For a time it didn’t seem inevitable, but with a split of the Nationals in yesterday’s road finale, the Mets lost their 82nd game, clinching a losing season for the sixth straight year. With the final series of 2014 hours away, here are a few thoughts as New York baseball prepares for a long winter’s nap.
Sep 21, 2014; Atlanta, GA, USA; New York Mets starting pitcher Jacob deGrom (48) pitches against the Atlanta Braves during the fifth inning at Turner Field. The Mets defeated the Braves 10-2. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
Their final mark may be sub-.500 again, but it means something that it took until the penultimate series of the season for the Mets to get there. New York will only play three games this year knowing they won’t go par for the course. For comparison’s sake, here’s how long it took the Mets to cement a losing record during this current stretch:
2013 – September 13 (65-82)
2012 – September 18 (66-82)
2011 – September 21 (73-82)
2010 – September 30 (77-82)
2009 – September 15 (63-82)
The Mets played with a chance at a winning record, however slim, for almost two weeks longer in 2014 than they did in 2013. Does it mean that much? Maybe not to the fan who only looks for playoff appearances, but to those looking for silver linings, 2014 means the clouds may be scattering for good.
In a year when David Wright had his worst season as a pro, when the team’s biggest free-agent acquisition (Curtis Granderson) couldn’t even match five months of Marlon Byrd from 2013, and when Matt Harvey could only make headlines on Page Six, New York still managed to win at least three more games than last year. They could still make it a six-game improvement with a sweep of the Astros. Ask any rational Met fan in April and he or she would have jumped at the chance for 80 wins without Wright, Granderson, and Harvey. It means the rest of the team was stepping up around them.
Sep 7, 2014; Cincinnati, OH, USA; New York Mets center fielder Juan Lagares (12) can
The team has stepped up. The starting rotation sans Harvey proved to be effective, featuring Jacob deGrom as its latest and greatest attraction. Lucas Duda emerged as a power threat, as did Travis d’Arnaud by midseason. Juan Lagares became the best centerfielder in baseball and developed a bat to make him team leader in WAR.
And the greatest miracle of all…the bullpen finally came through. Jenrry Mejia and company became a unit that made fans’ hearts race for all the right reasons. Jeurys Familia became a sure thing in the eighth inning. Vic Black and Carlos Torres kept the National League guessing. Josh Edgin bounced back from a rough sophomore season. Even the hired hands, Buddy Carlyle and Dana Eveland, stepped up and earned another chance. The late innings finally worked, and if anything, this season should be remembered as one that saw New York’s biggest hole in the last decade cease to be a canyon.
The Mets’ record stands at 77-82 with three games to go. With one win against Houston this weekend, New York will give Terry Collins his best record with the team. With two wins, the team equals its 79-83 mark from 2010. With a sweep, 80 wins, just 10 shy of Alderson’s target. Sure, they will come up way short of the 90 wins Sandy Alderson pushed in spring training, but they exceeded experts’ predictions and set the stage for a breakthrough in 2015.
Sep 12, 2014; New York, NY, USA; New York Mets relief pitcher Jenrry Mejia (58) celebrates after defeating the Washington Nationals 4-3 at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
Wright will be healthy again. Granderson will have a full year of NL experience under his belt. The rotation will reload with Harvey 2.0 and eventually Noah Syndergaard. With Bobby Parnell’s return, the bullpen will have a bridge of flamethrowers from the sixth inning on and four potential closers (Mejia, Familia, Black). With one more bat to shore up left field, maybe another shortstop, and it should be entirely plausible to win an extra game and a half each month. That gives New York 89 wins. A couple more hits with the bases loaded and Sandy’s dream is no longer deferred.
Now, if we’re having this same conversation this time next year, heads will roll. Next year really is “next year.” But the New York Mets should be able to chalk this year up as a success. The brush is cleared, and the sun is beginning to shine in Flushing.