Heading Toward Friday

Tonight’s game is an important one for the Mets.

Here’s why…

The current NL wildcard standings:

Mets 84-74
Giants 83-74
Cards 82-75

The Mets are off tomorrow. If the Mets lose tonight they will be 84-75. That gives the Cardinals and Giants two opportunities to gain on the Mets because the Mets have an off day tomorrow. Both the Giants and Cardinals have games on Thursday. If they both win tonight and tomorrow, the Mets head into Friday night’s game in Philadelphia tied with St. Louis for the second wild card.

Giants   85-74
Cards     84-75
Mets     84-75

If the Mets win this evening, they would remain the number one wildcard even if both San Fran and St. Louis wins over the next two days.

Mets     85-74
Giants   85-74
Cards     84-75

Because of their better head to head record, the Mets would be the first wildcard even if tied with San Francisco. So anyway it shakes out, heading into Philly on Friday night, the Mets worst case scenario would be in a tie with St. Louis for the second wildcard. I honestly believe this thing is going to go right down to Sunday afternoon and even into Monday and perhaps Tuesday.

Exciting times ahead, we hope.

An Emotional Evening

Perhaps it was the pressure of having to perform in such an emotional game last evening that cost Bartolo Colon early on. And to be honest, given the circumstance, the evening felt right that the Marlins, led by Dee Gordon, won the game.

Yes it was only a game but if it gave the slightest comfort to those mourning the loss of ace right hander Jose Fernandez, then it was right and just for the game to go the way that it did. I was not bothered by the loss and I’m sure most Mets fans were not either. In fact, it was moving to see the Mets players embrace their rivals and do what they could to comfort the Marlin players. The Marlins after the game surrounded the pitcher’s mound in what was one of the more moving tributes I have ever seen. The pennant race and everything associated with the game of baseball paled in comparison to what was happening in the center of the diamond. Everyone was touched and it gave all in attendance and watching on TV a moment of perspective.

So if I can be so bold as to get back to baseball, where do the Mets stand in the race for the wildcard?

The Mets have an 83-74 record after last night’s loss. Realistically a win total of 86 should capture one of the two wildcards. With five games left, the Mets will need to go 3-2 to achieve an 86-76 record. If the Mets are unable to do that, there is a very good chance they will sit out the post season and deservedly so.

The St. Louis Cardinals also lost last evening, a 15-2 drubbing by the Reds. For St. Louis to tie or beat an 86 win total, they will need to go 6-0 or 5-1 respectively with their six remaining games. Running the table would give the Cardinals an 87-75 record and likely the wildcard one title. A 5-1 record would land them at 86 wins and would also give them wildcard one since their intra-division record is better than the Mets.  It is not inconceivable for St. Louis to do this considering their competition. The Reds are bad and the Pirates are virtually out of the race now, and the Cardinals are well… simply the Cardinals. They always seem to figure out how to win.

The Giants who were idle last night will need to go 5-1 or 4-2 over their last six games to get to 87 or 86 wins respectively. They are playing the Rockies at home then the Dodgers who are still striving for the best overall record for home field advantage throughout the playoffs.

Clearly the Mets are in the driver’s seat but that’s what scares me. Sorry but it brings up bad emotions from the end of 2007 when I kept hearing that all the Mets need to do… and guess what, they weren’t able to do anything and they ended up suffering the worst collapse in baseball history. Now no one is going to accuse the Mets of a major collapse this season, not with all they went through on the injury front and with Sandy Alderson having to rebuild the roster almost on a daily basis. But to get this close to the post season and not make it with a handful of games left would be difficult to swallow.

Tonight, the Mets will need to get back on track or they will face a tremendously pressure packed weekend in Philadelphia. The last thing the Mets will want is to have to depend on the Giants or Cardinals losing games.

Obviously we need to keep in my mind how our hopes of the Mets making the post season is dwarfed by the horrendous event over the weekend in the water near Miami. But we all move forward and so does baseball, exactly the way Jose would have wanted it.

Perspective

We live and die with each game. How silly that seems right now.

It’s a game, baseball that is. It has rules. The rules were made up a long time ago. The teams play by the rules. It became a huge business surrounded by talent, a huge fan base, and inordinate sums of money. But make no mistake that it is a game.

