If this is the day you shop online for the holidays — and if you define “the holidays” as the approach of the next baseball season — then do I have a deal for you.
Go to Amazon or Barnes & Noble and pre-order Amazin’ Again: How the 2015 New York Mets Brought the Magic Back to Queens. It’s a book so fresh it’s still being written.
By me. Some of you asked for it and, son of a gun, it’s on its way.
I’ll tell you more about it as it becomes closer to real, but it is about to exist and it will capture the events and emotions surrounding the season we just lived through, the one where our team won the pennant and made us all proud.
Helluva story, huh? Man, I can’t wait to read it as soon as I finish writing it.
I’d love to tell you you can place it by the tree or adjacent to the menorah or wherever you like immediately, but it won’t be published until March. But that’s OK. Spring Training is our version of the Advent calendar. Come March, you’ll be anticipating 2016 and hoping it will exceed 2015 and you’ll be thinking about 2015 and there’ll be a book in your hands to bring it all back to you.
So pre-order now if such a proposition entices you. And please excuse me while I get back to writing the final portion of it.
And if you need a lovely baseball book as the non-baseball holidays near, you can’t go wrong with this one or this one.
The Mets were the champions of the National League in 2015 without anybody being officially judged particularly valuable. The Baseball Writers Association of America has an award that declares who’s Most Valuable, and no Met got anywhere near it. Twenty National Leaguers were named on BBWAA ballots and only two of those names belonged to Mets; neither of them reached the Top 10. Yoenis Cespedes finished 13th, Curtis Granderson 18th.
Starting pitching was the 2015 Mets’ most obvious strength. MVP voting rarely favors starting pitchers, though three of them finished in the Top 10 in the N.L. voting. None of them was a Met. No Met pitcher showed up anywhere in the Most Valuable voting, but that’s OK. There’s a special award for pitchers. It’s called the Cy Young.
All that strong Met starting pitching translated to one Met, Jacob deGrom, drawing votes. He came in seventh of nine pitchers named. Nobody else in the rotation, nor the closer, was given as much as a single fifth-place vote for 2015.
One of the factors that catapulted the Mets from 79-83 also-rans to 90-72 and the postseason was the infusion of young blood. There’s an award designed to recognize players in their first year. It’s called the Rookie of the Year. One Met was considered for this award in 2015: Noah Syndergaard. The man we like to call Thor finished Thorth…uh, fourth in this voting. No other Met was mentioned.
A team with no more than the 13th-most valuable player, the seventh-best pitcher and the fourth-best rookie must have something going for it, like really outstanding managing. Terry Collins, the Mets manager, attracted support in the BBWAA National League Manager of the Year voting…just not a ton of it. Collins finished third, the best showing of anybody in a Met uniform in the “big four” award balloting.
No Met won a Silver Slugger. Cespedes won a Gold Glove, but it was for his four months of defensive work in the American League. Matt Harvey took Comeback Player of the Year honors in two realms: MLB.com’s (as voted by each team’s dot-com beat writer) and The Sporting News (as selected by a cross-section of nearly 200 players in the National League). TSN also singled out Collins as its Manager of the Year, which is decided by peer vote. And the Wilson Defensive Player of the Year awards, determined statistically, called deGrom the best-fielding pitcher in the majors.
So there’s that. Plus the pennant, which pretty much beats everything that isn’t a World Series title. In 2014, deGrom was Rookie of the Year and Juan Lagares won the Gold Glove. Any interest in trading this season for that season? Or do you prefer a year like 2012, when R.A. Dickey won the Cy Young and the Mets finished like Anthony Young?
Not that individual awards and team success have to be mutually exclusive, but I suppose this is just the way these things land. No Met has ever won the MVP, even if in all other years when the Mets made the postseason, they had at least one player wind up in the Top 10 in Valuable voting. And you can’t really argue too strenuously with Bryce Harper winning the 2015 MVP or all those Cubs — Jake Arietta, Kris Bryant, Joe Maddon — taking all those other BBWAA awards.
They can have them, it is tempting to scoff.
Still, the Mets got pretty far with nobody grabbing and holding the establishment’s attention during award consideration season, which occurred before the playoffs but after it was known the Mets would be part of them. Perhaps the tone was set in July, when they were allotted only one All-Star, same as the last-place Phillies, who you might recall were represented by the comprehensively stellar Jonathan Papelbon. The Mets’ closer, Jeurys Familia, saved 43 games on their behalf, yet the Trevor Hoffman N.L. Reliever of the Year Award, which you may or may not know exists, was voted by a panel of distinguished former closers to Mark Melancon of Pittsburgh. The peer-chosen Sporting News Executive of the Year award did not go to Sandy Alderson, who obtained Cespedes and several other transformational contributors at the trade deadline, but Alex Anthopoulos, the since-departed Blue Jays general manager.
Maybe Melancon (51 saves) was the best reliever in the league in 2015. Maybe Anthopoulos (Troy Tulowitzki, David Price) was the MLB GM handiest with a phone and a ticking clock. Maybe everybody was indisputably better at something, except coming back from an injury, than any given Met.
Pretty cool we got as far as we did, huh?
As if two Mets, Willie Mays and Yogi Berra, being named recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom wasn’t enough, we’ll be along with Faith and Fear’s annual offseason Most Valuable Met and Nikon Camera Player of the Year awards soon and finally reveal the long-promised Most Inconsequential Met Ever. Until then, you should know about what these people are up to:
• Sam Kulik has created The Broadcast, his own play-by-play of the May 31 Mets-Marlins game, with each half-inning set to its own original music. To make it even more interactive, Sam has created a special set of baseball cards that unlock the audio. It’s both impressive and fun. You can learn more here and listen to a sample here.
• Because you can’t watch 2015 Mets highlights enough, help yourself to Drew Palazzo’s stirring tribute montage, titled A Journey to Remember. It seems to cut off before the World Series, which I would say is an editing highlight unto itself. Watch Drew’s emotional wizardry here.
• It’s not too late to bid on a deluxe Met package as part of WhyHunger’s 2015 Hungerthon. Through Tuesday night at 6:30, you can try to win four Metropolitan Box Seats to a select game at Citi Field in April, with a David Wright-signed baseball and parking pass thrown in. It’s certainly a great cause and you can’t argue with the prize. If you’re interested, go for it here.
This is a job for Daniel Murphy. Daniel Murphy took on all kinds of jobs in a New York Mets uniform: left fielder, first baseman, second baseman, third baseman, playoff hero, World Series less than hero (to put it kindly)…but the one that fascinated me most was credit deflector. Any time — any time — a reporter asked him to analyze something he did well to help the Mets win a game, Murph deflected the credit.
Daniel was hitting the ball because David was in front of him and Ces was behind him and who wouldn’t see good pitches with that kind of protection? Daniel was transformed into a slugger thanks to the countless hours in the cage Kev put in with him. Daniel’s home run contributed to a win because the pitching made the win possible, from Matty or Jake or Noah starting to Addy and Clip in middle relief to Jeurys, who was absolutely lights out. Daniel made that occasional great play in the field because Teuf had worked with him on positioning and Lucas can scoop the ball like nobody else and the only reason the play mattered was because of that tag Travvy made the inning before, and how about that throw from Grandy two innings before that?
Daniel Murphy painted himself an innocent bystander in his own success. He was present and accounted for by his reckoning when something went wrong, but if you wanted acknowledgement that Daniel Murphy was at all a factor in bringing a pennant to Flushing, you’d have to ask somebody else.
Ideally, you’d convince Daniel Murphy that Daniel Murphy was a teammate of himself and then maybe he’d file a proper review.
Like Daniel Murphy lifted if not a carried a team through two rounds of a jubilant postseason.
Like Daniel Murphy put team first always, consenting without any visible objection to playing wherever need dictated.
Like Daniel Murphy might not have been graceful or ultimately effective as a defender, but dang he tried.
Like Daniel Murphy could hit like Daniel Murphy could praise others.
The imperfect ballplayer with the unbeatable attitude gave us seven seasons in a Met uniform (plus one that got sidetracked in the minors). There were nights you wanted nobody else in there for you. There were nights you wished somebody else was in there for him. They were occasionally the same night. But never did he leave you thinking he left anything on the field, save for ego.
Friday, though, he left a qualifying offer of $15.8 million for 2016 on the table, opting to pursue free agency, as ballplayers tend to do when the option arises. This means Murph and the Mets have all but completely parted ways. Historically, that figures. The last NLCS MVP the Mets had, Mike Hampton, didn’t stick around for the flag-raising the following April. Same for the last Met World Series MVP, Ray Knight. The first drafts of internal histories are inevitably edited by forward progress. That guy who was as responsible as anybody for getting us as far we did? Go easy on his highlights, maybe crop him out of the special section in the yearbook. We’re not in the business of marketing him anymore.
