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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!


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.

I Don’t Want To Sound Any Alarms But…

The Mets are back to not scoring runs. Even though the Mets have won three of their last five games, they have failed to score more than three runs per in the process. In fact they have scored three runs per game for the last four games since being shut out by the Nationals 1-0 on Wednesday. The Mets swept the Twins, baseball’s worst team by only scoring three runs in each of the three games. You can thank the pitching staff for that sweep. With twelve games to go and a one game lead as the first wildcard, this would not be a good time for the Mets to go into one of those stretches where it’s home run or no run.

Three runs might have been enough on a night where Syndergaard is dominant. That was not the case last evening when after a ten pitch first inning, Noah was off, plain and simple. And the Mets’ bats could not do much against a pitcher who has struggled and was still looking for his first win. The Mets have a habit of making a young pitcher who hasn’t quite figured it out look like Cy Young.

Now in fairness, the Mets did hit some balls on the screws in last evening’s game. Unfortunately they found gloves; including Matt Kemp’s who made two tremendous catches in one inning. However, the Mets did lose and not that we can expect them to win every game the rest of the way, they need to turn it back around tonight. The Cardinals, having defeated the Rockies last night, have won three in a row and are now tied with the Giants as the second wild card.

There are 12 games left, six at home and six away. If the Mets go 6-6, they will finish the season with an 86-76 record. Will that be enough to make it to the post season? Hard to say but it would require that the Cardinals and Giants go 7-5 to tie or 8-4 to beat out the Mets. With the teams the Mets play vs. the clubs the Giants and Cardinals have to play, the Mets are in the driver’s seat. Unless of course, it’s going to be one of those run scoring droughts we’ve seen too much of this season. If that’s the case then the next two weeks could become quite painful.

In Sunday’s game, a Mets win, twice they left the bases loaded. They could have put the game away early and they did not.  Curtis Granderson bailed the Mets out Saturday night when it looked like the Mets were surely going to lose in the 11th inning. Two of the Mets three runs were produced by solo homeruns. Friday night that was the case as well. Back to back solo shots by Reyes and Cabrera produced two of the three runs. There was only one homer Sunday, a solo shot by T. J. Rivera who pulled off a two run dinger last night for two of the Mets three runs against the Braves in the losing opener.

Would it be the end of the world if the Mets do not make the playoffs? No, not really. Considering the season the Mets have had, overloaded with injuries and to key players, just being in contention is more than we could have asked for. But now that the Mets have had this great run, and have gotten themselves in position to be the top wildcard, it would hurt a lot if the Mets did not make the post season. But falling short does remain a possibility.

The Mets score when they hit home runs but usually no one is on base.  If it remains that way over the last twelve games, things could become quite difficult heading down the stretch.

The Final Home Stand

Well, it’s not the end of the world that the Mets lost the series to the Nationals but it is an important indicator. Realistically for Mets fans, all we can hope for is that the Mets get to the post season as one of the two wildcards.

We may have to be happy with the fact that the Mets could simply make the post season for two consecutive seasons and that’s all. Clearly the Mets, with all the injuries this season, may come up a bit short against some of the league’s elite teams. The only other time the Mets went back to back to the post season was in 1999 and 2000. Both years, the Mets won the wild card. This season, if the Mets make it, they will have done so by being the division winner the first year, and a wildcard the second unless the unthinkable were to happen and the Nationals tank—a very unlikely scenario.

Of course I’m making an assumption and that is that the Mets will be one of the two wildcards. There is still a lot of baseball left regardless of what team has the weaker schedule. Over the final sixteen games remaining, the Mets play teams with a collective winning percentage of .425. Meanwhile the Cardinals play teams whose percentage of wins is .512 and the Giants play teams with a .497 percentage. So clearly the Mets play teams far worse than the ones the Giants and Cardinals have to play.

Let’s look at head-to-head records. The Mets play the Twins (0-0), Phillies (7-5), Braves (9-7), and Marlins (10-6), a total of 26-18. The Cardinals must play the Cubs (8-8), Giants (2-1), Rockies (2-1), Reds (8-8), and Pirates (7-9) for a record of 27-27. And the final team in the mix, the Giants will play the Cardinals (1-2), Dodgers (7-6), Padres (9-6) and the Rockies (8-8) for a total of 25-22. So based on head-to-head competition the rest of the way, the Mets have the best winning percentage against the teams they must play.

What about momentum regardless of competition? Since August 1 the Mets are 23-18, the Cardinals are 20-20, and the Giants are 16-24. So once again, the Mets have the momentum. But of course with two weeks to go, anything can happen. The Marlins and the Pirates could get hot and get right back into the mix as well. Perhaps the Mets could stumble and revert to the play we saw from May through the end of July.

I worry that the Mets playing bad teams could play into their heads. It could be a subconscious thing that they are not even aware of—that they do not playing to their full potential. That is why it’s fun to play with numbers but why the games are played on the field.

The Mets start their final regular season home stand of the year, a ten game, three team affair. It’s baseball’s worst, the Minnesota Twins for three followed by three with the Braves, then four with the Phillies. That’s two last place teams in a row before playing the next to last Phils. How’s that for pressure? The Twins, Braves, and Phillies over their last ten games are 3-7, 3-7, and 5-5 respectively. With all the Mets have been through this season, a chance at the wildcard is being handed to them on a silver platter. But they are going to have to earn it. Regardless that these teams are all having losing seasons, there is pride on the line. They are not going to hand the post season over to the Mets, you can bet on that.

With all the injuries, we still have meaningful games in late September and the final battle at home begins tonight.