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One Game Season

It is the ninth time in Mets history that they will go to the post season, the third time as a wildcard. It is the first time the Mets will be a wildcard in the era of the two wildcards and a one game elimination. Therefore, this season’s post season appearance could be the shortest in Mets’ history if they fail to defeat the San Francisco Giants tomorrow night at Citi Field.

To this point, the shortest post season the Mets ever had was in 1988 when they lost the NL League Division Series (LDS) to the Los Angeles Dodgers in seven games. That was in the era prior to the wildcard and the League Division Series (LDS). In all other cases besides 1988, the Mets had always advanced past the first round. In 1969, 1973, and 1986, the Mets advanced to the World Series after winning the LCS. Then in 1999 and 2000 the Mets won the LDS and advanced to the LCS. In 2000, they went all the way to the World Series. In 2006, the Mets won the LDS and advanced to the LCS ultimately losing to the Cardinals in game seven. Last year the Mets made it to the World Series.

So in eight post season appearances, the Mets have enjoyed longevity, a minimum of seven games in 1988. Tomorrow night the Mets face the possibility of playing in one post season game then going home. And for me, considering this unlikely of seasons where so many were injured and lost for the duration, I won’t be terribly upset if the Mets do not advance. Of course I will be disappointed but I already consider this season a successful one for the Mets. For it demonstrated how strong the organization is that they could bring up so many prospects and continue to compete. The club has heart and a lot of it. When you consider the pitchers that should be back healthy next season, the Mets look to be have a bright future.

As much as Terry Collins can drive me crazy with his in-game moves and use of the bullpen, he has to get credit for keeping this ship on course. The Mets could have easily fallen apart back in August but they kept it together. Once they got the top of the order back in the lineup, the Mets took off on an improbable 27-13 run to end the season. They were five and half games back of the second wild card and made up six and a half games to host the NL Wildcard game—truly remarkable. If Terry Collins is not manager of the year then they should dispose of the award.

Facing Madison Bumgarner is not going to be a picnic tomorrow evening. And the Giants will have Jeff Samardzija and Johnny Cueto on the roster to compensate for a bullpen that is not so good. Looking at those pitchers, it’s hard to think the Mets can prevail. But for some reason, my gut is telling me the Mets are going to win this game. Certainly I may be wrong and I’m not predicting the Mets will win. It’s just a feeling I have that they will. Every time this season when you think the Mets are done, they surprise and bounce back so why not in this game? But again, whether they do or not, for me, this has been an enjoyable season. The Mets will have nothing to be ashamed of if they come up short and do not progress past Wednesday. Considering what this team went through in 2016, it’s amazing they are in the post season. But I guess that is why they are called the Amazins.

I have railed a number of times about the Mets not making the post season in back to back seasons save once. So in fairness I have to acknowledge that they’ve done it again if even only for the second time. The real possibility exists that the Mets may actually be able to go to the post season for three consecutive seasons. But that’s a long way off. For now, it’s a one game season. If the Mets win it’s off to Chicago for a rematch with last year’s opponent in the NLCS. The Mets swept the Cubs in four straight, clinching their fifth National League pennant. If the Mets lose tomorrow, then it will be time to access what the club does moving forward into 2017.

Regardless of the outcome of the NL Wildcard game, it will be exciting and Citi Field will be one rocking ballpark for a few hours at least.

 

Magic Is One

Update – The Mets took care of business this afternoon at Citizen’s Bank Park in Philadelphia. Bartolo Colon pitched five innings and got the win as the Mets defeated the Phillies by a score of 5-3. The win clinches the top wild card spot regardless of what the Cardinals or Giants do this afternoon or tomorrow. It is the second time in franchise history that the Mets will go to the post season in back to back seasons. No tie breakers will be necessary. The National League wildcard game will be at Citi Field Wednesday night at 8PM. Terry Collins becomes the Mets’ third manager to take the Mets to the playoffs twice. Davey Johnson (1986, 1988) and Bobby Valentine (1999, 2000) were the other two skippers to do it.

Considering how this team was devastated with setbacks all season long, regardless of what happens in the one and done game on Wednesday- this Mets team has to be consider one of the best in franchise history. They are certainly the team with the most heart.

Original Post – By hook or crook, the Mets will play ball after Sunday. Now it could be a play-in game on Monday or even a play-in game on Monday and Tuesday. Or it might be the National League Wildcard game on Wednesday. But the fact is they did it. In spite of all the injuries, many that were season ending, and others that required extended stays on the disabled list, these New York Mets made a remarkable rebound since the end of August and are one win away, or one St. Louis loss away, to becoming the top wildcard.

I hope the Mets are not counting on the Giants and/or the Cardinals to give them any help. The Mets have the ultimate power in these final two games. Win just one and they control their destiny. With one win, they would host the wildcard game at Citi Field on Wednesday. They’ve come too far to have this come down to play-in game scenarios. The team seems focused and is ready to get this done. Okay so here are today’s scenarios.