We who are not responsible for selling the personalities that constitute the next version of the New York Mets will tell our own story. We’ll long tell of how Murph led our Mets above and beyond where we could have reasonably pictured them, how he slew one Cy Young winner after another in the one month when great pitching is purported to stop good hitting. No Daniel ever excelled in any lion’s den as Murphy did.
And then, when Daniel Murphy lifted the 2015 Mets as high as he could, he let their chances slip through his grasp. Baseball’s den is a capricious place and none of us who’d been with Daniel since 2008 could have been surprised that he’d miss a crucial ball in a crucial inning in the most crucial of World Series contests. It was why, when he went from Murphy to muffy and allowed the Royals to tie Game Four and facilitate the disappointing end of an otherwise uproarious adventure, I had to laugh at the reaction of the woman sitting directly in front of me in Promenade. There’s Eric Hosmer’s grounder, there’s Daniel Murphy not picking it cleanly, there’s the shock of the moment setting in and then there’s the woman — who had been as supportive of our team as possible since first pitch — wailing what each and every one of us had to be thinking:
This reaction transcended mere fickleness or frustration. It was a family reaction. We all intrinsically understood that this was Murph as much as the Sports Illustrated cover boy/toast of October was Murph. The horrible error didn’t negate what he did in the two series prior. It was all part of the package we signed for from the time he delivered as a rookie in a race. We witnessed him spraying line drives or shifting positions or oozing determination just as we watched him running the wrong way or throwing to the wrong base or hesitating at the wrong instant or just being Murph.
Thing is, through all the missteps — of all the Daniel Murphys, he was the Daniel Murphyest — we never didn’t want to embrace him. He was family. He was ours. He was gonna help us win sometimes, he was gonna help the other team win sometimes. He was human that way. He was a Met that way.
Whatever his next uniform, he’ll always be a Met that way.
They played cricket at Citi Field on Saturday afternoon. I tuned in to ESPN3 to watch. It was only for a few minutes, but when I learned it was being aired somewhere, I had to look.
I had to look at something going on at Citi Field. It had been too long.
Nothing that isn’t the 2015 Mets is really doing it for me these days, and since the 2015 Mets aren’t doing anything anymore, I sit in a New York state of suspended animation. I’m not yet ready to turn my head to look out the window and wait for spring. The only qualifying offer that got my attention this week was learning losing the World Series qualified Modell’s to offer quite the discount on leftover merchandise related to winning the pennant.
Welcome to the t-shirt drawers, SYNDERGAARD 34 (25% off) and CESPEDES 52 (50%; we’ll always have August). Join the hoodie pile, RAISE THE PENNANT (marked down by two-thirds). And topping Cap Mountain is a newly acquired authentic fitted 7 7/8 model with the 2015 WORLD SERIES patch visible to whichever portion of humanity is standing to my left. That was discounted only a few bucks, but it will amortize itself by being worn clear into the decade after the next one if past performance is a guide and my head size stabilizes.
The spoils of defeat were bountiful. It didn’t feel like second-place gear and I didn’t mind the savings at all. Still would have preferred to have paid full price for newly issued shirts, hats and chazerai printed with the appropriate upgraded logo. Alas, only the children in Kansas City were granted that privilege.
Ah, the Royals. They won the World Series, you might have heard. Someday I won’t resent them. For now, the mere sight of their recent exploits harshes my buzz, but the buzz is outlasting the harsh as we drift from what is now last year to what is inevitably next year. The toughest day was Tuesday, which woulda/shoulda been Game Six. Some friends and I sought refuge in theatre of the mind and tweeted our reactions to the non-existent Mets 9-4 win we pretended we were watching. It was kind of fun. We did it again the next night for fictional Game Seven — Mets 5 Royals 4. It was less fun.
Losing in real life usually is.
I read one deep dive into how the Mets lost Game Five on Duda’s poor throw, another dealing with how the Mets lost Game One on Familia’s quick pitch. Really, they were about how the Royals won those games. The Royals remain the protagonists in most objective Fall Classic storytelling from here to eternity. I’ll watch the official highlight film whenever MLBN eventually airs it anyway. I’ll see the Mets in the background and be reminded they took part in a World Series not 15 or 29 or 42 or 46 years ago but practically in the last ten minutes. By then I won’t have it in my brain that the outcome can be changed or could have been changed.
It could have, but it won’t be.
My Jones is shifting from a desire to return to a Series whose results will never be undone to whatever regular-season Mets game comes along next (yeah, I know it’s against the Royals in April). Actually, I was overcome by an odd sensation on a few occasions during the postseason. I almost wanted to escape the boiling emotions of those games that meant everything and see if I could go watch a game that meant…well, no Mets game means nothing, but maybe one with a little less on the line. If you’ll excuse me, I’m going to see if it’s May in one of the other sections. What is it with me and Mets games going on only in my head? I’d waited the same nine years as you to get back to October and my whole life to be at the World Series and it was almost too much to handle.
I wonder if that’s how the Mets felt. It would explain a lot.
Sunday I assume there will be some other sports on television, cricket or whatever. I’ll probably tune in out of habit and likely pay scant attention out of respect for baseball, because next to baseball there is no other sport worthy of our attention. Few teams were as worthy of lingering on as the 2015 Mets were.
We just came through one of the Top Five Mets Seasons of All-Time. There’s no secret formula to that ranking. Five Mets teams have won pennants. Those are the Top Five. You can calibrate and calculate all the WAR you want, but to my simple thinking we have (chronologically speaking) our two World Series winners from 1969 and 1986; our three World Series runners-up from 1973, 2000 and 2015; our three NLCS fall-shorters from 1988, 1999 and 2006; and, with very honorable mention, 1985, the best non-playoff campaign the Mets ever crafted. That’s nine. If you want a Top Ten, you have carte blanche to round it off as you see fit.
2015 automatically outranks 49 of 54 Mets seasons. I’m not sure if I’d place it ahead of 2000 and/or 1973 just yet. I’ll need context and perspective, but I have to admit I was thinking about 2015’s historical slotting vis-à-vis its pennant predecessors almost as soon as they captured the flag. What didn’t occur to me whatsoever until after these Mets won a World Series game was that if they went on to win three more, I’d have to group the 2015 Mets not with the runners-up, but with the world champions.
In other words, we’d be talking about 2015 in the same breath as 1986 and 1969.
That, too, was almost too much to handle. Perhaps it’s because I’m so used to having just those two at the undisputed top of our charts that I can’t imagine any Mets season deserves to be in the same conversation. I mean, my god, the 1969 Mets are “the 1969 Mets” and the 1986 Mets were and are epic. Had the 2015 Mets carried the same World Champion designation, they’d be immortal in our eyes. And if they rated immortality, wouldn’t they rate categorization alongside ’69 and ’86?
And by no, I mean I can’t imagine it. Imagining the 2015 Mets beating the Royals wasn’t a stretch. Theoretically competing with the legacies of 1969 and 1986, however, seems absurdly out of 2015’s league. The 1969 Mets were a certifiable cultural moment. The 1986 Mets were large enough to dwarf life itself. The 2015 Mets might have won the same title those teams did, but I didn’t have to dive all that deep into my mind, heart and soul to realize they’d be destined to finish third in any discussion of the three.
A glorious third. A lovingly embraced third. But third. I can’t believe any Mets team will ever supplant 1986 or 1969 in the putting together of a Top Two. They are forever our Nos. 1 and 2 or 2 and 1 or 1 and 1A.
Caveat: I’d have been delighted to have realized I was mistaken. Maybe the purely hypothetical 2015 World Champion Mets would have resonated as the greatest Mets of them all. The offer to find out for sure remains valid for all future Met seasons.
While I was still in post-Series mourning, I guested on the Rising Apple Report’s autopsy of Games Four and Five and, I suppose, celebration of Game Three. Listen here, if you like, but be warned that through a podcasting glitch, I got cut off before I could properly finish. Sort of like the Mets.
I straggled home from Game Four of the World Series Sunday at 2:00 AM EDT, which in the instant it took me to look up at the clock, became Sunday at 1:00 AM EST.
Standard Time had returned and the Mets were still playing baseball. Not very well on the eve of us gaining our wee small hour, but they were alive. The sun hadn’t officially set on their rapidly dimming postseason yet.
“Think about that,” I thought.
So I did. I thought it was remarkable. I thought it must be unprecedented. Not on the life-affirming side of the calendar, mind you — clocks didn’t used to be sprung ahead until late April, a.k.a. well after Opening Day — but here where autumn inevitably gives way to winter and we are dealt a single extra hour of sleep as scant compensation for being involuntarily shoved into month upon month of darkness. The Mets simply aren’t active when we as a nation fall back.
