason games (of which I consider a separate entity from the 400 Regular Season games I attended), 6 of which came just last year--the benefits of being a ticket plan holder--and of those 11, 4 of those had the potential to be series-ending games, and 3 of them ended actually being series-ending games. Wednesday night will be #12, and of course the first time that I'll be attending a game where one team's season is guaranteed to be over.

I find it interesting to look back on these numbers and figures and potential results of things to see if there's some sort of pattern going forward. There really isn't any that I can look at here. Especially when you consider tonight's game is, for all intents and purposes, a 1-game Series, winner take all. 

The only way to look at this game, I suppose, is the same way teams have a tendency to play out most Playoff games, which is to do everything that's absolutely necessary to win that game and then worry about tomorrow, tomorrow. In this case, I suppose it's do whatever you can and then a little bit more, because unlike losing the first game of a Division Series or Championship Series if this one slips by, it's see you next April.

But that's the fragility of the Postseason and in particular the fragility of being in a Wildcard situation. It's not like 1999 and 2000 when the Mets won the Wildcard and got to hop right in to the NLDS. Now, they have to get through the Giants and Madison Bumgarner who you might have heard has a decent track record in the Postseason. This hasn't been shoved down our throats at all. Nor has the fact that the Giants have a whole Even Year thing going.

This is mostly antimatter for me; the Mets have plenty working for them, too. For one, the team as a whole was the hottest team in Baseball over the last 6 weeks of the season, a skein that started while the Mets were playing the Giants out in San Francisco. The Mets also have their answer to Bumgarner pitching in Noah Syndergaard. True, Syndergaard doesn't have the track record of his counterpart, but it's not as though he hasn't been in this arena before.

These are two pitchers you really don't want to fuck around with. Last time Bumgarner was seen in the Postseason he was pitching 5 innings of shutout relief in the 7th game of the World Series on 2-days' rest. Syndergaard's last dance saw him buzz Alcides Escobar with a 97-MPH fastball under his chin before leading the Mets to a win. And yet, both could be had on the wrong day. The Giants had a game earlier this year where they ran him to death. The Mets ambushed Bumgarner one night in San Francisco.

The focus lies on the starting pitchers here so much so that we're not paying attention to the other players in this game. The Giants would do well to try and make contact, get on base and distract Syndergaard. The Mets best shot is to try and make Bumgarner waste a lot of pitches early in the game and get into the Giants' awful bullpen. Neither may happen. Both could happen. That's Baseball.

The only sure thing is I won't sleep much tonight and I'll be at Citi Field around 8pm to watch this all unfold.