It’s the first week of September, and the Mets are one game out of the wildcard. You can’t look soberly at this situation without coming to the conclusion that as long as they stay healthy (I can already hear the keyboards chattering at that one), we are probably going to the playoffs. This team. The 2016 Mets. It’s ridiculous.
I’m not complaining. Some of my friends think they should give up the season, shut down the arms, get them fresh and ready to compete for real next year. I think that’s nuts. I’ve been living and dying (mostly dying) with this team for 41 years. The playoffs are not Christmas, they don’t show up on a schedule. When a miracle comes along and offers you a ride, you need to jump on board.
People, it’s time to jump.
This team could be a miracle team. They have pitching and power. It’s not impossible. It’s happened before, in fact plenty of times. Just consider our own history: The near-miracle ’73 Mets took their 82 wins to a Game 7. And we got taken out by a miracle ourselves in 2006, those Cardinals and their .516 season and nasty third strikes.
Well enough about that.
On paper we’ve got tons of holes. Our disabled list looks like a pretty decent contender. I bet we lead the league in players-out-for-the-year. This has been the most unpleasant, virtually unwatchable season I can remember. Not just because they’ve played badly, but because the expectations were so high. They can’t buy a clutch hit, they can’t borrow a productive out. Move a runner over? Go first to third? Hit a freakin’ fly ball with someone on third? How many moments stand out as “magical” or even memorable? They do almost nothing that a winning team does. You can’t sit back and admire the great play by great players, because by almost every statistical offensive measurement, they stink. Imagine what the Year in Review video would look like if they had to make it today. You’d fall asleep after ten minutes.
But here’s the thing: Fortune comes in waves. I know that’s not scientific, and there’s no sabermetric for luck, but you can’t be a baseball fan without having witnessed the uncanny ways that luck comes and goes. It’s been gone for months. It doesn’t stay away forever. It’s very possible we’ve been saving it all up for the end.
So maybe a team of destiny is forming right before our eyes. Maybe these guys we’ve been suffering with all season will end up being names that we talk about for years.
OK, let’s put the luck factor aside. From a purely analytic view, this is not a bad team – on paper. We don’t make a lot of stupid errors. Outside of our lousy clutch hitting, we play pretty smart baseball. We have a very fine bullpen. If healthy, our starting staff is as good as it gets, and the young guys just up seem to have authentically good stuff, throwing hard with good movement and lots of poise. We have Cespedes and an increasingly comfortable-with-New-York Jay Bruce. Reyes looks reborn at the plate, on the bases, in the field, and out of nowhere we have a lead-off hitter. Flores might be finally emerging as the strong offensive player a lot of us hoped he’d be. We don’t blow late leads. We hit a ton of two-out, RISP line drives. Eventually, some are going to land. They’re starting to land already. They’ve played pretty good baseball for a few weeks now. And they’re about to play mostly bad teams for the rest of the year.
Maybe I’m suffering from irrational exuberance. “Fan” is short for fanatic after all. And if they actually do make the postseason, they’ll have a buzz saw waiting for them, including one called the Chicago Cubs. But once you’re in, anything can happen. Who really thought last May or June that team would end up in the World Series?
At the very least, the next few weeks could be a lot of fun. Time to enjoy the ride. So Let’s Go Mets.