Except for this one instance, I realized. The date was October 27, 1986, one day after America grimly reclockened itself on the final Sunday of the month, as was the law of the land at the time. Their last moment in Daylight Savings involved a ground ball…trickling… It was a fair ball that got by Buckner. You’ve probably heard of it.
The Mets gave themselves an extra dose of daylight by beating the Red Sox in Game Six of that World Series and earned themselves a Game Seven, their only non-spring Standard Time affair ever, also their final home game of that particular year. With great help from a fellow known as Knight (he who rounded third on that trickling ground ball), it worked out pretty well for them. Ray Knight hit a tiebreaking homer in Game Seven and won the MVP award in recognition of his role in bringing the New York Mets the world championship.
Twenty-nine years later, it was still the most recent world championship the Mets could claim and remained the standard against which all subsequent Mets teams would be measured. No wonder, then, when I peered hard into that clock following Game Four, I saw a glimmer of 1986.
I saw the Mets would be playing their final home game of 2015 in Standard Time. And if they were going to have any chance of winning the current World Series and creating a new standard for future Mets teams to measure up to, they were going to have to rely heavily on a fellow known as the Dark Knight.
Which was perfect, considering it couldn’t have been much darker three hours before Game Five’s first pitch and it couldn’t have been much darker in the minutes that followed the final swings of Game Four.
I was at Citi Field when Daniel Murphy made the boot heard round the world. And Yoenis Cespedes was caught off first. And Tyler Clippard kept missing in agonizing fashion. And Jeurys Familia couldn’t quite slam shut the door marked ROYALS, which was built preternaturally ajar. And the Mets who weren’t Michael Conforto didn’t hit worth a damn anyway.
The team effort that undermined a Series-tying victory until it morphed into a brink-of-elimination loss was breathtaking in its scope and ineptitude. The game I watched get away convinced me there was not much point to getting my hopes up for Game Five. There was not much hope to raise. I had basically none. Thus, after the Mets lost Game Four and I made my quick trip to what was referred to in 1776 as the necessary, I did something I’d never done at Citi Field.
I went back to the stands, somewhere in Promenade. The season was about to end and this was my last in-person game. This was Ultimate Closing Day minus one, but the only version I was going to get. I knew I wasn’t coming back for the actual final home game of 2015. I had to have my moment.
I wasn’t the only one. There were probably more people lingering in Promenade long after Citi Field’s most crushing loss than there were for the playing of the dozens and dozens of ordinary defeats that dotted the Augusts and Septembers that directly preceded 2015. I was surprised security wasn’t bum-rushing everybody the hell out, but the staircases were jammed and the field was still buzzing with media and Royals. There was no need to rush.
There was, instead, a funeral. I conducted it privately, in my head. This was the best season we’d ever had here at Citi Field. It was the only good season to date. Even the crushing Game Four loss contained a faint silver lining. Murphy making that error was the first time I ever felt a genuine kick to the baseball gut — one that truly made me go OOF!!! — in that building. You have to have something on the line to ache that badly over a baseball game.
Congratulations ballpark. You graduated to another level. I shall lower my morale to half-staff in your honor.
I looked around a while. I remembered this or that day or night when things went swell or lousy. I eavesdropped on conversations that were either rich in blame or soberly philosophical. If there was a “we’ll get ’em tomorrow” in the crowd’s remainder, I didn’t hear it. I know I didn’t say it.
It took me until “tomorrow,” in the hours after the clock simultaneously struck two and one, to understand there was a tomorrow to these Mets. Game Five still had to be played. It wasn’t a formality. Not when we had a historically favorable time change on our side. Not when he had a Knight going for us.
As Sunday got going in earnest, I forgot I ever officiated at a private memorial for the 2015 Mets. Whatever life they had left in them was not to be taken lightly.
When it is in condition to be driven, I drive a very old car. It makes sense if you know me. I form attachments to objects animate and otherwise and strive to keep them running for as long as possible. For example, I’ve had the same baseball team since I was six, and it hasn’t always worked perfectly. The car — which has generally been far more dependable than the man who drives it and receives clean bills of health far more often — is undergoing a major repair job that is illogical when one takes into account its age and “value”. Before I signed off on it, my mechanic advised me frankly that this was a lot of trouble to go through to stick with a vehicle whose future isn’t exactly unlimited and maybe, despite its admirable decades of durability, it was time for me to let go.
“Look,” I replied after mulling it over. “I know it’s not going to last forever. But…” I trailed off because I had to grope for the words.
“Not like this…y’know?”
He did. And so did I as Sunday morning passed into afternoon. Not like this. Not down three games to one when it takes four to end the World Series.
No funerals. No memorials. No selling a pennant-winner short for scrap. One more game at home equaled one more chance to win. Win Game Five and have a Game Six. Win Game Six…well, play Game Five. Don’t give up on it before it starts.
So off I went, carless, to root my team on. When I left home to catch the first in a series of trains and taxis that would take me to watch Game Five with my dad, it wasn’t yet six o’clock yet it was already dark out. That was the downside of Standard Time. The upside was all that aforementioned juicy championship precedent I dared to see in the changing of the clocks. Frankly, I preferred it to the margins of Games One, Two and Three shadowing 1986’s. That was getting creepy.
I showed up at my father’s place, which will never be mistaken for McFadden’s, and watched Matt Harvey be Matt Harvey as we understood him to be when we first laid eyes on him. It was as if Scott Boras was never invented. The Royals, those masters of making contact, couldn’t touch him. Harvey was heavenly, striking out nine in eight innings and allowing zero runs. Talk about precedent. He was Johan Santana winning on one good knee and absolutely no bullpen from Game 161 in 2008. He was Curt Schilling keeping the Phillies afloat by shutout in World Series Game Five in 1993. He was anyone you wanted him to be.
He was Matt Harvey. That’s all we ever wanted him to be.
Though we also wanted some runs. Two was “some,” I guess, though as the Dark Knight battled on and the night got later, those two the Mets had totaled looked lonelier and lonelier. It wasn’t a lack of confidence in Harvey to think he would require a little extra cushion. It was recognizing how little the Mets had been scoring as a rule and how capable the Royals were of fast-forwarding their offense on demand and that the entire Met bullpen probably hadn’t been overhauled since Saturday night. No pen’s ever been a certainty, but our pen, particularly in a short series, has always been a crapshoot. Think back to the depth and talent and experience the Mets were packing in relief in 1999 and 2000 and 2006.
You can’t think of it, can you? It was there, but at some very critical juncture, it found a way to crack. That’s what pens do…Met pens, in particular.
Getting Harvey every shred of support as was possible would have diminished a fan’s anxieties. But after eight, Harvey led by the same 2-0 he’d been out in front by since the sixth. The Mets hadn’t done enough to yet another KC starter — Edinson Volquez in this case — and were doing nothing against the Royal bullpen.
But “so what?” you wanted to rhetorically ask. Harvey’s so clutch, so dominant. Can’t Harvey just finish off the Royals with a two-run lead?
Does anybody finish off anybody anymore? Johnny Cueto gave his reliefmates the night off in Game Two, but he was ahead by six and the Mets were, let’s face it, the Mets, at least the Mets of Game Two. The Royals, as much as the “relentless” theme was pounded to dust, truly never relented. Even in the one game they lost in the Series, they were relentless complainers regarding Noah Syndergaard pitching Alcides Escobar up and in.
All of which brought us to the highest drama of Game Five, the emergency board meeting among Harvey, Dan Warthen and Terry Collins aimed at deciding whether Harvey would pitch the ninth. This conversation simply didn’t happen in Jerry Koosman’s day, but baseball has changed forever. No starter throwing impenetrable four-hit ball across eight innings is automatically allowed to attempt to fully craft his masterpiece. Predictably, Warthen was ready to pull Harvey in favor of Familia. Just as predictably, Harvey resisted the pull.
Collins, whose call it was, went with his starter. It was the understandable call. When Harvey walked leadoff batter Lorenzo Cain, it might have been just as understandable if Collins went with his original plan and replaced his ace starter with his ace closer. But he didn’t. He gave Harvey one more batter and, as seems to have been the case through the regular season and postseason, it was one opposing batter too many for one Met pitcher too spent. Eric Hosmer lashed a double to left and Cain — who had Crunchwrapped the Royals’ 648th stolen base of the World Series — raced merrily home from second to halve the Mets’ lead.
