This Could Have Been the Mets
Last year, Ben Zobrist was one of the driving forces for a Royals team that beat the Mets in the World Series. This year, he was more of the same for a Cubs team that is on the verge of winning their first World Series since 1908. As luck would have it, Zobrist was one of the many “what if” decisions from the 2015 offseason that leads us to where the Mets are today.
Zobrist choosing the Cubs over the Mets led to a series of dominos falling. It led to the Mets choosing to trade Jon Niese for Neil Walker instead of looking to re-sign Daniel Murphy. That, coupled with Brandon Phillips rejected a trade, led Murphy to the Washington Nationals. Murphy would go on to have an MVP caliber season. Murphy’s season was more than enough to compensate for Bryce Harper having a down year, by his standards, and for Stephen Strasburg having yet another injury plagued year.
There were strange decisions along the way like the Mets initially passing on Yoenis Cespedes and signing Alejandro De Aza to platoon in center field with Juan Lagares. There was the multi-year deal with Antonio Bastardo despite him being an every other year reliever and Sandy Alderson’s poor history signing relievers to a multi-year deal with the Mets. Despite all of that, Cespedes re-signed, and the Mets once again looked like they were primed to return to the World Series in 2017.
Even with Cespedes’ return, the real hope was with the pitching. Now one could compete with Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, and Noah Syndergaard. If Steven Matz could join his teammates as an ace all the better. Even with this embarrassment of riches, the Mets still had Zack Wheeler returning from Tommy John surgery. By the way, waiting to close out those games was Jeurys Familia, who had already established himself as a great closer. As they said pitching wins championships, and the Mets had pitching in spades.
Early in the season, it worked out. Even with Harvey struggling, deGrom’s velocity not returning, and Wheeler’s return getting pushed back, the Mets were winning. Part of the reason why was Syndergaard taking the next step, Matz proving he belonged in the ace discussion, and deGrom adapting well to a lower velocity.
In April, the Mets took two out of three from the Indians in Cleveland. In a re-match of the NLCS, with a hot Cubs team looking for revenge, the Mets swept them out of Citi Field. Against this year’s World Series teams, the Mets were 7-3. This showed the Mets, with their pitching staff in tact, could beat the best of the best.
As we know, the pitching staff never did stay in tact. Furthermore, despite Walker having a good year, the Mets really missed Zobrist or Murphy as the offense was just one bat short to help carry a dinged up rotation to the finish line. Still, with Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman performing better than anyone could’ve anticipated, the Mets made the Wild Card Game. In reality, the Mets lost that game because Madison Bumgarner was able to go deeper into that game than Syndergaard was.
As we saw in the NLDS, the Giants put a scare into the Cubs by almost sending it back to Wrigley Field for a Game 5. With the Mets having Addison Reed and Familia, who knows if a Mets-Cubs series would have gone much differently.
Really, that is one of many “what if” situations from the 2016 season that was just disappointing to Mets fans who were dreaming of a World Series this year. As we saw last year, this Mets pitching staff can beat anybody. In fact, this Mets pitching staff can demoralize even the best offensive clubs. When the Mets staff was healthy and in tact this year, which was only a brief snapshot in time (if it really ever was the case), the Mets once again proved that this year. And with that, there is hope for 2017. As of the moment, the Mets can expect, Syndergaard, deGrom, Harvey, and Matz in the Opening Day rotation. There’s no team in baseball that can match that.
So while Mets fans are sitting there melancholy and wondering “what if” during what should prove to be a great World Series, just remember the Mets have the pitching to win in 2017. Hopefully, that thought will keep you warm throughout the winter.