For most of the 2015 season, did you even think the New York Mets were going to make it to the World Series? I know I didn’t. Then the trading deadline came along and a new team emerged. Gone were the nail-biting and frustrating 1-0 and 2-1 games and in came an offensive barrage. Though the Mets made New York smile with their National League pennant run was it a truly happy season? Read on and form your own opinion.
What went right: In order for the Mets to compete, they needed Matt Harvey and Jacob deGrom to make each of their starts and remain healthy. When they decided to bring up Noah Syndergaard in May, he needed to follow in the other two’s footsteps. Amazingly, for a franchise that was been cursed with rotten luck, all three remained healthy for the entire season. Even more amazing, all three pitchers were as good as advertised. No team, it seems, can get lucky with that kind of daily double and the Mets used that health and good luck all the way to the Fall Classic. Their 11-game winning streak early in April helped keep the team in or around first place for the entire season as the division favorite Washington Nationals stumbled, got hot and then faded as the Summer wore on. In fact one of the biggest differences between 2014 and 2015 were the meetings between the two clubs. In 2014, the Nats owned the Mets, going 15-4 against the Amazins’. This season, it was the Mets’ who won the season series, 11-8 punctuated by a three game sweep in DC that basically gave the team the division.
Jeurys Familia developed into one of the best closers in baseball, finishing a league-high 65 games and notching 43 saves, third best in baseball. He struck out 86 batters in 78 innings and had an ERA of 1.85. The ageless Bartolo Colon won 14 games and led the team in innings pitched with 194 2/3. Offensively, Lucas Duda once again led the team in home runs with 27, though he slumped for long stretches at a time. Curtis Granderson had another solid year with 26 homers and 70 RBI’s and led the team in on-base percentage at .364 and runs scored with 98. Playoff hero Daniel Murphy was steady, hitting a club-best .281 while tying with Duda for the lead in RBI’s with 73. Outfielder Michael Conforto, New York’s #1 draft pick in 2014, hit nine home runs in 194 plate appearances. He is ready to become the full-time left fielder in 2016.
It was the transactions made near or at the trading deadline that sent the Mets on their merry way. First, Conforto was brought up from Double A Binghamton on July 24th. Later that evening, general manager Sandy Alderson swung a deal that brought veteran bats Kelly Johnson and Juan Uribe to Citi Field. However, tt was the events of later that week that symbolized both the utter joy and despair of the Mets in 2015. First, there was the botched trade for Carlos Gomez that literally had Wilmer Flores in tears as he was a heartbeat away from going to Milwaukee. When it fell through, Alderson rallied to pick up Yoenis Cespedes who was so good that there was even speculation he should be considered for the National League Most Valuable Player. The Mets went 36-19 in August and September, putting to rest any doubt who was the best team in the National League East.
What went wrong: Once the 11-game winning streak finished, the Mets became a .500 for the next three months. The team’s lack of any sort of offensive punch resulted in many games that were simply impossible to watch. This was never more evident than on June 30th-July 2nd, a three game series against the Chicago Cubs. The Mets were shut out the first two games of the series and scored only one run in the finale. The team wasted two superb outings by their starting pitchers and when deGrom was touched up a bit in the third, the bats had no answers.
Some of the offensive woes were caused by April injuries to third baseman David Wright and catcher Travis d’Arnaud. Wright missed most of the regular season because of a back problem while d’Arnaud made two trips to the disabled list. Duda was a disaster for much of the Summer, hitting under .200 in both June and July. Getting the ball to Familia proved to be equally challenging at times. Former closer Bobby Parnell, who had come off Tommy John surgery, provided no relief and was ultimately left off the playoff roster. Torres Squared, Alex Torres and Carlos Torres did not endear themselves to the faithful with their ability not to miss bats. Hansel Robles threw hard but he also gave up eight home runs in only 54 innings.
Things got so bad for the Mets at one point that they actually made it through half their games with a .500 record, 41-41 on July 4th. The fan base was on its last nerves because the front office seemed unwilling or unable to make a move to bolster the team. It gave rise to the infamous “Panic City” by Alderson. There was also that infamous 7-1, rain-delayed blown lead on July 30th. The circus continued with Harvey, Scott Boras and the 180 inning limit fiasco. Even though this was a World Series team, it seemed to have a perpetual black cloud hanging over them.
Final analysis: Anytime a team makes the World Series, particularly when you least expect it, it is a good year. Yet, this didn’t feel like a good season for the Mets. It wasn’t one of those magic carpet ride-type campaigns where the team played well from game one through game 162. Outside of the early winning streak and the six week stretch from August 1st through September 10th, there was a lot of hand-wringing among Met fans. Even after they clinched the division and lost practically every game over the last week of the season there was frustration over not securing home field advantage for the Division Series. All of that bleakness faded as the team pulled out a five game squeaker over the Dodgers before steamrolling the Cubs. As far as the World Series goes, yes there were late, blown leads. We all have an opinion about Harvey being left in too long or not long enough in Game Five. However, the Royals were just the better team. It was their time. As far as the Mets go, let’s hope this is the beginning of the most successful run in franchise history.