And so, we find ourselves once again in the heat of a playoff race, with 35 games to go, a 3.5 game difference between the Wild Card leaders and ourselves, and a whole lotta unfulfilled promise in the air.
When I stop and consider things, there’s more: along with everything else, there are signs of the first furious, back-and-forth playoff race that I’ve ever been a part of.
Last year wasn’t like that. Last year, we went from three games back to three ahead faster than anyone could imagine, and then ran away with the division. 2007 was similar, but from the other side: we didn’t realize we were in a playoff race until it was too late. 2006 we were miles ahead of the pack. 2005 I barely remember, but from what I’ve heard, we never really had a chance.
So, going down the home stretch, we’ve got momentum, desire, and three teams to pass. Can we do it? I don’t know. But either way, unless we drop out of sight and finish 12 games out, it won’t be quickly forgotten.
A 35 game stretch where every game could mean the season? How often have we had something like that, recently? We need to win; we need the Pirates, the Cardinals, and the Marlins to lose. If that happens — and happens enough — we’ve got a wildcard game to win. It’s that simple.
Again, can we do it? I don’t know, but I think we just might be able to. We’re better — far better — than a 64-63 team. We’ve got pitching, even if most of it has been lost to injury like we all dreaded would happen. We’ve got relief. We’ve got some offense. We’ve got Yoenis Cespedes.
All year long, we’ve been going wrong. We lost Harvey; Matz turned bad; Cespedes hit the DL; Wright and Duda went down for the year; Familia had a bad patch; Wheeler had a setback. All year long, our line drives have found the fielders’ gloves, in both a literal and figurative sense, and while this sets us up nicely for us to come out of the gate strong in 2017, maybe we’ve also got a shot to do something right now.
The early 2015 Mets, with no Syndergaard, no Conforto, no Cespedes, and even more damagingly, yes Michael Cuddyer, rolled off an 11 game winning streak. It can be done; catching fire at the right time requires nothing more than blind luck and a little bit of talent. We’ve got the talent. All we need is some luck.
And maybe we won’t get it. Maybe we’ll sputter and fade, and 3.5 games back with 35 to go is the closest the 2016 Mets will sniff to a playoff spot. But that we’re here, ready to go, with 35 games remaining, should say two things.
First, we’re here, we’re not going away, and we’re down and ready to fight with everything we have for that last playoff spot. And second, whether we succeed or not, it’ll be a fight to remember.