Yesterday, the math confirmed what a lot of Mets fans might have thought from the season opener: the team was out of the playoff picture. I’ll admit, I came into this year with low expectations, and was more concerned with ridding the Amazins of contracts like Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo and obtaining a significant return for Carlos Beltran. Then the team started playing above my expectations and I got my hopes up, only for them to be systematically destroyed through a series of injuries and heartbreaking defeats. Yesterday was also when Major League Baseball released its 2012 schedule, getting the minds of fans thinking about next season while this one winds down. And yet while I’m already looking ahead to 2012, I can’t help but wonder how 2011 would’ve been if a few things had gone differently.
2011 just never seemed fair to the Mets. Sure, Omar Minaya was out and Sandy Alderson was in, but the team was faced with financial inflexibility, virtually no prospects on the near horizon and a division which not only featured the Phillies and their four aces, but the Braves with their young pitching, the Marlins with their Mets-killing ways, and the pesky Nationals. But for all the injuries, bad luck and sometimes laughably bad play, the Mets were 55-51 on July 29th with a series against the Braves looming. The Mets lost five in a row, including two out of three to Atlanta, and never really regained steam. Sure, chances at a playoff run were highly improbable, but what if…
The Mets started out 9-9 instead of 5-13: Such a record was certainly possible, given that four of the Mets losses during this time came to the Astros and Nationals at home. That would’ve put the Mets at 59-47 on July 29th, and the playoff situation would’ve looked differently.
Ike Davis never got hurt: The sophomore first baseman was off to a great start to 2012, hitting .302/.383/.543 with seven homers over his first 149 plate appearances. Then he crashed into David Wright, injuring his ankle and ending his season. Davis was the team’s best power threat, and subtracting that kind of hitter from the lineup always creates some kind of vacuum. Still, things might not have been that bad if…
David Wright never got hurt: Yes, David struggled mightily in the first half of the season, but he did have a stress fracture in his back and has been very good since returning from the disabled list. Prior to last night’s game, Wright was hitting .296/.375/.476 with six home runs. Had he been healthy, there might have been a few more runs scored here and there, leading to some more wins.
They were able to close out a few more of those heartbreakers: I’m not sure about other fans, but it seems like to me the Amazins suffered more than their share of excruciating losses. There are far too many to list in total, so I’ll just go with some of the ones that I’ve attended:
- May 3rd vs. San Francisco: Mets blow an early 3-0 lead, come back to tie the game and have the bases loaded with one out in the ninth, needing a sac fly to win. Instead, Josh Thole grounds into a double play, Aubrey Huff launches a homer to lead off the tenth, and Brian Wilson shuts the door.
- May 27th vs. Philadelphia: Chris Capuano matched Cliff Lee for six innings before the Mets chipped away at a 2-0 deficit to go up 3-2 heading into the eighth. However, Jason Isringhausen allowed a run to tie the game before Francisco Rodriguez got tagged for three in the ninth, helped out on a misplayed ball by Daniel Murphy at first. Murph came up to the plate as the winning run in the bottom of the ninth before hitting into a double play.
- June 3rd vs. Atlanta: Leading 3-2 in the top of the eighth with two outs, Izzy got the ground ball he needed, but the ball scooted under the glove of Jose Reyes, allowing the tying run to score. K-Rod allowed three runs in the ninth to seal the Mets fate.
There are many more, but the point is there are countless games that the Mets were so close to winning and yet couldn’t finish the job. I guess that’s encouraging in a way, but how different would the record have been?
MLB released the 2012 schedule yesterday and there were a few things I found interesting. Looking ahead also means looking at players and personnel decisions, but for now I’m just focused on the schedule. Of note to me:
Home Opener: I’ve never been to a season or home openers, but according to my friend who has been to several, it’s a better experience when the Mets open the season at home. Plus it’s against Atlanta, which is always a good environment.
North of the Border: The Amazins last visited the Blue Jays in 2006, but that was well before Jose Bautista started clubbing home runs left and right. I’m intrigued to see how Mets pitching will stack up against the MVP candidate
To the Trop: The Mets last visited Tropicana Field in 2001, when they dropped two out of three to the then Devil Rays (Ryan Rupe beat Steve Trachsel, Tanyon Sturtze defeated Al Leiter, and Kevin Appier bested Albie Lopez in the finale). I’m not as interested in the Trop as I am in playing the Rays, who are just a well-built ball team. The two teams Met in ’09 at Citi Field with Tampa taking two of three.
No Boston: Conspicuously absent from the schedule are the Red Sox. After visiting Fenway in 2006 and 2009, this could’ve been the first time the Sox visited the Mets since 2001. Maybe in 2013.
Killer West Coast Trip: It seems like every year, the Mets have one, very long trip out west that could make or break the season. From July 26th to August 5th of next year, the Amazins play four in Arizona, four in San Francisco and three in San Diego. Those eleven games wrapped around the trading deadline could have huge ramifications for the team’s playoff hopes if they are still in contention come that point.
Finishing in Florida (I mean Miami): For the first time since ’06, the Mets will end the season on the road-in Miami, of all places. Of course, the Mets went to the playoff in ’06, when they also finished the season on the road (albeit in Washington), so maybe it’s a good omen.