It didn’t all have to go to hell from there. It would be disingenuous to insist I knew it would. I’d come a long way from de facto surrender almost 24 hours before and refused to intuitively sense that the Mets were damned if they did and damned if they didn’t. How confident was I in the Mets’ ability to win this game that had been moving so swiftly and going so swimmingly? Confident enough in the bottom of the eighth to start checking LIRR timetable apps and gauge if maybe the Sunday night schedule was going to be kind enough to ping me from the North Shore to Jamaica to the South Shore in timely enough fashion to save me a pricey cab ride home.
I’ll take the blame for such an uncharacteristically cocksure gesture (and wound up with another hefty fare in practically the middle of the night). Everything else that went wrong for the Mets can be attributed to the figures on the hospice room television. That would include the Royals, who it must be stressed were the protagonists in this World Series in every way but parochial. We focus on the Mets because we’re Mets fans. The Royals, though, made things happen. They produced. They executed. The Mets, with a few notable exceptions, were mostly reacting to the Royals’ actions. Met defense in particular seemed to be played in the slowest of motion.
Despite now owning the dubious record for most saves blown in a single World Series (3), Familia shouldn’t be inordinately blamed for what was about to transpire. He threw a good pitch that retired Mike Moustakas for the ninth inning’s first out, yet moved Hosmer along to third. And Jeurys really can’t be blamed for Salvador Perez’s neither-fish-nor-fowl grounder to not quite short and not quite third. David Wright opted to field it before it could get to Wilmer Flores (aggressive is good, usually) while Hosmer danced further and further from third.
Wright threw to first. Had to, didn’t he? Had to get an out. Hosmer wasn’t that close to home when David made his peg. Then again, he was getting a little far from third.
Duda makes the putout.
Hosmer breaks for the plate.
Duda turns and fires.
Hosmer’s gonna be out based on geometry. The inning’s gonna be over. The Mets are gonna win, 2-1.
Hosmer’s gonna be safe based on everything you feel in your Mets fan bones. The game is gonna be tied at two.
Hosmer was safe. Duda flung the ball past Travis d’Arnaud and through the window of the Lemon Ice King of Corona. The game was indeed knotted
The fifth game of the 2015 World Series was over in the twelfth if you’re a stickler for technicalities, but it was basically over when some combination of Familia, Wright, Flores, Duda and d’Arnaud failed to prevent that second Royal run. I told myself otherwise in the moment. In the moment — after I briefly roused my dozing father and half of his sleeping neighbors with the detonation of a phalanx of f-bombs — I rooted mightily for the Mets to walk it off in the bottom of the ninth. I did the same in the bottoms of the tenth and the eleventh. All it would have taken was one incredibly well struck fly ball or a reasonably sturdy chain of Met-friendly events.
But they weren’t coming and I wasn’t surprised, just as it was no shock when the final crack of the year showed in the top of the twelfth and everybody but Buddy Biancalana drove in a Royal run to break the tie and make the score 7-2. The bottom of the twelfth thus ballooned into the most inconsequential final home half-inning in Met postseason history among those that marked closure for a campaign. It wasn’t Mike Piazza taking Mariano Rivera deep to center but not deep enough as the potential tying run. It wasn’t Carlos Beltran taking strike three from Adam Wainwright as the potential winning run. It was Wilmer Flores, folk hero of July, frozen by Wade Davis. If only Flores had swung, it…
It wouldn’t have mattered. The Mets were down by five. Believe, Believe, Believe, yes, of course, always. But when You Gotta Accept, accept that baseball has its new world champion and it’s not the Mets.
The Kansas City Royals are to be congratulated. If you run into one, feel free to congratulate him.
The New York Mets? Our New York Mets? What do we do with them in the hours after they kept us up late for the last time in 2015?
My instinct is to go the route I distinctly recall carving out fifteen years ago under similar difficult circumstances. The 2000 World Series was also a five-game loss. When it ended undesirably, I remember writing and circulating an e-mail of the “buck up” nature. I was so proud of how hard those Mets fought to get as far as they did, never being out of any of their games against the hated crosstown rivals, making us Believe deep into October (albeit before the clocks needed changing). I bought that line a decade-and-a-half ago and I stand by it today.
The 2000 pennant has not aged well in the public Mets fan consciousness, which is a shame. I think one element that is forgotten is 2000 was the culmination of a four-year climb onto baseball’s ultimate stage. We got surprisingly close to the Wild Card in 1997, one game away from it in 1998, two games from the World Series in 1999 and, finally, three games from a world title in 2000. There was a 670-game buildup to Piazza flying out to end Game Five then. It was an exhausting, exhilarating rise, Timo or not.
This run was different. Many of these Mets bubbled under the Hot 100, so to speak, in the years prior to 2015, but the team we’d been making our cause in October didn’t exactly exist until the turn of August. There were great achievements from April to July, yet it’s almost as if they came from another season altogether.
As for how proud these Mets made me during this World Series…I wanna go there, I really do, but the video actualities are just too harsh. Balls thrown away. Balls kicked around. Batters who were rarely hitters. A bullpen that was Russian roulette at its riskiest. This was a thrilling Series only if you were a Royals fan, and that’s not an assessment based on who won. The 2000 World Series was a thrilling World Series, five games notwithstanding. The 1973 World Series was fascinating theater. We lost those, but I knew we competed to the bitter end of both. In 2015, the competition overwhelmed us when it counted most.
I also don’t know if there’s a “the future’s so bright” card to play here. The pitching is fantastic and that’s a spectacular platform on which to build. The everyday lineup…who knows? We didn’t have even a hint of what this one was until the season was about two-thirds over. I’m not up for a full dissection right now, but we know it’s unlikely Cespedes and Murphy are back (and we’re probably unsure how badly we’d want them to stay). We’re enamored of Conforto and feel generally sanguine about d’Arnaud despite his inability to throw anybody out. Everything else is more than a little underknown, whether it’s who’s gonna play where or what they’re capable of giving us in 2016. And that’s fine to a certain extent. Offseasons exist to reshape rosters and we have undeniably entered the offseason.
Honestly, I’m not “worried” about next year right now, but in the realm of trying to figure out if we can take solace in coming close this year as prelude to that which is bigger and better — as Royals fans must have or at least (in hindsight) should have when they lost Game Seven in 2014 — I just don’t know. I remember good, solid clubs and wonderfully appealing stories like the ’93 Phillies and ’07 Rockies warming their Octobers as much as they could and then essentially disappearing from contention after losing the World Series. Same for the 2000 Mets, come to think of it. Because of Harvey, Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom, that’s probably not us. But ya never know.
OK, so the World Series wasn’t a festival of Metropolitan excellence and the crystal ball clouds up if you fog your breath all over it. We led in all five Fall Classic games yet prevailed in just one of them. Our parade is taking an unexpected detour through Western Missouri. What is there to feel good about as Standard Time tightens its grip on our psyches and the sun goes down for good on the 2015 baseball season?
Are you kidding? What isn’t there to feel good about?
It’s November 2. We just finished playing.
We are the champions of the oldest professional baseball league in existence.
We posted our first winning record in seven years, secured our first division title in nine years and, as the t-shirts declare, earned the right to raise our first pennant in fifteen years.
We didn’t passively watch the Giants or Cardinals or whoever represent the senior circuit out there these last five games. That was us, not them, not the Nationals or Dodgers or Cubs. We beat all those clubs.
We outlasted everybody’s expectations, ours included.
We attracted everybody’s attention for the best reasons possible.
We hosted a bandwagon, for goodness sake. Some griped about frontrunners. I welcomed their presence, no matter how ephemeral. This is the idea of winning. You win and you excite the populace. It’s always going to mean more to the diehards. That’s why we’re so named. We take the death of a dream hard, but we are ready to report for duty again and again. This time the dream lived 176 games.
And it wasn’t a dream. It really happened.
We really did win eleven in a row in April.
We really did get Harvey back.
We really did see deGrom blossom.
We really did make room for Syndergaard and Steven Matz.
We really did find a closer, no matter what kind of luck eventually found him, in Familia.
We really did ride Yoenis Cespedes for six stunning weeks.
We really did witness David Wright defeat stenosis, or at least keep it at bay for the two months his entire career had been leading up to.
We really did witness a Murph miracle do in the Dodgers and club the Cubs.
