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Nine Years Eve

Every day between October 20, 2006, and October 8, 2015, had something in common. For those 3,276 consecutive days spanning exactly 468 weeks, the New York Mets did not play a postseason baseball game. The total is a little misleading since the vast majority of those days featured no postseason baseball games, but enough of them did so that — at least to us — the Mets’ absence from them was as noticeable as it was vexing.

Vex no longer, calendar. On the 3,277th day, we have a Mets postseason baseball game. For the 75th time in franchise history. For the first time since October 19, 2006, which is a date that is about to stop taunting us from its perch in the ever-more distant past.

In case you’ve forgotten (it rarely gets mentioned anywhere), the most recent pitch a Met saw in postseason competition [1] was taken for a strike. The next pitch a Met sees in postseason competition will probably be taken, too. Curtis Granderson [2] almost always leads off and Curtis Granderson almost always takes the first pitch. Ball or strike, we will be underway in our eighth postseason.

Can you believe it?

Of course you can. You know the Mets won a division title this year. You saw it for yourself less than two weeks ago. You maybe fretted in its aftermath. And then you were inundated with reminders that it was real. The Mets logo pops up here and there within listings of postseason games to be played. It’s right there among the perennials and the similarly unfamiliars. You keep running across dispatches about who will and won’t be on the roster for games about to be played. You grasp that it’s October 9, 2015, and there is a Mets game to be played tonight in Los Angeles, then another there tomorrow, and then another on Monday, that one at Citi Field. The other day the Mets sent out a press release announcing cricket will be coming to their ballpark [3] in November. Usually in the fall, the only sound you hear at Citi Field is crickets.

It will sound different Monday night. It will feel different all weekend. It feels different already and the feeling just keeps intensifying. My god, every baseball game that remains this year will go toward determining the world champion. Only eight teams are playing in them. And ours is one of them.

Can you believe it?

Thursday night I watched the Royals and Astros begin their Division Series [4]. That would have sounded half-ridiculous a year ago, completely absurd a year before that. But things change in baseball. The Royals stand as defending American League champs and the Astros have definitively turned their fortunes around. On the mound after a rain delay at Kauffman Stadium were Collin McHugh [5] for Houston, Chris Young [6] for Kansas City. It made for an ad hoc 2012 Mets rotation reunion, bringing together two pitchers I saw start Met losses two days apart three years ago, two pitchers in whom the Mets saw no future, two pitchers now flourishing on the October stage for somebody else.

In an October as recent as 2014, that would have stung. On October 8, 2015, the last of those 3,276 days when the Mets weren’t playing a postseason game, it was fine. It was more than fine. It was evidence that the Mets have such an excess of talent that they can be generous in spreading it around.

No recriminations for trading Collin McHugh for Eric Young [7]. No thoughts that Chris Young might have been handy to have kept around. No second thoughts that Carlos Gomez [8], who entered for the Astros as a pinch-runner in the top of the eighth, should have been a Met again as he was heavily rumored to already be this past July, no revisionist reconsideration that he never should have been traded in the first place in 2008. No hard feelings that when the Astros’ lefty specialist Oliver Perez [9] — starting pitcher for the Mets in their last postseason game prior to tonight; immense implosion for the Mets somewhere in the middle of these past nine years [10] — came on and retired his only batter in the bottom of the eighth.

As advertised, even if a little later than planned, David Wright will be a part of TBS's postseason coverage. (Image courtesy of Deadspin.) [11]

As advertised, even if a little later than planned, David Wright will be a part of TBS’s postseason coverage. (Image courtesy of Deadspin.)

Live and let live when you’re a part of October. You might have forgotten, since it’s been so long. It wasn’t supposed to go on for nine years like this. TBS took on postseason baseball in 2007. They were excited to hype certain stars who they knew would be intrinsic to the action they were paying to broadcast. One of them was David Wright [12] of the N.L. East-leading New York Mets. Somewhere I have a brochure with his picture on the cover touting TBS’s coming coverage. Somewhere a billboard was erected with his picture [13], signifying that he was going to be a key player on their air.

He will be. It just took a little longer than expected.

