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Jason Fry and Greg Prince
Faith and Fear in Flushing made its debut on Feb. 16, 2005, the brainchild of two longtime friends and lifelong Met fans.

Greg Prince discovered the Mets when he was 6, during the magical summer of 1969. He is a Long Island-based writer, editor and communications consultant. Contact him here.

Jason Fry is a Brooklyn writer whose first memories include his mom leaping up and down cheering for Rusty Staub. Check out his other writing here.

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Playoffs? Playoffs?

Last week, Daniel Murphy told reporters at the Thurman Munson Awards Dinner that, “Expectations for us this year are like any other. We expect to go to the playoffs.”

Good for him. If I expected the Mets to go the playoffs, I’d mark myself as delusional, but if he didn’t expect the Mets to go to the playoffs before Spring Training commences (or couldn’t muster the self-confidence to declare he does), I’d be rather despondent.

David Wright tried the same line a couple of Februarys ago, very dutifully delivering some variation on “we expect…” and it actually bummed me out. The Mets were sliding in the wrong direction then and it felt like David (no matter how he might have believed what he was saying) was acting as Minister of Propaganda for a corrupt regime. The Mets are no closer to contending status now than they were then, but these days only the delusional among the non-uniformed personnel believe it, so when Murphy says it in that Murphy way of his, it’s almost a psychological shot in the arm.

Doesn’t particularly matter what anybody says in winter. It’s early fall when a statement regarding going to the playoffs has some merit. The Cardinals were able to say it at the end of September, and look where it got them. If we use the football calendar, summer talk is just talk. January and especially February talk truly tells the tale, sometimes as ticker-tape settles gently over the tale’s final postscript.

The 2011 St. Louis Cardinals needed 188 games — 162 of theirs, 26 of the incredible, disappearing Braves — to make the playoffs with a 90-72 record. It was the least best record of teams in the playoffs, but the key phrase there is “in the playoffs”. The Cardinals were just that, and after a few weeks, they were the champions of their sport.

The 2011 New York Football Giants won and lost regular-season games in almost the same proportion: 9-7. It was just good enough to edge them into a division title, which entitled them to one ticket to one playoff game. From there, they earned another…then another…then another…then the trophy everybody else wanted. You gotta be in it to win it. The Giants were. And they did.

It doesn’t always work that way. It can’t. For most of the postseason tournament entrants, the ticket doesn’t get punched successfully clear to the end of the line. Seven baseball teams played in October but did not achieve what the Cardinals achieved. Players representing eleven very recently active members of the NFL weren’t brushing confetti from their shoulder pads Sunday night. But those teams and their runner-up brethren in other top professional leagues at least had a conceivable shot at the so-called brass ring — a better shot than those who didn’t make the playoffs.

So if Murph wants to say that’s where the Mets are headed in 2012, more power to him. Because saying it may be as close as we get. It’s as close as we’ve gotten since 2006.

How long ago was that, by the way? Consider that there hasn’t been a top-level professional sports team based in the New York Metropolitan Area since Called Strike Three to have not made the playoffs in whatever league they’ve played. Some of these teams and leagues have come and gone; some of them, to be honest, I barely knew or didn’t know existed. But they each made it to a championship tourney more recently than the Mets have been in one.

Seriously…

• Last New York Giants (NFL) playoff game:
February 5, 2012

• Last New York Red Bulls (MLS) playoff game:
November 3, 2011

• Last New York Yankees (MLB) playoff game:
October 6, 2011

• Last New York Liberty (WNBA) playoff game:
September 19, 2011

• Last New York Knicks (NBA) playoff game:
April 24, 2011

• Last New York Rangers (NHL) playoff game:
April 23, 2011

• Last New York Jets (NFL) playoff game:
January 23, 2011

• Last Long Island Lizards (Major League Lacrosse) playoff game:
August 21, 2010

• Last New Jersey Devils (NHL) playoff game:
April 22, 2010

• Last New York Titans (National Lacrosse League) playoff game:
May 15, 2009

• Last New York Dragons (Arena Football League) playoff game:
July 5, 2008

• Last New Jersey Ironmen (Major Indoor Soccer League) playoff game:
April 12, 2008

• Last New Jersey Nets (NBA) playoff game:
May 18, 2007

• Last New York Islanders (NHL) playoff game:
April 20, 2007

• Last New York Mets (MLB) playoff game:
October 19, 2006

This doesn’t count minor league locals like the Long Island Ducks, but the Ducks were in the playoffs more recently — October 2, 2011 — too.

The Giants were the only New York-area team whose very last playoff appearance was a victory. Everybody else stood by and watched various bands of Tigers, Celtics, Steelers and so forth celebrate. The defunct Dragons, I just learned, lost a heartbreaker to the Philadelphia Soul. That’s the chance that is taken when the playoffs are made. The Mets have avoided that kind of crushing final scene for more than five years now.