We really did get to cheer countless times and open champagne bottles three times and buy commemorative apparel marking our accomplishments by association and luxuriate in a large lead in our division and withstand a scoring drought in June and persevere to beat St. Louis in eighteen innings and jump up and down when Juan Uribe delivered in late July and how about that kick save and a beauty between Murphy and Carlos Torres and don’t forget the night Bartolo flipped a no-look pass to first and need I remind you we hit eight homers in one night at Philly and we won consecutive 14-9 decisions in Denver and broke a seven-game losing streak in Milwaukee on the strength of deGrom’s pitching and hitting and hair and we applauded loudest when everybody everywhere saw just what a star Jacob really is when he struck out the side in the All-Star Game and we didn’t let that horrible loss to the Padres stop us and we didn’t trade Wilmer Flores and Flores couldn’t have paid us back any better and fuck Chase Utley because we love the stuffing out of Ruben Tejada and though neither of them was on the postseason roster don’t forget that Sunday when Darrell Ceciliani and Dilson Herrera homered in that enormous comeback over the Braves the day after we blew one and there was even a hit or two from John Mayberry at some point and a save from Buddy Carlyle on Opening Day and Alex Torres wore that weird cap and Logan Verrett kept coming through when asked and Kirk Nieuwenheis went deep three times at home after coming back from the Angels and we were no-hit twice and it didn’t matter a whit and Johnny Monell and Eric Campbell and Bobby Parnell a little and Jenrry Mejia for a minute and Duda with the enormous homers in two clinchers and Cespedes with the sleeve and the throw to nail Sean Rodriguez and Murphy stealing that uncovered base and David with the epic fist pump and fuck Scott Boras while we’re at it and two pitchers homered and Ruben hit one inside the park and he will play and hit again but he’ll never do anything better than come out with that cane and Matz’s grandpa cheered nearly as well as East Setauket Steve hit and pitched and…
Ohmigod, what a season and what a postseason and what an experience to be a part of it as a fan and a blogger. What a year to have it confirmed that you don’t give up on the baseball team you form an attachment to when you’re six, no matter how inanimate they can appear for years on end. Not that you were going to give up. It’s just nice when they give you a season full of all this. It’s confirmation that you’re not crazy to be crazy about the Mets. You’re crazy if you’re not crazy about the 2015 Mets.
If this is how it feels after losing the World Series, I can’t wait to see what winning one will mean.
If it means as much to you as co-authoring the most heartfelt Mets blog you’ll ever read means to me, then I will be incredibly happy for you.
Every season since 2005 has played out in these pages, this season a little more so. To every one of you who makes Faith and Fear a regular stop on your trip around the bases; to every one of you who takes the time to burnish what we write with what you write; to every one of you who seeks one or both of us out to extend your thoughts on baseball/life; and to every one of you with whom I’ve been honored to share a championship journey…I’d be at a loss for words to tell you what you mean to me if not for a phrase I’ve found to come in extraordinarily handy over the past month in particular.
Let’s Go Mets.
And thank you.
Daniel Murphy made an error. You probably noticed.
Murph’s error came in a house-of-horrors eighth inning at Citi Field, a frame that’s an excellent candidate to take up residence in the recesses of your brain, to be hauled out and fumed over at future 3 AMs.
But Murph wasn’t the only thing going bump in the night on what became a Halloween from Hell. Tyler Clippard walked two guys, Jeurys Familia wasn’t sharp, and Terry Collins‘ dropped managerial toast finally started landing butter-side down. And while Yoenis Cespedes was a bystander in the eighth, his night’s resume included striking out twice, fielding another ball with his foot (which led to a Royals run), and somehow managing to get doubled off first down two runs as the trail runner to end a World Series game.
Oh, and let’s please remember that the Kansas City Royals are a pretty damn good baseball team. Give them an inch and before you know it they’ve gobbled up a light-year. The 2015 Mets’ epitaph will probably read KEPT GIVING THE ROYALS INCHES.
Blame Murph if you want, or if you have to. But also remember that without Murph’s mammoth October at the plate, our happy postseason memories probably begin and end with recalling that game where the Mets clobbered the lone lousy starter in the Dodgers’ rotation.
It was the first World Series game I’ve had a chance to attend, and that part was fun … well, at least for the first seven innings. The World Series is terrifying on your couch, with every tiny facet of the game magnified into an omen of disaster or good fortune; from a stadium seat those facets of the game are invisible and the experience is like being strapped to a speeding train. The park is a cauldron of noise and the collective emotion sweeps you up so fast and so thoroughly that you find yourself struggling to judge events like you’re witnessing a normal baseball game. I misjudged fly balls, lost track of whether pitchers were righties or lefties, and basically gave up and held on for dear life.
One note that amused me until it ceased to: Given World Series prices, I assumed our neighbors in the Promenade would include a high proportion of rich front-running jackasses and bored scenesters. Not exactly: Our section loved the Mets, but the intensity of their embrace was more off-their-meds than anything you’d want to emulate — as was their consumption of massive Bud Lights, which caused them to turn on the team with shameful speed after Murph’s error. This wasn’t exactly a rattle-your-jewelry crowd — they would have been a perfect fit for Shea’s upper deck on one of those hotter-than-balls August nights in a 72-win season, the kind of game where you kept your head on a swivel after the third inning because you knew things would turn bad and the cops weren’t climbing all those steps unless they absolutely had to.
On the whole, I might have preferred rich front-running jackasses.
Anyway. It was the Murph Game. I could talk more about how Clippard, Terry, Jeurys and Cespy conspired to make it the Murph Game, but it won’t matter, because it will be remembered as the Murph Game. Similarly, I’d try talking about Michael Conforto‘s two home runs and how much fun it will be to have him in the lineup for a whole year, or look to dissect Steven Matz‘s not-bad-at-all effort on the biggest stage in the sport. But let’s not kid each other — that good stuff went out the window when Eric Hosmer‘s little bouncer went under Murphy’s glove.
The Murph Game. That isn’t fair, but baseball isn’t fair.
If you can do it, press reset. There’s at least one day left in the season — one more day of baseball, which even at its cruelest is better than a day without it. Matt Harvey‘s pitching that game, and he’s pretty good. If the Mets win, they get to play again on Tuesday. Jacob deGrom would pitch that game, and he’s pretty good too. And if the Mets somehow win again, they get to play a third game on Wednesday. Noah Syndergaard would pitch that game, and he’s as good as those other pretty good guys.
It’s not likely, but nothing in the postseason is likely. And it’s better than thinking about winter. Win or lose, we’ll have our annual eternity to do that soon enough.
I just got my mental images developed from the World Series. Wanna see ’em? They’re right here in this envelope.
This is one of me all excited to realize I’m going to a World Series game for the first time in my life. No, I wasn’t there any of the other times the Mets were in it.
This is another of me all excited about it. There are a bunch like that. You don’t have to look at all of ’em.
This is the LIRR full of Mets fans, pulling into Jamaica. If you look closely, you can almost hear the conductor announcing we have to change at Woodside if we’re going to the World Series game.
That’s me smiling at another Mets fan when the conductor says that.
That’s me at Woodside buying a new Metrocard even though I have plenty of value on my current one. It must’ve bent in my wallet or something because it didn’t work. Can you believe I’d encounter a fly in the ointment when I’m on my way to the game I’ve been waiting all my life to go to, not to mention the most important game the Mets have played in 15 years? I’m nervous enough as it is. Practically every game this postseason my stomach’s in knots three hours before first pitch.
That’s me coming down the stairs of the Mets-Willets Point station. Yes, I’m finally calling it by its official name.
That’s me gawking at all the activity on Mets Plaza. There’s merchandising tents and news vans and a set for SNY and one for Channel 11. I’ve never seen anything like it before a Mets game.
That’s me snapping up a program right away. A Mets World Series program, for goodness sake.
That’s me grabbing one of those WOR placards. First one I’ve picked up all postseason. It says #BELIEVE, as you can plainly see.
That’s me on my way to visit my brick as I do before every Mets game. I’m passing behind a reporter from Channel 5 doing a standup and I take off my new Mets cap with the World Series patch on the side and wave it behind him. I’ve always wanted to do that.
That’s me stopping by my brick. Usually it’s enough that I make eye contact with it, but here I’m tapping it three times with my foot. I don’t know why three. I should’ve done four, for how many games we need to win.
Here I go up to two Royals fans and wish them “luck…just not too much of it.” They smiled. I’m trying to be gracious for some reason.
This is where I stop by the Shea home plate marker. Three other guys are standing around it. Turns out I know one of them, Brian from Bayside. I’m friends with the kind of people who visit the Shea marker before the first World Series game at Citi Field. I like that.
Here are some shots from the Chapmans’ tailgate, which has become a postseason institution almost. The Chapmans are the reason I’m at my first World Series game, just as they were the reason I was at Citi Field’s first NLDS and NLCS games. They’re incredibly good people, even without the tailgating.
Here’s Kevin Chapman getting his face painted orange and blue. It’s a good look tonight, I think.
Here’s some Kansas City ribs Kevin grilled for the occasion. I eat them up like I hope Noah Syndergaard will gobble up Royals hitters.
Here’s Charlie and Tracey and Skid and of course Sharon. Our conversation is essentially, “Can you believe we’re at the World Series? Can you believe the Mets are in the World Series?”