The results of any baseball game, no matter how great or bad, never started a war, caused the stock market to crash, or created famine. All these games do is make us feel good or feel bad. It gives us a platform to scream to the moon or shed tears of joy. But ultimately the games fade away to memories and numbers in a record book. The games really don’t mean a hill of beans in the grand scheme of the cosmos.

Yesterday, anyone who’s a baseball fan, anyone who appreciates decent people who help others, anyone who finds it compelling that a very decent young man defected from a communist country, made it to American and became a citizen paused and realized that baseball is just a game.

Yesterday we learned the horrible news that twenty-four year old Jose Fernandez, the ace right handed pitcher of the Miami Marlins was killed in a boating accident. If that doesn’t make anyone realize how insignificant sports truly are, I don’t know what will. Sure, sports are an important part of the American fabric, especially baseball. But it comes from the toy store of life. It puts no food on the table for the fans of the game. And while I will continue to watch the Mets as they attempt to gain a wildcard spot, I will do so with some perspective.

If I could choose between the reality of what happened early Sunday morning or Jose Fernandez pitching a perfect game against the Mets tonight, I would gladly chose the latter. Unfortunately I can’t. None of us can. That’s how permanent the situation is. It’s a reminder that professional athletes are simply human who possess tremendous talent, talents we can only dream of having. But they are just as vulnerable and subject to illness and death as the rest of us.

A tragedy of yesterday’s proportion reminds us all of what is important in life. We need sports. We need baseball. But it is just a game and we all need to keep that in perspective.

No Longer Division Champs

Sean Gilmartin and Rafael Montero put the Mets in such a deep hole tonight (Philles 10, Mets 0) that it would have taken a monumental task to come back. But give the Mets credit. They almost pulled it off losing by a score of 10-8.

I’ve said it before and I will say it again. What the Mets have done this season in spite of all the injuries, the poor season from Travis d’Arnaud and Michael Conforto, the fact that the Mets are still relevant with just seven games left is truly amazing, Even though the night is likely to end with the Mets tied with the Giants for the two wildcards, it is still going to be difficult for the Mets to get to the post season.

The starting pitching has got a lot of holes now as the barrage against Gilmartin and Montero showed early on. The bullpen was outstanding not allowing another run once the fourth inning ended. Unfortunately scoring eight runs was simply not going to get it done tonight.

It’s official, For the sixth time in Mets history, they will not be division champions for the second year in a row. No one is shocked but the math made it certain tonight. The Nationals win over the Pirates plus the Mets loss gives Daniel Murphy, with a sore ass and all, the last laugh as he gets to celebrate for the second straight year as a division champion.

What derailed the Mets this year was unpredictable. The Mets certainly did not repeat because of a lack of effort. They failed because a lack of talent due to so many key players who were lost for all or part of the season. Still it makes me wonder what it will take for the Mets to win back to back division titles? It boggles the mind it has never happened for the Mets with the resources this franchise has.

Since divisional play began in 1969, many teams have had stretches where they won at least two division titles in a row. The Orioles, Athletics, Yankees, Reds, Dodgers, Braves, Royals, Blue Jays, Pirates, Phillies, Indians, Twins, Astros, Cubs, Padres, Cardinals, Tigers, White Sox, Rangers, Angels, and Diamondbacks have done it. The Diamondbacks? Yes, the Diamondbacks. But some how the National League franchise of New York has never been able to win back to back NL East crowns.

The only time the Mets ever went to the post season twice in a row was in 1999 and 2000 as the wild card.  They still have a shot at repeating that feat thanks to there now being two wildcard teams.

The Boston Red Sox and The San Francisco Giants, winners of three World Series championships since 2004 have never won back to back division titles either. So it does show winning the division is no longer a criteria for achieving great success. However, one of these years it would be nice to see the Mets win their division two or even perhaps three years in a row. But with the talent the Nationals have, the up and coming Braves and Phillies, and the Marlins with Giancarlo Stanton and Jose Fernandez, repeating in the National League East is going to be tough for a very long time.

 

The Game of the Year

Because of last night’s spectacular multi-comeback win by the Mets, two things became true. One: the Mets will have a .500 or better record for two consecutive years and two: SNY has another classic game to troll out on freezing December nights.