Further, it’s the way it goes that some teams don’t make playoffs for quite a while. Check with the Kansas City Royals (1985), the Pittsburgh Pirates (1992), the Toronto Blue Jays (1993) and the handful of teams who’ve waited longer than the Mets to return — or, in the Washington Nationals’ after-Expo case, debut — in Major League Baseball’s postseason. Also, the Mets can take solace in remaining a going concern, unlike, say, the unironically named New Jersey Ironmen, who didn’t have the endurance to keep playing beyond 2009, when they migrated to the Xtreme Soccer League…which also doesn’t exist anymore. And they can rationalize that MLB is more selective than the NFL, NBA and NHL in choosing its playoff participants. Even when Selig & Co. get around to shoehorning a second Wild Card into each league, baseball will take only ten teams in thirty to its postseason dance.

Still, the Mets are the fifteenth-most recent New York-area major league professional team to play a playoff game. Don’t tell Daniel Murphy. I don’t want him to know.

17 comments to Playoffs? Playoffs?

  • eric b

    Even the Nets, huh? That one stings.

  • Joe D.

    Hi Greg,

    Unfortunately, Daniel might not be including the Wilpon factor of selling one’s more expensive players despite how important their contributions to the team have been. Last year they were five games out of the loss column for the wild card when they sent their best hitter and ace closer packing in order to save money.

    Many have argued the Mets got the best of the deal because they got a Zach Wheeler and felt the team was over-achieving and wasn’t going to come close to winning the wild card. Those thoughts might be fine for fans to feel but that is certainly not the type of message any credible front office sends to those playing their hearts out on the field. By getting rid of KRod and Beltran the message was we don’t believe you are as good as you think you are and so we are cutting the rug out from underneath you since no matter what you might think of yourselves you’re not good enough to be going anywhere this season.

    Perhaps Marvelous Murph doesn’t read the memos sent from the executive suite.

    Joe

  • shea80

    Great job, Greg. Adam Rubin is already running with this!

    While we can’t ignore the Mets fate, it must also be pointed out that it’s much easier to qualify for the playoffs in those other sports. Last year, the Red Bulls won only 10 of their 34 games (while tying 16 games). The Knicks and Liberty barely finished over .500. The Nets were a .500 team during their last playoff season and the Islanders won less than half their games the last time they qualified for the postseason. I love the Giants, but they were the only team in their division that finished over .500!

  • [...] Faith and Fear in Flushing is thinking playoffs after seeing the Giants win the Super B…er…Big Game.  In particular, Greg outlines just how many New York teams have made the playoffs since the Mets last postseason visit.  (The Islanders?  Really?) [...]

  • Schneck

    Among Daniel Murphy’s quotation influences, Steve Guttenberg who predicted that Police Academy 4 would finally snag him that elusive Academy Award.

  • RoundRock Mets

    Fuckin Howard Megdal

  • Jacobs27

    Not to mention the Brooklyn Cyclones: Saturday, September 10, 2011.

  • [...] depressing news: Greg Prince of Faith and Fear in Flushing noted how many other New York area major league sports tea…. (Spoilers: the list includes the Giants and Yankees as well as now defunct teams from the Arena [...]

  • open the gates

    Well, it only proves that the baseball postseason is the most exclusive ticket in major league sports. The presence of the Ice-landers on your list kinda nails that down.

    Still depressing, tho.

  • Florida Met Fan Rich

    The Astros think they are going to the playoffs too. The only playoff battle we are going to have is if we are going to be the worst team in baseball or just the National league or best case just the NL East.

    Its Spring time….everybody is going to the playoffs!

    Just that we will be watching them and not actually playing in them!

    2014 cant get here quick enough….Get the April plan for this year.

  • Will in Central NJ

    Well, the cliche is that if it doesn’t kill you, it only makes you stronger.

    Pardon me while I cut my reply short…I have to put down this grand piano on my back.

  • John Vittas

    Great article, Greg, well done. Just shows how meaningless seeding and home-field advantage really is. Great job showing how far the Mets have fallen in New York. After 2006, I never would have guessed that we would have to wait this long to see the postseason.

  • Joe D.

    Five out of 15 teams will make the playoffs – that’s one third of each league once re-alignment takes place.

    One can argue baseball hasn’t had a true world champion since 1993 when the post season consisted of only winners from two large divisions (not three diluted ones and a wild card).

    That’s why the flag rising in San Francisco last season said “2010 World Series Champions” – almost an acknowlegement that MLB’s post-season is a bracket tournament rather than the next step after a 162 game elimination season.

  • 9th string catcher

    Not such a big revelation here – we already knew Murph was delusional – he thinks he’s a second baseman.

  • 45 Year Mets Fan

    Must assume that Buddy Selig has added a relegation playoff round or Murph was referring to his Fantasy NBA team after picking up Jeremy Lin.

  • [...] (See what happens when you make the big postseason tournament now and again?) [...]