Because all three teams, left with life in the NL wildcard race, won last evening, they are all separated by three games. The Mets on top, a game ahead of the Giants, two games ahead of the Cardinals. If the Mets win this afternoon, they would clinch the number one wildcard. If the Mets were to lose this afternoon, and both the Giants and Cardinals win, the worst scenario, then nothing would be clinched. In this case, the Giants and Mets would be tied for the wildcard with the Cardinals still a game behind. If the Cardinals and Mets lose and the Giants win, then the Cardinals would be eliminated with the two other teams tied. Both the Mets and Giants would be the wildcard winners but seeding will not be clear until after tomorrow’s games. If only the Cardinals win today, they would be tied with the Giants for the second wild card with the Mets still in the top position. This scenario would set up the possibility of a three way tie after Sunday’s games.

There is a lot of complication here. The Mets can eliminate all of this by winning this afternoon’s game. Bartolo Colon has the task of getting it done. I’m sure he’s excited about getting the opportunity to finish things up today. There is no more experienced pitcher on the Mets staff than Bartolo. He always remains calm regardless of the pressure. The Mets can feel it and I’m sure they are chomping at the bit to get on the field this afternoon. Let’s Go Mets!

The Final Most Important Weekend of the Season

Being a Mets fan all of my life, I have one question. How can the Mets actually blow this thing?

The good news is there is only one scenario for the Mets to completely lose out on baseball after Sunday. If the Mets lose the last three games in Philadelphia and both the Giants and Cardinals win their remaining four games, the Giants would win wildcard 1 with an 87-75 record. The Cardinals would be wildcard 2 with an 86-76 record. The Mets with a record of 85-77 would then go back to Citi Field and clean out their lockers. Again, that’s the only scenario where the Mets would be done for the season after Sunday.

Suppose the Mets manage to win one game this weekend?

If that were to happen, the Mets would finish the season with an 86-76 record. Not enough to win wild card 1 if the Giants and Cardinals win out. But it would tie them with St. Louis for wildcard 2 while the Giants would be wildcard 1. In this scenario, the Mets would play the Cardinals either in St. Louis or New York on Monday to determine wild card 2. The location would depend on the second tie breaker. The first tie breaker, head to head, both clubs are even with three victories each. The second tie breaker is their intra-divisional record. Currently the Cardinals are 38-34 within the NL Central while the Mets are 38-35 in the NL East.  Both teams finish the season within their respective divisions.  The winner would then head to AT&T Park for the NL wildcard game on Wednesday.

Hopefully the Mets will win the series in Philly, at least two games to one. This is the best scenario in the event that both San Francisco and St. Louis win their last four. If the Mets were to win two games, it would eliminate the Cardinals even if they won four in a row. The Giants would tie the Mets with both teams having an 87-75 record. However, the Mets would be declared the wildcard 1 winner because of the head to head tie breaker. The Mets won four of seven games against San Francisco during the regular season. The wildcard game would then be played next Wednesday, October 4, 8:00PM at Citi Field.

Of course all of these scenarios presume the Cardinals and Giants are not going to lose between now and Sunday. Both clubs are in action tonight while the Mets are idle. The Giants conclude their series with Colorado at home before the Dodgers go to San Francisco for the final series. The Dodgers still have incentive to win. At the moment, the Dodgers are the third seed and will play Washington in the first round. The Nats lead LA by two for home field advantage so you know the Dodgers will be trying their best. Plus there’s the Dodgers-Giants rivalry. There is nothing the Dodgers would like more than to knock the Giants out of the playoffs.

The Cardinals finish their four game set with Cincinnati this evening before the Pirates travel to Busch Stadium. The Bucs have been eliminated so they have nothing to play for. But because the Cardinals do and Pittsburgh is a division rival, I would hope the Pirates try hard to be a spoiler.

As for the Mets, well they go to Philadelphia to play a team that has been awful over the last week. The Mets had that dramatic come from behind win on Asdrubal Cabrera’s walk off three run homer a week ago. Then beat them 10-5 the next night before the Phillies almost blew a 10-0 lead on Saturday. The Mets destroyed the Phils on Sunday 17-0. Now the Phillies have lost the first two to Atlanta in a three game set that concludes tonight.

Clearly the Mets are in control of their destiny and have to be odds on favorite to win a wildcard if not the top wildcard. But given the history of this club to blow things (1998, 2007, and 2008 come to mind), what Met fan can relax until the numbers truly indicate a post season berth?

The difference this season though is the roster. This group has really turned it up a notch since September began. In fact, September has been the Mets’ best month of the season with 16 wins with one more to play before the calendar roles over to October. Jay Bruce has started to hit now. Cabrera continues to rake and Jose Reyes has been more than anyone could have imagined. Where would this team have been without Reyes? Even Michael Conforto seems to have sanded the rust off and has contributed when given an opportunity. Also, what a gift for the Mets to get back Lucas Duda and Juan Lagares before the end of the regular season. Then there’s the pitching. Can you imagine what we would have said if we were told back on April 3 that the rotation heading into the final crucial series of the season would be Noah Syndergaard, Bartolo Colon, Seth Lugo, and Robert Gsellman? Who? Yet these pitchers have performed brilliantly.

I’m fighting my instincts and am going to work hard to be positive. Regardless of the outcome, with all the injuries and lost players of this season, for the Mets to be at the precipice of the post season is truly remarkable. Let’s enjoy this.

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.