Last night, I didn’t know who to blame when Terry Collins left Addison Reed in the game for almost the entire eighth inning. I mean, the night before I was screaming at the TV as to why Terry Collins was removing Reed in favor of Josh Smoker. So when Reed gave up a three run bomb to Maikel Franco, what could I think except that maybe Terry was right the night before. I also thought that maybe this really is not the Mets year. In fact, even in the glow of last night’s dramatic win, I still feel it may not be the Mets year. How are the Mets going to patch this all together with a very tired bullpen and a starting rotation no one conceived of just a month ago?

But I have to admit, that was one of the most amazing games I have witnessed in a very long time. Emotions were going back and forth all evening. So when the Phillies regained the lead in the eleventh inning, I said to no one in particular “you see, I knew it”. I knew the Mets would dramatically tie the game in the 9th inning just to torture us a little while longer and ultimately lose the game. Well the worst the Mets would be after the loss was either tied for the second wild card if the Giants were to lose or a half game behind the Cardinals with nine to play if San Fran won.

Then in the eleventh Brandon Nimmo hits a rocket but to close to shortstop Freddy Gravis – one out. Michael Conforto has one of his best at-bats in a long time in that he walked and didn’t swing at pitches that have been getting him out.

Jose, Jose, Jose Jose…

Now I was someone who said good riddance to Jose Reyes when he left after winning the batting championship after 2011. I was tired of his antics and as good a talent as he was, he was not a very smart baseball player. Well perhaps age has helped both me and Jose. Where would this team be without the dynamic he has brought to this Mets team? His single over Gravis’s head gave us all some hope but I had to admit I thought they were doing it again, torturing us that is until the last excruciating out. Any moment, something bad has got to happen. Well it did but for the Phillies, not the Mets.

I don’t know what I enjoyed more. The homer from Cabrera or his bat flip. Either way, what a great game. And I guess no matter what I think in terms of the Mets getting to the post season or not, this team cannot be counted out. My biggest concern is the pitching. Their starters are not going deep and the bullpen is exhausted. My feeling is for the Mets to lock up a wildcard spot, they are going to have to start hitting and scoring some runs. Nine runs last night did the trick because their pitchers gave up eight. Starting tonight, the Mets need to score and score often. Nine to go. Let’s Go Mets!

Ouch!

The “Catch” as it may become to be known, is a microcosm of the Mets season. And my fellow Mets fans please prepare yourselves for the inevitable. Mark my words, the Mets will not be going to the playoffs in 2016.

We had hoped for back to back division titles for the first time in Mets history. Then we figured okay, will settle for back to back post season appearances for only the second time in Mets history. Well ultimately neither will be the case.

This Mets season, like so many in the fifty-five year history of this franchise, is like having a dog. You love that dog but you know it’s not going to end well. Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying the Mets not getting to the post season is as bad as losing a loved pet, no way. But I am saying that this Mets club is not going to the post season regardless of how we wax poetic in regard to them hanging in there all year despite all the setbacks, injuries, and poor play.

Clearly the catch by Endar Inciarte was the knockout punch of a game that was frustrating on so many levels. Inciarte had to take the perfect route at the right speed and jump at the right time to steal what in every other universe was a walk off home run. That play optimized the Mets season and the difference between the up and coming Braves and the Mets who appear to be stuck in neutral. All evening long, we saw Mets batters pop up, ground out, and strike out. The Mets had the early lead by the only method this one dimensional offense knows and that’s the home run. Asdrubal Cabrera (a two run shot) and Rene Rivera (a solo dinger) accounted for the only Mets runs. And had Cespedes’ ball avoided Inciarte’s glove, all runs would have been from homers. Now look, I like home runs as much as any baseball fan but the Mets inability to manufacture runs is killing them right now and will be why this team will be watching the playoffs on TV.

The Mets have scored just twenty-three runs in their last nine games. In those games the Mets have gone 5-4, not bad. But continuing an average of 2.6 runs a game over the final ten games is not going to get the Mets to a wildcard berth. Last night’s game was an encapsulation of the entire season—a great beginning, a frustrating middle, then an exciting ending but one that ultimately ended in a loss, a gut wrenching loss.

