That’s Step One

For me, the 2016 season started on a cold, dark Sunday night, the last day of March, with a reminder of how painful the end of 2015 had been.  We were down 4-0.  We cut it to 4-3.  Wade Davis, who had ended the 2015 season in our opponents’ favor, came in.  We had a man on third.  He didn’t come home.

But we won the next game, and the next.  That Friday, our home opener, we beat up on the Phillies.  It looked so easy — deGrom on the mound, everyone hitting, the blowout bullpen sealing the deal.  And I’ll admit it: right then, I thought the season was ours for the taking.

Clearly it wasn’t, as the intervening months would attest.  I was at the next game, a 1-0 loss to the Phillies in 40-degree weather.  I was at the one after that, another loss to the Phillies, although Cespedes finally homered.

And then we started winning.  Then we started losing.  It wasn’t the romp to the division that I’d expected.  But it wasn’t terrible either.

We reached what was probably our low point around the middle of August.  Right around the same time, I realized that I didn’t think we were going anywhere.  I was so sure about this that I wrote about it.  As we continued winning and losing and not really getting anywhere, I wasn’t the only one feeling this way.

“The Mets season could effectively end in St. Louis this weekend,” Adam Rubin wrote on twitter.

Apparently, it wasn’t just me that had forgotten.  But as these Mets are prone to remind you when things look tough, ya just gotta believe.

Besides being inherently wrong, seeing as the season ends after game 162 whether you’ve got 100 wins or 100 losses, this turned out not to be even superficially true.  After that low point, we started losing people.  Matz, deGrom, Walker, Wheeler.  Wright was already done.  Duda hadn’t played since April.  Niese came back for a game and then went down with something or other.  d’Arnaud was bad.  Conforto was in the minors.  Granderson could barely hit.  Neither could Jay Bruce.  Loney had stopped hitting.  Nothing was working.

And yet, somehow, right around that time was also when we started winning.

Since being two games under .500, we’re 25-12.  With regular starts from Robert Gsellman, Seth Lugo, Rafael Montero, and Gabriel Ynoa, we’ve made up something like eight games on the Giants and the Cardinals.  With contributions from people like T.J. Rivera, Matt Reynolds, Brandon Nimmo, and Ty Kelly, we’ve stormed back from the depths of mediocrity to a spot in the playoffs.  With the Las Vegas 51’s on the field, our mantra has gone from “wait ‘till next year” to “defend our title.”

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I mean really, how many different stories were there to keep track of?  The return of Jose Reyes.  Bartolo Colón looking maybe 4/7 of his 43 years old.  Asdrubal Cabrera spending two months as Honus Wagner.  Seth Lugo throwing what was, by spin rate, the dirtiest curveball in the league.  Granderson suddenly starting to hit, and reaching 30 home runs; Cespedes reaching 30 as well.  T.J. Rivera batting .340.  Brandon Nimmo having the biggest smile in the world and a swing that’s gotta be up there as well.

I don’t know how or why it worked.  I don’t know whether we can keep it up.  I just don’t know.  But what we’ve done is already just about enough.

At least nominally, it’s a playoff appearance, as opposed to a game 163.  I’ll accept that.  Whether we win or lose — and obviously, I’d like us to win — we’ll have defied the odds beyond belief.

Beyond belief, whether we’re talking strictly emotional belief or statistical likelihood — on August 19th, our playoff odds were 6.7% — that’s almost 15:1.  42 days later, they’re 100%.  Talk about beating the odds — if what I understand about sports betting is correct, if you’d put $100 down on us to make the playoffs on August 19th, you could now walk away with almost $1500.  If happiness were cash, right now, I could come up with that much and then some.

So what do we do now?  We go on, and we play tomorrow, and we play Wednesday, and when we win, we play until we can’t play anymore.  We play until we’ve got postseason highlights to remember and new enemies to curse and a new pennant to hang up at Citi Field.

It’s not like last year, or at least, not yet: we’ve only got one game to look towards, for now.  Wednesday night, at home, everything on the line.  So for now, that’s where everything lies.  Hope for the rest of the postseason, closure on a wildly successful season regardless, determination of whatever else will happen on this ridiculous ride.  After that, we keep going.  Or we’re done.  Either way, we’ve done one hell of a job.

So for now, we just enjoy it.  We enjoy Closing Day against the Phillies, we enjoy Monday and Tuesday as the tension builds until we just can’t stand it, and we enjoy Wednesday, as our heart rates increase slowly and we watch what will inevitably turn into an instant classic.  And after Wednesday, things calm down a little bit either way.  But we’ll worry about that when we get there.

Your 2016 Mets, ladies and gentlemen.  They were down, but as today will attest, most certainly not out.  Now we’ll just have to see where they take us from here.

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