Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The Pantheon Year

I didn't watch the Mets game earlier tonight. They lost to the Phillies and for the first time in quite a while the Mets lost a game and I really don't care. It doesn't matter right now. The Mets won the NL East last weekend and quite honestly I need to keep talking about it.

I have to think back to how I felt coming in to the season. I know I talked a lot around here about the Mets making a run at the Wildcard and even went so far as to pick them to go as far as the NLCS. But that certainly wasn't a prevailing thought among Mets fans. Among "experts," the Mets were a total afterthought. Nobody wanted to take them seriously. So, basically, the Mets job was to go out and make people take them seriously.

That's not to say that this was a pleasure ride. Sure, the Mets broke from the gate like a house afire and rode the wave of an early winning streak for as long as they could. But after losing pieces like David Wright and Travis d'Arnaud, well, you could see what happened. The Mets could pitch, that was never in doubt. But more often than not the great pitching was wasted behind a bunch of Quad-A bats and Daniel Murphy. Lucas Duda found himself an island unto himself and pressed into a number of bad habits as his strong finish of 2014 looked like a generation ago. Granderson ran hot and cold. Murphy kept being Murphy.

And nobody seemed to embody the struggles of the team like Wilmer Flores. I was, of course, all-in on Flores last winter, when everyone seemed ready to jump ship on him before he'd ever really had a chance to prove himself. And sure, maybe Tulowitzki would have been a difference maker but at the time the deal didn't make sense because we needed to see what the Mets had. This wasn't quite the right time to make a reactionary move and for years that's been Sandy Alderson's strength (and was Omar Minaya's downfall). At no point was a trade made simply for the sake of making a trade. Trades were made with a particular purpose. So Flores got the Shortstop job after being first told he couldn't play Shortstop and at times he played like he couldn't play Shortstop. But he also hit and in many instances came up with some key hits, and Game-winning hits, and a bit of pop too. However, as the offense stagnated, so did Flores and he eventually became about as boring as everyone else, and as the Trade deadline loomed and the Mets were starting to make some moves to try to go for it, Flores was deemed expendable.

We, of course, all know what happened from there. My Father passed away on July 28th, Tuesday, and totally flipped my life upside down. I was already having a pretty miserable week. On July 29th, Wednesday, Baseball was probably the farthest thing from my mind and I only clicked on the game to try to give myself a little bit of a distraction and I ended up walking into the eerie chaos of a lost game and a brewing saga. I had no idea a trade had even gone down until I heard Gary and whoever was doing the game with him talking about it and while the thought of getting Carlos Gomez was certainly exciting, I wasn't thrilled with giving up on Flores, or Zack Wheeler, who'd proved himself soft-spoken but emotional in his own right. Only later did I see Flores on the field, in tears over having his life, in the Baseball sense, flipped upside down. But the trade didn't happen. And when a trade did ultimately happen, Flores wasn't involved. And all of a sudden, Wilmer Flores turned into the Mets #1 Cult Hero. Here was a guy who worked his ass off to try to make the Mets a better team, and a guy who only wanted to be here. Not in the Majors. HERE. After years of being nothing, and players running away from here, now we had a guy who wanted to be here so badly he cried on the damn field. For the first time in a few days, I crawled out of my self-imposed cave and put on that Friday night game. And after getting standing ovations all night, there was Wilmer Flores coming up in the 12th inning and coming through with yet another game-winning hit, just like he'd been doing all season. And there I was jumping up off the couch and pumping my fist. Not to belabor the point that Flores' Home Run was the biggest hit of the season for the Mets, but that brought the Mets back and it brought me back. And from that point the Mets haven't looked back.

So, the crest of that wave from the Flores Home Run has brought the Mets here, to the 6th Division Championship in team history. It's kind of snuck up on everyone, probably because it all came together so quickly. Prior to that week, there was no particular indication that the 2015 Mets would come anywhere close to living up to the expectations I'd laid out for them way back in Spring Training. Even last week, it seemed like everyone was just waiting for something horrible to happen because after 8 straight seasons where basically everything that happened was horrible, we were basically conditioned to expect nothing less. But nothing horrible happened. The Mets kept correcting themselves, avoided long losing streaks and took advantage of the team behind them, the team they were supposed to be chasing, having a total, unadulterated meltdown. For once, the Mets were the team that came out of nowhere. Maybe for once, the Mets are The Hot Team. We'll find that out next week. But I said it two days ago and I'll say it again here: as strange as it may seem, we can't avoid the truth. 2015 is in the Mets Pantheon.

No comments: