Sunday, October 18, 2015

From Rags to Riches: The 2015 New York Mets Have Gone From the Basement to the Penthouse

As a lifelong Mets fan I can honestly say that this season has been the most unexpected turnaround I have ever witnessed. I was there when Carlos Beltran struck out looking with the bases loaded in 2006. I was there when Tom Glavine gave up 7 runs in the first inning during the last game of the 2007 season to put the final nail in the Mets' epic collapse. I was also there in 2008 when the Mets once again completed another season ending collapse in the last game of the season. That one was even worse because immediately after the Mets held a special ceremony to say goodbye to Shea Stadium. Only the Mets would plan a celebration and then have it follow a demoralizing loss.

I have sat through doubleheaders where the Mets were crushed in both games and I remember very clearly arriving to a game in time to watch clean up hitter Brandon Phillips of the Reds come to bat with the bases loaded and no outs in the first inning and immediately deposit it over the fence for a 4-0 Cincinnati lead.

Us Mets fans have become used to losing and desensitized to all the ribbing we regularly take from Yankee fans who are forever bragging about the Yankees' 27 rings. Yet Mets fans are the true definition of fans. We stick with our team no matter what; and that includes a whole lot of losing.

That being said, it's very enjoyable to now be the only New York team in town playing October baseball and having the New York media kiss the teams' ass. The Yankees are Marcia Brady to our Jan like New York Mets. We never get the headlines, we never get the respect and we never get the glory. Well that's all different right now! The Yankees went down like wimps in their one game wild card playoff and the Mets are currently playing in the World Series after defeating the Dodgers and their aces Clayton Kershaw and Zach Greinke in the NLDS and then sweeping the Cubs in the NLCS.

While it's annoying to see "fans" jumping on the bandwagon, it's hysterical to all of a sudden see Mets caps, t-shirts, jackets and jerseys all over town instead of Yankees gear.

No matter where the rest of the playoffs takes them, the 2015 New York Mets have given us loyal Mets fans a chance to be proud, to believe and to be the only baseball story in town! However, this all seemed so improbable up until late July.

When the season began back in April we all knew that the Mets were loaded with great starting pitching. The worry was going to be the offense with journeymen like John Mayberry being relied upon to provide power and runs.

The Nats were the heavy favorites to win the division so it was a good omen when the Mets defeated the Nationals in the season opener in Washington. That was just the beginning as the Mets went on an eleven game winning streak in April and finished the month with a 15-8 record.

From there, the punchless Mets arrived and offense became a nightly problem. The team went 13-15 in the month of May where they were shut out four times. This included two straight 1-0 home defeats to Detroit. There were also five other games where the Mets scored just one run.

June was more of the same with another 13-15 record for the month, four shutouts and a seven game losing streak. In addition, there were 9 other games where the Mets scored three runs or less.

In July the Mets record was 13-12 and they were shutout three times while suffering eight losses where they scored three runs or less.

The end of July is when everything changed and the Wilmer Flores effect took over. The Mets were staying afloat and were several games over .500. The trade deadline was approaching and if the Mets were going to make a playoff push it was obvious that management would have to do something to improve the offense.

During a July 29th home game versus the San Diego Padres, rumors began to swirl on social media and from reporters covering the team that Wilmer Flores and rehabbing Zack Wheeler were traded to Milwaukee for former Met Carlos Gomez. (Personally I thought that was a TERRIBLE trade). Despite the news, Flores remained in the lineup and even Gary Cohen and the rest of the TV broadcast crew were questioning why Flores was still in the game if had indeed been traded. By the time the rumors had been passed along to Flores himself, television cameras caught the lifelong Mets player visibly wiping away tears in the field.

In the end, the trade never went through, Flores became a fan favorite and the story became a national one. Of course the Mets organization received a ton of negative press and the mood around the club was not helped by the story.

The next night was the icing on the cake of negativity as the Mets lost a game that only the Mets could lose. The Mets had a 7-1 lead over the Padres in the 7th inning. Bobby Parnell came in to cause drama and loaded the bases. Hansel Robles was called on to get out of the mess and ended up giving up a grand slam to make the score 7-5.

But wait, it gets worse. Jeurys Familia was in to close out the game and with two outs in the ninth something that can only happen to the Mets happened. In the you can't make this up category, it was then that the rain started pouring down and the umpires ridiculously decided to call time and cover the field.

44 minutes later play resumed only to see two straight Padres get on before Justin Upton homered to give the Padres an 8-7 lead. Before the Mets could come to bat in the bottom of the ninth, the rain came again and the tarp came out again. This time the delay was 2 hours and 52 minutes. Finally, the Mets went down one, two, three and the demoralizing loss was complete.

From there, the Wilmer Flores effect took over and the Mets' season turned around. On July 31st it was announced that the Mets had acquired power hitting Yoenis Cespedes from Detroit. That night the Mets and Nationals went to extra innings before Wilmer Flores hit a walk off home run in the 12th and the Wilmer Flores fairy tale was complete.

The Mets owned August and went 20-8 with a nine game winning streak. The Mets weren't shut out once and scored five or more runs in 14 wins; including five wins with double digit runs. The Mets all of a sudden had an offense with the addition of Cespedes, Juan Uribe, Kelly Johnson and rookie Michael Conforto.

In September the Mets were 16-11 and scored five or more runs in 17 games. The month included a three game sweep of the Nationals which gave the Mets a 7 game lead with three weeks left.

The Mets officially won the Eastern Division on Saturday, September 26th with a 10-2 win in Cincinnati. There was no late season collapse and instead of the Mets choking, this time it was the Washington Nationals that did the choking.

They dispensed of the Dodgers last Thursday, October 15th after defeating both Clayton Kershaw and Zach Greinke; despite Chase Utley stealing a victory while breaking Ruben Tejada's leg.  

Next they made easy work of the suddenly unstoppable Chicago Cubs. Harvey was the winner in game one versus John Lester 4-2 with Familia getting the save. Chicago's ace Jake Arieta was the losing pitcher in game two with Noah Syndergaard picking up the win with relief help from Jonathan Niese, Addison Reed, Tyler Clippard and Familia.

Back in Chicago the Mets took games three and four as well. DeGrom pitched seven innings while giving up just two runs and Bartolo Colon, Reed, Clippard and Familia pitched in to back up Steven Matz's 4.2 innings of one run ball.

Daniel Murphy was named the series MVP with an amazing six straight games with a home run and some very impressive play both on the base paths and on the field!

The Mets have now reached the hallowed land and a place that no one in their right mind could have imagined the Mets would be back in mid July. The turnaround has been truly amazing and a just reward for Mets fans that have stayed loyal through years of futility, collapses and embarrassments.

No matter what happens from here, the Mets have arrived and this is just the beginning of things to come!

A season in 10 games: Tracing the Mets’ incredible seesaw year

How the New York Mets built the World Series team that's shocking baseball

Post Script:

In the end, the Mets came up short in the World Series losing to Kansas City. It should not be lost that early season problems returned; great pitching performances wasted by lack of offense. Defensive problems also appeared as well as mental errors on the base paths. Hopefully Mets management will address these problems in the off season as the arms that got the Mets this far are all coming back. Considering the fact that Syndergaard, Matz and outfielder Conforto all started the year in the minors and Zack Wheeler will be coming back from Tommy John surgery next season, the future couldn't be brighter.

In the end the 2015 New York Mets over achieved and proved to themselves and their fan base that the future is bright. The past three months have been an amazing experience that energized a fan base that's been desperate for a team they could be proud of. Well done 2015 New York Mets. Bring on next season!

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