October 7th-Ahead of the Wild Card Series
On Wednesday evening, I am on the train heading back to Queens. One day removed from the Braves clinching their fifth consecutive division title, I don't know how to feel. I've spent so long this season, both on the House and in my own mind, trying to spin this divisional freefall into something positive, but I'm close to my breaking point. As the N train makes it's way through Midtown, I look up at a digital ad for Mets postseason tickets, featuring a simple slogan that really resonates with me:
As I watch the slogan flash in front of my face, I think about everything that slogan could mean. Honestly, depending on your interpretation of where this team currently stands, it could mean a lot.
These Mets, who despite holding onto the NL East for 170 days, lost it to the Braves on the final weekend of the season. On one hand, the Braves finished their season on a historic tear, going 18-8 in July, 18-10 in August, and 18-8 once again in September. Like we saw with the Dodgers and Giants last year in the West, sometimes you just have to accept that you're not the only juggernaut in your division. However, while the killing blow was dealt this Sunday, as the Braves clinched the regular season series with a sweep, the Mets essentially handed them the knife. Had the Mets picked up at least one more win against teams like the Cubs, Athletics, and Pirates, they'd have easily captured the now-crucial Divisional Round bye. However, as injuries piled onto the already apparent holes in this roster, Atlanta stayed hot. A few adjustments made this fall probably mitigated what could have been a larger Atlanta lead, but it was too little too late.
Speaking of roster moves, it was These Mets who disappointed on two key dates for any front office; the trade deadline and roster expansion. Before we even got to June, it was clear what this team needed to do at the deadline; bolster the bullpen, grab another solid DH, and pick up a catcher that can excel on both at the plate and behind it. Aside from Daniel Vogelbach, who has definitely had his hot and cold spells, was really the only solid pickup. Darin Ruf has been non-existent, Tyler Naquin missed the cut for the Wild Card roster, and Edwin Diaz in the 8th inning has become way more frequent than I'm comfortable with. All that being said, everyone knew heading into 2022 that a lot of these problems could be fixed internally by calling up a few key prospects, and while those names (Baty, Vientos, and of course Alvarez) found their way up to the roster eventually, Alvarez and Veintos came up a bit too late to make a huge impact on the standings, and possibly a bit too late to really be comfortable as starters on this roster.
Now, heading into the first weekend of the postseason, These Mets are surrounded by both long term and short term uncertainty. Yes, Max Scherzer is pitching in Game 1 of a potential 3, all in Queens, but as the Mets face Yu Darvish, it's hard to evaluate the Mets' advantage, if there even is one. Offensively, I think this team has finally hit their stride, as guys like Eduardo Escobar and Daniel Vogelbach cap off resurgent Septembers to support the consistent power we've seen towards the top of the lineup. While we probably won't see Baty until the spring, Alvarez and Vientos have had their moments, and I can only hope that they feel prepared enough (as much as any rookie can be) to make in impact in the postseason.
Of course, since we're talking about These Mets, all of these key components are not without a dark spot. As the Mets look to conserve their ace, Jacob DeGrom's presence outside of a potential Game 3 is pretty unlikely in this series. While I understand the inclination to rest DeGrom, the Mets are really putting themselves in a Catch-22 here; rest DeGrom, and you leave the door wide open for the Padres to force Game 3. Should he make that start, he'll likely help the Mets get the win, but then will need some time before making an appearance with the Dodgers.
No matter what, I can guarantee that this weekend will be anything but relaxing for myself and the rest of Queens. However, when zooming out on this season, and looking at where this team has come from, and where they still can go before November, I can't help but feel excited for These Mets. These Mets, who finally figured out how to succeed with Francisco Lindor and Pete Alonso leading the way. These Mets, who won 101 games for the first time in over 30 years, with massive comebacks and 7 walk-offs spread throughout. These Mets, who pitched the 2nd No-Hitter in team history against their biggest rival. These Mets, who were able to land Max Scherzer, a pitcher who terrorized this team for nearly a decade, and start him in Game 1 of their playoff run.
These Mets, who captured my attention for all 162 games for the first time since high school, and leaving me not ready to let go. I may be showing my hand with that last part, but it's true. After watching the ups and downs of this team (the 1-run losses, the 19-strikeout performances, and even all the clowning from rival fans this week on Twitter), I'm just as energized for the Mets as I was back in April.
All I can do now is hope that These Mets feel the same way.