The Mets played the Nationals Saturday and the Nationals were eliminated from postseason contention. Unfortunately, the two events were completely disconnected from one another. The final blow to Washington’s mathematical prayers was struck in St. Louis by Tyler O’Neill, whose walkoff home run put an end to whatever infinitesimal chance the Nats had of losing another NLDS.
That was just bookkeeping. The Nats have been out of all races for a good long while. Not as long a while as the Mets have been, but long nonetheless. Also freshly plucked from the prospective October picture are the Phillies, whose amalgam of feisty youth and experienced pickups dropped the ball (literally and figuratively) as September wore on. Left standing in the East are our new champions, the Atlanta Braves. Congratulations to the team that outclassed all its generally sad sack competition. Saying nice things about the Braves doesn’t come easily, but I do appreciate that they got the celebrating out of their system before their next stop, which is Citi Field. Plus they have Lucas Duda. Good luck to our old first baseman in his strange new uniform.
Three paragraphs in and I haven’t bothered mentioning the Mets lost , 6-0, to the Nationals on Saturday, which seems fair considering the Mets barely bothered showing up Saturday. The Nats didn’t exactly play inspired “we’ll get ’em next year!” ball, but the Mets raised indifference to a whole new level. In a battle between starters who were chosen for their existence, Austin Voth outdueled Corey Oswalt . Maybe not so much a duel as a sharing of a hill in the middle of a diamond, each of them taking turns throwing for a spell. Oswalt was OK over five innings, giving up only two runs while not being Zack Wheeler. Voth was either dynamite in allowing merely a lone infield hit over five innings as a substitute for Tanner Roark, or the Mets batting order, unlike Oswalt, didn’t really exist.
No disrespect to Voth, but I’m going with the latter. The Mets played as if they were the ones hungover from toasting a division title. Perhaps they were carried away by the stat the club’s press notes spotlighted Saturday, the accurate though questionably relevant grip the Mets held on first place in the NL East, if one was to pretend the season began July 1. Alas, with the Braves’ win and the Mets’ loss on Saturday, we have ceded the top spot in that highly mythical division; don’t expect a dogfight to the wire with Atlanta, which might still believe the season includes games from prior to July 1. Despite the Mets’ indisputable if limited success of late, the pesky Nats can still make them look very first-half. Six-nothing was uncompetitive, for sure, but merely an appetizer of a beatdown compared to how the Nats feasted on the Mets’ carcass on July 31 (25-4) and August 26 (15-0). Somehow we’ve won the season series from our alleged archrivals anyway.
The game may have been Sominex on its own merits at Nationals Park, yet it came across as more fun than a barrel of McNeils in living rooms across the New York Metropolitan Area. SNY almost always makes a good time out of bad baseball. Saturday’s was a particularly cheeky telecast because Gary Cohen and Keith Hernandez were able to focus on three things that had zero to do with the wan action itself.
• A pigeon wandering the circumference of the mound, oblivious to the machinations of Voth and Oswalt.
• A kid in the stands dressed as and acting like a major league umpire, except he demonstrated professionalism for nine innings
• Two adult men dressed in what were described alternately as snuggies or onesies. It was Mets-themed garb, mind you. Otherwise they would have looked ridiculous.
I don’t know exactly what the game sounded like on the radio because I was tuned into the television, but I am confident that Howie Rose and Josh Lewin made the day every bit as entertaining sans pictures. Those are our guys up in that booth. You know you’re listening to the voices of the Mets when you hear their homey, playful and empathetic tones. Howie and Josh are not an interchangeable unit. You wouldn’t swap them out with voices from any other franchise. Howie has ascended to Bob Murphy status in his synonymity with Mets baseball. Josh is the ideal companion when Howie is anchoring and a singular presence in his own right on play-by-play. Like those commercials for nectarines  used to suggest, it wouldn’t be summer without them. Or spring. Or a generous helping of autumn when we’re really lucky.
Mets games are moving to WCBS  on your AM dial next season. Different parent company, different executives, maybe somebody who has some idea that “we have to put our own imprint and/or a fresh spin on the broadcasts.” Word to the radio wise at Entercom and 880 AM: don’t. Don’t mess with Howie and Josh. They are ours. They and the immortal Chris Majkowski, who’s been producing Mets radio without pause for a quarter-century, and the pregame and postgame master of ceremonies Wayne Randazzo. Wayne, who joined the crew in 2015, emerged quickly as not only a true talent but an intrinsic part of the family, which is extremely commendable for someone who entered our midst from the foreign land known as Chicago. Yet he’s blended in beautifully. As much as I miss the regulars on a given night off, Wayne makes up for their short-term absences with enthusiasm, intelligence and outstanding chops. He does the same on TV, making the occasional Gary Cohen breather borderline bearable. I definitely want Wayne at WCBS, too.
In a perfect Metsian world, Pete McCarthy shifts frequencies with his compadres. I don’t know if that’s in the offing because WCBS doesn’t seem as likely to devote additional blocks of programming to sports talk. That projected void would be a loss for Mets fans. Pete has been sensational since creating the Mets On Deck show at WOR in 2014 and leading out of games with the Sports Zone. Pete reminds me of Howie Rose hosting in his 1050 days: smart, committed, a fan at heart but a journalist in approach. He respects his audience and has a knack for not overly indulging the dopiest of callers. I’ve anticipated listening to Pete after a terrific Mets win and have found his perspective essential after a terrible Mets loss.
The radio business made the imminent departure of the Mets from WOR as inevitable as their arrival was nearly five seasons ago. I had my doubts about 710 AM. It wasn’t a naturally baseball-friendly environment, but to iHeart’s credit, they carved the Mets a very nice niche. Save for a few promos, you could avoid altogether any hint of the objectionable non-Mets programming on the station (which was basically all of it) unless you forgot you left your radio tuned to their frequency the night before. If planting the Mets on WOR was designed to heighten the crossover appeal for their other offerings, I doubt it worked, incessant nudges that I could wake up to Len Berman and partner of the moment notwithstanding. But for those several hours a day when we needed WOR, WOR was there for us in a meaningful way. The reception could have been a lot better, but the sense that the Mets mattered on 710 was genuine. It felt like they mattered more on WOR more than they did the previous twenty years on WFAN, a station devoted to sports, a station that was founded on the backs of the Mets. I’ll forever fondly associate the WOR era with the run to glory in 2015, just as I smile thinking about WHN announcing it was home of the World Champion Mets in 1986.
The games will go on at otherwise all-news 88 and the broadcasts will evolve to some extent. They always do. At their core, it’s Mets baseball, and that figures to come through no matter what. Still, there was a certain personality, an identifiable flair to the WOR years, 2014 to 2018, and I will always appreciate the best of it. Here’s wishing everybody who made them a great listen only good.