The Mets’ postseason highlights — despite what MLB erroneously advertised that November [14] — were not embellished in 2007. They were not added to in 2008, either, despite the trade that sent Gomez and three others to Minnesota for Johan Santana [15], another pitcher from those 2012 Mets. Santana made 2012 worthwhile one June night in particular, but couldn’t singlehandedly shove the Mets into October in 2008. R.A. Dickey [16], the Most Valuable Met [17] of 2012, is on a postseason roster of his own. He’ll start if-necessary Game Four against the Rangers on Monday for the Blue Jays, a team that’s waited about two-and-a-half times longer than the Mets to be in one of these series. R.A.’s been waiting his whole life for a moment like this. It will come two days after the pitching prospect for whom he was traded, Noah Syndergaard [18], makes his first postseason start.

There’s something for everybody this October. There’s something for select 2007 Mets, a handful of 2012 Mets and, most gloriously, all of the 2015 Mets. Granderson Wright, Syndergaard, as many as 22 of their teammates, depending on how benches and bullpens are deployed — they’re here. They’re a part of this. Check your schedules. It’s October 9 and the Mets are still indelibly inked onto them.

With that first pitch from Clayton Kershaw [19] to Curtis Granderson, we’ll pass the “here” stage and the happy-to-be-ness that accompanies it. Ball one or called strike one will mean it’s all business. Just the thought that Curtis might be down oh-and-one to Clayton makes me exceedingly nervous, and first pitch is twelve hours away as I write this.

But that’s all right. We’re supposed to be nervous when the Mets are in the postseason.

These games will go by far too fast and far too slow. If the Mets grab a lead, we’ll wish there was a clock to run out. If the Mets fall behind, we’ll be shaking trees for extra outs just to keep the whole thing going. If it’s tied, all bets are off. All bets are off anyway. Maybe you’ve read previews that the Mets are a sure thing to win or not win. I glance at them but don’t take them seriously. We are in true Nobody Knows Anything territory here. When the season commenced, nobody knew Kansas City would be back or that Houston and Toronto would arrive or that our Metsies would be snapping a string of 3,276 days without a postseason appearance. If forecasts were that easily translated to fact, Bryce Harper [20] would be a bigger topic of conversation in Washington today than Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) was yesterday.

There’ll be a new Speaker of the House before the Nationals are in the playoffs, and the Speaker of the House situation is in utter turmoil [21]. McCarthy was a lock to get the gig on the Hill, almost as much as the Nats were guaranteed to win the division [22]. Now his party has no clear successor to John Boehner and the Nationals have no party whatsoever. Like we said, nobody knows anything.

There are no 1-seeds vs. 8-seeds in baseball. There is no 7-9 fluke qualifier offered up as sacrificial snack for the 14-2 behemoth. Everybody who gets here after 162 games has a chance. Everybody who gets here is for real. We are for real. We are in the playoffs for real. Just like the Dodgers. Just like the Cubs and the Cardinals. Just like Dickey and Young and McHugh and Gomez and Oliver Freaking Perez.

Can you believe it? I can.

***

While you stand by (and hopefully stay fully awake) for first pitch, here are a few other items to occupy your stray attention.

• Andrew Wyeth produces a neat article in the Record of North Jersey about the wonders of #MetsTwitter [23]. I’m quoted for more than 140 characters.

• W.M. Akers reflects wistfully on how the regular season ended [24] last Sunday at Citi Field for Vice Sports. Something I wrote here [25] is graciously mentioned in passing.

• Pete McCarthy had Mets fan and minority-owner Bill Maher on the WOR Sports Zone a couple of nights ago. You should listen to their conversation [26]. Maher gives some pretty good insight on what it’s like to have a literal stake in the team he loves. (McCarthy, by the way, gives sports talk radio a good name and I recommend enjoying his show nightly on 710 AM or the iHeart radio app.)

• Michael Garry takes his Game Of My Life: New York Mets [27] book tour to the beautiful Bergino Baseball Clubhouse [28] (67 E. 11th St., in Manhattan, between Broadway and University Place) on Wednesday night, 7 o’clock, October 14. It’s an off night for potential NLDS activities, so your priorities are safe. Michael will be bringing Ed Charles [29] with him. Any night spent in the company of the Glider [30] is a championship experience. RSVP info is here [31].

• If you relish the journey as much as the destination, check out a book focused on what it’s like when the Mets don’t have an October appointments. It’s called The Seventh Year Stretch: New York Mets, 1977-1983 [32] by Greg Prato. I haven’t read it yet, but I did read one of Prato’s previous works, Sack Exchange: The Definitive Oral History of the 1980s New York Jets, and devoured it like Joe Klecko used to devour quarterbacks.

• And, oh yeah, Let’s Go Mets! Can’t say that enough.