Here’s me thinking that I hope the Mets aren’t as awestruck by this World Series business as we are. The way they played in Kansas City, I’m not so sure.
Here’s Sharon and me stopping at one of the concession trailers set up on the third base side. It’s a short line but we’re stuck behind somebody who’s practically climbing over the counter and trying on every shirt and hat. I just want to buy a pennant and a pin.
Here’s me grimacing as we wait.
Here’s me buying the pennant and the pin.
Here’s me having my World Series ticket scanned…a real World Series ticket!
Here’s me accepting my orange towel that says Let’s Go Mets.
Here’s me scrawling my father’s name on one of those SU2C cards. I wondered how that worked and now I know. They have people handing you a magic marker and letting you write on a clipboard. I’m not sure what standing up later and holding a sign that says “Charles Prince” on it will do for my dad, but I’m sure there’s a purpose to it.
This is the hot dog vendor who’s hawking his wares, promising no line.
This is me buying a hot dog from the vendor. I just had a couple of Kevin’s ribs but the opportunity to secure food with no line at sold out Citi Field appeals to me ever since I found my blood sugar dropping before Game Four of the NLDS.
Here I am out in Section 131 shortly before all the festivities start. World Series festivities. WOW!
Here’s this girl who apologized in advance for how she was going to have to get up to use the ladies room “every ten minutes,” presumably because she’s toting around 25.4 ounces of Bud Light. Actually, she wound up going no more than three times and was super nice about it.
Here are Kevin and Ross showing up after breaking down the tailgate.
Here’s Kevin hanging a sign paying homage to Thor. We can’t see it from where we’re sitting, but perhaps it showed up on TV.
Here’s Sharon back from picking up a few more World Series items. These shopping opportunities arise, on average, every fourteen years. Of course you have to stock up.
Here are the stupid Royals being introduced. They’re stupid, I’ve decided.
Here are the Mets being introduced. They’re awesome. You already knew that.
Here’s the biggest gosh darned flag I ever saw being unfurled for the national anthem. I always wonder why the flag on the pole — the one over the subtly raised 2015 NATIONAL LEAGUE CHAMPIONS flag — is good enough for the regular season but not good enough for something like this.
Yup, that’s Billy Joel, singing “The Star Spangled Banner,” and doing a damn fine job of it. Straight ahead, no unnecessary flourishes. He sang it in 1986 and 2000. This is his best rendition yet.
Look — Mike Piazza! First pitch! No sleeves! Isn’t he cold? I sure was.
All right, here’s some game action. First pitch from Noah Syndergaard…
And there’s Alcides Escobar flat on his ass. From left field it’s hard to see where the ball was headed, but clearly Thor had had enough of this Jamoche swinging at everybody’s first pitches, maybe even Mike Piazza’s.
There’s all of us ridiculously pumped up that Alcides Escobar is flat on his ass.
There’s the Royals scoring a run anyway in the top of the first. Yeah, I’m pretty glum here in the background.
And THIS is the CAPTAIN going yard and giving the Mets a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the first! David Wright really has a little flair for the dramatic, doesn’t he? After slumping horribly, he chooses Citi Field’s first World Series game for his first World Series home run. Say, he hit the first Met home run at Citi Field as well, didn’t he?
Oy, here are a couple of Royal runs in the second. Yeech.
Here’s Michael Conforto throwing to third to not quite get Alex Gordon.
Here’s the replay review umpires standing around after Terry challenges.
Here’s Sharon asking what’s the holdup with reaching a conclusion since this is the only baseball game going on, so what else are they reviewing back at command central?
Here’s me comprehending that we’re at the only baseball game left in the only series of baseball games left and it’s the end of October and Citi Field is open and the Mets are here and we’re here. That accounts for that little upturn at the corner of my mouth.
Here are the umpires reversing the call on Conforto’s throw. Honestly I thought Gordon was safe, but don’t listen to me.
Here’s a passed ball after the reversed call, so the stupid Royals have the lead anyway.
Here’s the section where they put all the stupid Royals’ family and friends or whoever they are. They’re like two sections over from us cheering with impunity. If this were Shea, they’d have to root under a protective canopy.
Here’s me looking very, very concerned, almost convinced the stupid Royals are unstoppable. Seriously, I was beginning to think a sweep was inevitable.
This is me deciding something drastic needed to be done.
This is me getting up from my wonderful World Series seat and trying to change the Mets’ luck by taking one inning and treating this most important game in 15 years like it was something normal.
This is me going for a walk in the third inning. Crazy, right? But I had to do something.
This is me getting on a short line at Blue Smoke. I couldn’t have been hungry after Kevin’s ribs and the hot dog, but this was part of my strategy: in some other season I wouldn’t have thought twice about wandering off to get something to eat in the middle of the game. Everything’s been too intense in the postseason for that sort of behavior. No, I told myself, gotta do what I would normally do, then maybe the Mets would loosen up, too.
This is me actually believing that.
This is Curtis Granderson homering with a runner on while I’m making my way through my brisket sandwich. The Mets are ahead while I’m up. I have to watch the turning point of the game on a video screen, but it’s a small sacrifice to get the Mets going.
This is me actually continuing to believe that.
This is me noticing how relatively few people are in these areas that are usually so busy during the course of a well-attended game. I’d always wondered whether once Citi Field had a big game if people would treat it as such. I learned they do…even if for one inning I tried to treat it as nothing special.
This is me still believing I had something to do with the Mets being ahead, 4-3, after three.
This is Syndergaard retiring the Royals in order in the fourth once I’m back at my wonderful World Series seat.
These are the four young guys who’ve sat in front of us in 131 every game I’ve watched with the Chapmans this postseason. They’re mostly adorable the way they high-five everybody for everything. They’re also mildly clever in their taunts of the suddenly less enthusiastic Royals rooters section. They probably go too far at some point, but I vicariously enjoy their never letting up.
This is me standing because those guys are standing and the people in front of them are standing…I have to say I would have preferred a touch more sitting, given the blister that’s lately flourished on one of my toes, but it’s the World Series, so I understand.
There’s Conforto bringing Lucas Duda home with another run in the fourth. It’s just an infield single, but it’s something. We all agree Conforto is gonna be terrific, but it must be tough to have ascended through the ranks as quickly as he has and then not flail a bit. It hasn’t been the most productive of postseasons for the kid, but I love seeing him out there.
This is a shot of the scoreboard. The Mets are winning, 5-3, same score that the final game of the 1969 World Series was won by.
This is me noticing all the between-innings folderol to which we are usually subject goes locally unsponsored during the World Series — and the different folderol that is nationally sponsored. The corporate influence is hard to miss, as baseball tries a little too hard to be the NFL.
This is my sense that a World Series game is still a baseball game, despite the overlong between-innings breaks. I’d been to enough postseason games to know it would feel different. Really, a World Series game experience is basically the one you get at a postseason game, but more so. Everybody should have the chance to make those determinations first-hand.
This is Thor totally in the groove. The Royals — the team we were told ad nauseum that couldn’t be stopped from “attacking” and “ambushing” Mets pitchers — are being reassuringly human here. About frigging time, I might add. I’m pretty sure they lost a few games over the course of the previous seven months.
Ooh, these are my favorite shots of the night. They’re from the home sixth where we break it open. Let’s see…Lagares pinch-hitting for Conforto and singling…Flores getting hit…me thinking the Mets should use that clip of Pearl Bailey reacting to the Shoe Polish Play from the ’69 World Series film (“Whoa, he hit him!”) every time there’s an HBP…Juan Uribe coming up.
This is Juan Uribe singling in Lagares and me going about as nuts as I did all night. I’d missed Juan Uribe. We had no righthanded bench without him. Without him, that at-bat would have been Michael Cuddyer’s. I’ve been trying very hard to be very supportive of every Met this postseason, but Cuddyer is not who I wanted up in that spot.
Anyway, here’s Granderson getting on, Franklin Morales coming out, Kelvin Herrera, one of their supposedly infallible relievers coming in, and, oh, David again! See, he’s singling home Flores and Uribe. Four RBIs for the Captain!
There’s Murphy — who’s on the cover of the Sports Illustrated I’m carrying in my schlep bag, which makes me both very proud and very worried — walking to load the bases and Cespedes lifting a fly ball to score Curtis. We’re up 9-3 now and I’m pretty sure we’re not gonna get swept.
There’s me checking Twitter and discovering Morales’s World Series ERA is 108.00, or what Sharon and I call a Garrett Olson.
There’s Addison Reed retiring the side in order in the seventh.
There’s a 20-minute seventh-inning stretch, or so it seems.
There’s Tyler Clippard retiring the side in order in the eighth.