And what about the moves that Terry Collins made with the bullpen and pinch hitters? Is he losing it?  I’m starting to think the Mets need a new voice in that dugout. I’m sure Terry’s a great guy but I saw moves last night that were clearly desperate. The most obvious guffaw had to be to remove Addison Reed who has been so dominating against lefties. I know Terry said the red hot Freddie Freeman was 2 for 4 against Reed but Reed deserved the chance over Josh Smoker regardless of how surprising the lefty may be this season.  And had the Mets tied the game in the 9th, the Braves would have had to beat the Las Vegas 51s in extra innings. Terry double switched so many players, it looked like he was managing a Little League team.

Why is every era of Mets baseball, where we are promised a great future, stunted one way or another? Let’s fast forward to the offseason for just a second. What is the Mets plan moving forward? While the Braves, Phillies, and Marlins are on the rise, will the Mets be heading into another abysmal stretch? All of the stud pitchers have had or are going to have surgery. Cespedes will opt out of his contract. Will the real Travis d’Arnaud and Michael Conforto please stand up? Are these two the real deal we saw last year or just another broken promise. Will David Wright ever play baseball again and if he does, will he be any good? Is an older Jose Reyes the answer at short or do the Mets try and resign Cabrera? I thought the Mets were trying to get younger. Now that Dilson Herrera was sent off for a failed right fielder in Jay Bruce, what do the Mets do at second? What about first? The catching situation was supposed to be settled with d’Arnaud and Kevin Plawecki. Both have been horrible. There are so many question marks headed into the off season, my head is spinning.

But there are still ten games left so who knows? Maybe the Mets pull this thing out but it’s not going to be easy. The remaining games are against the Phillies and the Marlins. And like the Braves, they’re not just going to roll over and wait for Mets hitters to knock those home runs over the wall.  Look it’s not like the end of 2007 but it might be pretty painful none the less.

It Will Go Down To the Wire

The Mets, Cardinals, and Giants are deadlocked at 80-71, three teams tied for two wildcard spots. If the season ends like this, it’s a complicated mess to figure out.  A three team tie requires various tie breakers to determine who plays who.

Both the Mets and Cardinals won their respective season series versus the Giants, four games to three. Therefore the Mets and Cardinals would play each other on Monday, October 3rd to determine what team would be designated as the first wild card. The season of the losing team is not over however. The loser would play the Giants on Tuesday, October 4th to determine what team is the second wild card and what team goes home. Then on October 5th, the NL wildcard game would be played at wildcard one’s home field.

For example, if the Mets defeated the Cardinals on October 3rd, they would become wildcard number one and await the winner of the October 4th game between the Cardinals and Giants. If the Cardinals one, they with Jose Molina would come to Citi Field to play the NL Wildcard game on Wednesday, October 5th while the Giants clean out their lockers. Suffice to say, the wildcard playoff would be an interesting little tournament.

If two of the three teams are tied atop the wildcard standings, then it’s head to head to figure out who’s the home team (wildcard 1). If both the Mets and Giants win the wildcards, then the Mets are declared the first wildcard because they won the season’s series. However, if it were the Mets and Cardinals then it would depend on the intra-division records of both teams. The first tie breaker would be declared a tie because the Mets and Cards won three games each against the other. So whoever had the better intra-division record would be declared the first wildcard. At the moment, the Cardinals have the better record (36-30) then the Mets (33-32). If the Giants and the Cardinals are tied at the top… well who cares at that point, the Mets season would be over anyway.

But that is precisely my concern. There is a strong possibility that the Mets will not even make the post season. Suddenly their bats have gone cold again. And if they are counting on these young stand-in pitchers to get them through then we are going to see more nights like last when all of a sudden Robert Gsellman lost it and the Braves took the lead and held on.

I think it’s going to be obvious in the coming days as to whether we can realistically expect the Mets to make it to the post season. If they are hitting homeruns, they will. If not they will be the odd team out. We now have 151 games under the belt for reference. In every stretch where the Mets have done well this season, it happened because of the long ball. This team for right or wrong, simply does not score runs any other way. (Well a bit of an exaggeration but for the most part it is true).

The proverb from ancient Greece is appropriate in Flushing in 2016. You live by the sword, you die by the sword. In this case the sword is the long ball, no question about it.