There’s Billy Joel on the video board watching us sing along to “Piano Man,” which may have finally broken through as a robust singalong with the World Series as backdrop and its author in attendance.
There’s Jeurys Familia coming in to protect a six-run lead. Not a save situation, to say the least, but when you’re trying to get back into the World Series, I guess you can’t be too careful.
There’s Wilmer making a nifty play in the field to get the first out of the ninth. He’s becoming so defensively adept that I decide to call him Wilmer Flordoñez.
There’s Familia striking out Gordon, hopefully proving that home run in Game One was a fluke.
There’s Kendrys Morales grounding out to Wright to end the game, a 9-3 win for the Mets, who now trail the World Series two-one.
There’s all the ebullient commotion that accompanies a World Series win. I hug or high-five everyone I see before stepping lively to make my train home.
There I am stopping off in the men’s room, which I’m showing you only because there’s a guy there who keeps shouting, “WELCOME TO THE NATIONAL LEAGUE!”
There’s me and the National League guy high-fiving after we depart the men’s room. The World Series reveals kindred spirits you wouldn’t suspect.
There’s me singing “Meet The Mets” out loud as I make my way to the Rotunda exit. Nobody else in the concourse is singing. I don’t care.
There’s me taking part in a group LET’S GO METS chant every step down the Rotunda stairs. That’s never happened before.
There’s me learning the spooky 1986 pattern is still in effect: Lose Game One by one run; lose Game Two by six runs; now win Game Three by six runs. Hmmm…
There’s me on my train reading that the Royals are whining about Syndergaard coming in high and tight to Escobar and that Syndergaard basically doesn’t care that they’re whining.
There’s me declaring Noah Syndergaard has just become my favorite Met.
There’s me getting home, still brimming with excitement about having gone to my first World Series game.
Last shot: me excited that on Saturday night I’ll be going to my second World Series game…and that the Mets will be very much there, too.
The Spirit of 1986 called. It sounded a lot like Lenny Dykstra. I think it was chewing tobacco.
Here is the gist of what the Spirit had to say:
• It, too, is sick of being the most recent Met world championship. “Dude,” the Spirit told me, “it’s about bleeping time we can give it a rest.”
• It didn’t mean to fall behind two games to none to the Red Sox, but the current team should take any inspiration where it can. “I mean, Dude, we did it, and half of us were…ah Dude, I can’t tell you if you’re gonna put it in your bleeping blog.”
• It approves of Terry Collins canceling the off-day workout between Games Two and Three, “just like Davey woulda done, Dude. That dude was nails.”
• It thinks Noah Syndergaard is “totally nails, Dude.”
• It called me Dude repeatedly, actually.
• It referred to the Kansas City Royals as something unprintable, even for a blog.
• It called Mike Moustakas “Mike Moustupid…whatever, Dude.”
• It said don’t worry about what happened in Kansas City, “that bleep is so bleeping over.”
• It said a National League champion is capable of winning four out of five from anybody.
• It said “they better bleeping win tonight, Dude. What the bleep are they waiting for?”
• It began to hit me up for a loan, but I hung up before it got to the ask.
Dude, I’m with the Spirit of 1986. Let’s go get ’em, Let’s Go Mets (go)!
I love the way the Kansas City Royals play baseball. They’re impossible to strike out, they pressure defenses on the basepaths, and they play a wild-eyed, high-stepping game. Which is pretty much the way they look on infield defense too, smothering balls and getting filthy and recording outs.
It’s exciting, fun stuff.
The only problem with that — and unfortunately it’s a pretty huge one right now — is they’re doing that exciting, fun stuff against my baseball team.
If you really want to, focus on the negatives. Jacob deGrom lost his command in the middle innings. The Royals’ scouts came up with a plan for neutralizing the Mets’ strengths. Our young arms may have reached the point where fatigue is a factor. DeGrom might be tipping pitches. The Mets hitters’ bats might have been replaced with sawdust and soap bubbles. Rob Lowe and Fred Savage — the stars, if you haven’t heard, of THE GRINDER ON FOX — may have fixed the whole thing.
Some, all or none of that may be true. (OK, probably not all of it.) I’d rather just give credit to the Royals. They’ve played great baseball and thoroughly earned their 2-0 lead.
An hour after you’ve been whomped isn’t the best time for perspective, but I’ll try. Game 2 was a hot mess, but if the first pitch of Game 1 isn’t hideously misplayed, Alex Gordon‘s homer becomes a cosmetic smudge, we all shrug and say that Jeurys Familia was due for one of those, and the series goes back to New York tied 1-1. The difference between that situation and the one we’re actually in isn’t very big.
Well, except for the fact that that isn’t what happened. That first pitch of Game 1 was botched, Gordon’s home run was a lot worse than cosmetic, and 0-2, well, it ain’t good. But it’s not grounds for panic either. I can recall a World Series in which a Mets mistake was the difference in a crisp Game 1 and they followed that up with a Game 2 gag job, but wound up as immortals.
Hey, ya gotta believe.
And if that isn’t working right now, try dispassion. Remember that the postseason is a randomness machine from which we conjure stories. That randomness doesn’t account for everything — the lack of missed swings in Games 1 and 2 wasn’t the product of rolling dice, and neither was the really good infield play from Mike Moustakas and Alcides Escobar and Ben Zobrist. But it’s a factor, and a bigger one than we like to admit when things are going well.
Mid-July’s crummy series is a reason for fans and columnists mutter for a couple of days; late October’s crummy series is a referendum on character. But that should be on us, not on our baseball team. The Cubs are home after a four-game series in which they never held a lead for a single solitary inning, which is pretty much as thoroughly as you can get beaten. That didn’t mean the Cubs were a bad team that tricked dummies into thinking otherwise. But neither did it mean that the Mets were invulnerable. There’s no defense against a magical Daniel Murphy, but there’s also no way to conjure one into being. All a team can do is prepare the best it can and play the best it can and hope the pixie dust rains down in its dugout instead of the one across the field.
We’re in the World Series. Twenty-eight other teams’ fans are watching the Mets and the Royals and wishing winter hadn’t arrived quite so soon for them. On Saturday I’m going to be in the stands watching the Mets play a World Series game. I’ve never had the chance to do that, and I’m so excited — just like I’ve been so excited since the Nationals faded away and the champagne fountained in Cincy and Jeurys jumped for joy in L.A. and Travis d’Arnaud came chugging out from behind home plate in Chicago.
I hope Saturday night will end with me high-fiving random Mets fans, strangers made friends by shared blue and orange and the intoxication of having fought back to a tie. And if not? If the Mets face an elimination game Sunday or the walk down from the Promenade takes me into winter? I’ll still be pretty damn glad that I was there to see it and everything that came before it.
When baseball is at its most beautiful I never let myself forget how cruel it can be, and at its cruelest I force myself to appreciate its beauty. This game’s had a hold on me for nearly four decades now. I couldn’t get loose even if I wanted to.
What used to be trivia is now widely disseminated fact, so there’ll be no wowing you with the historical nugget that the Mets have never won the first game of a World Series. Don Buford, Ken Holtzman, Bruce Hurst, Jose Vizcaino and Alex Gordon — among others — have seen to that. And if the first game of the World Series is truly the Super Bowl of baseball, then it’s no wonder that each of those Met opponents has gone down in franchise lore as the ultimate knife in the back of Metsian destiny.
Ah, but wait a second. The first game of the World Series truly isn’t the Super Bowl. Despite the multiple days of advance hype, despite the relative (for baseball) overload of pageantry, despite the unfortunate involvement of Joe Buck, there is no comparison between Big Events where the Super Bowl and the World Series are concerned. George Carlin can rest easy.
The Super Bowl would be over by now. The World Series is just getting started. Yes, there’s more, though Tuesday night’s opener would have seemed to have had everything for everybody, save for a Mets win for Mets fans. I’m surprised Game One isn’t still going on, Chris Young tossing his one-hundred thirty-seventh hitless inning.
Or are the Royals saving that for Game Two?
In a sport whose guiding principle after its actions didn’t go the way you wanted them to is “whaddayagonnado,” well, what are you going to do? The Mets lost their first World Series game in fifteen years in fourteen innings, 5-4. They led Kansas City by scores of 3-1 and 4-3, the latter in the ninth inning, which is definitely the inning during which four out of five dentists who watch baseball games recommend leading. That really happened.
It also happened that at various turns in Game One, the Mets did not look like much of a World Series team. They appeared neither sharp, crisp, fluid, ship-shape nor Bristol fashion. Yet they led twice and remained very much eligible for victory as of the fourteenth inning, which concluded at, I think, a quarter after eternity. They weren’t dead, merely comatose.
And they still lost by only one run. They could have pulled the damn thing out.
• Despite a first pitch from Matt Harvey to Alcides Escobar that confounded the combined outfield wits of Michael Conforto and Yoenis Cespedes and evolved at the speed of light from a 7 or 8 on your scorecard to a leadoff inside-the-park home run, as if you see one of those every day.
• Despite Harvey’s six innings of Dark Knightness looking more twilighty than pitch black.
• Despite immortal slugging Daniel Murphy reverting to regular singles-hitting Daniel Murphy (like Fox, he must’ve opted out of his satellite feed).
• Despite Michael Cuddyer, which rhymes with retire, which if you’re thinking that’s what he should do — three DH ABs, three Ks — then it’s confidence his continued participation positively does not inspire.
• Despite a collective 1-for-10 with RISP and 11 LOB, not all of which can be pinned on K-K-Kuddyer.
• Despite the enormous GDMF!!!! when Gordon took Jeurys Familia to the deepest part of Kauffman Stadium, or practically onto the entrance ramp for I-70 two outs from a 4-3 Mets win. That NSFW reaction, which rang out all over Metsopotamia, won’t show up in the box score, but it sure spilled oodles of India Ink across the agate type of your morning newspaper (and ultimately kept your blogger up so late that he eventually slept through his self-imposed pre-dawn deadline; sorry ’bout that).
• Despite Young, the epitome of “serviceable” during his two-year Met tenure, revealing his given first and middle names are Denton and True as he shut down the Mets in the twelfth, thirteenth and fourteenth innings, frames which are great to be playing in but frightful not to be hitting during.
With the reincarnation of Denton T. “Chris” Young towering above them from the Kauffman mound as the clock struck It’s Still On?, it was clear the Mets would have to dig deep and be perfect to somehow win a game that stayed tied forever. It was clear the Mets weren’t in their perfection mode let alone their most Amazin’ mode. Mostly they were in Mets mode. They played all night, they sprinkled moments of delight amid hours of frustration, and after getting all they could have asked for out of the likes of Addison Reed, Jon Niese and Bartolo Colon, they were at last bound to give out if they couldn’t take what was there for the snatching.
So they gave. Colon, in his third inning of doing what he doesn’t normally do, was undone from jump in the bottom of the fourteenth as valiant Captain David Wright first misplayed and then flung indiscriminately a hot leadoff grounder from Escobar. Escobar was safe and doom hung heavy in the night air. Ben Zobrist, who the Mets really should have picked up at the trading deadline just to avoid confronting him repeatedly and futilely in their first World Series game in fifteen years, singled Escobar to third. Runners on the corners, nobody out…this would have been the ideal moment to have Fox’s picture and sound disappear.
Anytime Fox’s sound disappears is ideal, actually.
Terry Collins went to his intentional walk tactics, moves that twice allowed Colon to wriggle out of the twelfth (and if Bartolo can wriggle, there’s hope for us all). When your only reasonable answer to first and third is to make it first, second and third, you’re not playing to your strong suit. The Mets had their strongest suit, Familia, fold for the first time in three months in the ninth. Maybe it just wasn’t going to be their night.
And it wasn’t. After walking Lorenzo Cain to load the bases, Eric Hosmer lofted a deep fly ball to right that Curtis Granderson — who’d already homered and made a superb leaping catch — threw home as if imbued by the spirit of Ellis Valentine. Curtis has no arm to speak of, so it was a phenomenal sight to see the ball arrive only a little to the first base side of the plate and only a little too late to be of any use whatsoever.
The Royals, who filled their own barrel with a mess of despites and drawbacks, prevailed, 5-4. They got to bounce around like silly schoolkids who’d inhaled one too many Pixy Stix past their bedtime. Once they pulled themselves apart from their glorious embrace, they were invited to relax and pull up a chair on all the postgame gabfests. The Mets, who lost their fifth World Series Game One (but the only one that counts this year), were assigned the unenviable role of other team. Their interrogations were 180 degrees removed from giddy, grimly conducted among tight spaces and sullen faces. Just one game, they probably said. It was too late to pay a whole lot of attention.
Yet they were probably right. Just one game. Just as it was in those first games of those other World Series, none of which was decided because of just one game. The Mets won two of those World Series, took another to its maximum capacity and didn’t easily give up on the other. Just one game.
And some good things were embedded somewhere in there, paramount among them is that they have become a full-fledged experienced World Series team. Eighteen Mets besides Juan Uribe can now say they’ve taken part in a Fall Classic, some initially doing more with it than others, but the unfamiliarity factor (not to be confused with the unFamilialike factor) is gone. If they were nervous about being in a World Series, there’s no longer cause for it. They withstood fourteen innings, five hours and nine minutes of prime-time intensity. Perhaps not as well as the Royals did, but better than most regular people could. Definitely better than Fox did. They’re still in this thing. They have to win four out of six instead of four out of seven is all.
As for how one fan watched his team’s first World Series appearance in fifteen years…
My car that’s been my car so long that it could have been used to ferry baby Noah Syndergaard from the hospital chose the other night to make the kind of noise the lot of us did when Gordon homered off Familia. Like our reaction, it was not good. That car is presently in repair, which is relevant to this portion of my Game One account because some of you will recall my goal was to drive to my father’s current residence, a nursing and rehabilitation facility not particularly convenient to where I live, and watch the World Series with him. It is not easily reached by means other than automobile (never mind that I’d usually rather watch replays of Michael Cuddyer flailing and missing than get behind the wheel of anything).
But a promise is a promise and a plan is a plan, no matter mechanical issues that skew the plan. So off I went on the Long Island Rail Road, west to Jamaica, east to somewhere else, into a cab at a mostly foreign station and I made it to his room before first pitch and stayed until after final pitch. A kinder script would have given my dad and me a World Series triumph (to say nothing of a less expensive 1:30 in the morning cab ride back to my neck of the Long Island woods), but a kinder script would have had Dad at home without the problems that have landed him where he is.
Like the Mets, the important thing is we got to the World Series together. The setting won’t be confused with your sports bar of choice, but every TV in the joint seemed to have the Mets game on…which, come to think of it, makes it nothing like a sports bar before the Mets became big-time enough to capture all of New York’s attention. Those stories you hear about walking down the street in Flatbush and never missing a pitch because every radio in every window carried forth the voice of Red Barber? It was kind of like that every time I had reason to step into the hallway so my father could be attended to by some selfless soul who chose a most unglamorous profession. The World Series provides some unlikely scenarios, even less projectable than Familia serving up that lifeless fastball to Gordon. For example, one male nurse didn’t mind at all the chance to linger in Dad’s room and complain to us about the lousy umpiring.
In no baseball preview that I read last spring did I see that mentioned as a potential late-October development.
True, my father slept through a good bit of the evening’s festivities (emulating, perhaps, his favorite team’s offense), but he was impatient for the game to start at the beginning — his yelling at the TV was about as effective as any of Fox’s technological wizardry — and plotting along with Terry Collins at the end. (“Strategy!” he summarized when Cain was put on to bring up Hosmer.) With his permission, I tacked one of those orange towels from Citi Field to his bulletin board, which brightened the scenery exponentially and, I think, increased his propensity to chant “Let’s Go Mets!” now and again. If only they had listened.
He also authored the line of the night when he woke from his slumber to find me and the Mets continuing to hang around:
“This is still Game One, right?”
My first World Series memory is Game One from 1969, a Saturday afternoon. Why I, six years old and already hooked, wasn’t planted in front of a television mystifies me, but I clearly recall sitting alongside my twelve-year-old sister in the back seat of our old light blue Chrysler, a car that predated even the manufacture of my currently inactive light blue Corolla. Dad, whose patience for baseball was limited, turned the radio, likely at my request, to the Mets and Orioles as we pulled into the TSS parking lot. It was there that I heard Don Buford hit a home run off Tom Seaver to give Baltimore a painfully quick 1-0 lead. First enemy batter in the first Mets World Series game and already they were losing. I was prepared to fret as a neophyte would, but my dad told me not to worry, there was still a long way to go.
It was a message that echoed 46 Octobers later in the aftermath of Escobar scoring what for us was the losing run. Dad and I told each other we had to Believe. At first I wasn’t in the mood to say it or hear it, just like I wasn’t when Buford’s fly ball eluded Ron Swoboda’s outstretched glove. Then it sunk in: yes, of course, it was just one game in 1969 and we won the next four. It’s just one game in 2015 and we’ll see what happens starting tonight in Game Two. Hell, even my traditionally baseball-disengaged sister, for whom our National Pastime has always been a vague rumor at best, chimed in with text after text of encouragement as the eleventh became the twelfth became the thirteenth. Jesus, I thought, it’s like we’re all in the Chrysler going to TSS again.
If the Mets can make that feeling happen, they can do anything. Maybe even win.