First and foremost, we all know the ideal 2019 World Series would involve the Mets beating whichever American League team won the pennant. As it stands, the 2019 World Series winner is not going to be an ideal situation for Mets fans. To that end, here’s a ranking on what Mets fans would probably like to see happen.
The Mets and Astros broke into the Majors together in 1962. Through that time, the only time these two franchises ever really clashed was the 1986 NLCS. In the NLCS, there were (proven) allegations Mike Scott was scuffing the ball. Fortunately, thanks to a miracle rally in Game 6 and Keith Hernandez threatening Jesse Orosco if he threw another fastball, the Mets prevailed in that series.
Really, if you want to be sour grapes about the Astros, you could pinpoint how an Astros World Series would cement their status as a better expansion franchise than the Mets. Still, when you see the other options, that is the least of Mets fans concerns.
The Washington Nationals franchise began in 1969 when they were the Montreal Expos. Before the time the Expos moved to Washington, the only real issue you’d have is the Expos taking out the Mets in 1998 ending their Wild Card dreams. Of course, with the Expos sending the Mets Gary Carter in 1985, you could overlook it.
Really, if you look deeper, there isn’t much to the Mets/Nationals rivalry. The two teams have only been good together in three seasons. In 2015, the Mets embarrassed a Nationals team who choked figuratively, and thanks to Jonathon Papelbon attacking Bryce Harper, they literally choked too.
In 2016, Daniel Murphy tipped the power balance between the two teams, but that still didn’t keep the Mets out of the postseason. After that season, the Nationals would remain a competitive team while the Mets fell by the wayside.
This year, the two teams were good again with some memorable games. The August 10th game was a real highlight for the Mets with Luis Guillorme‘s pinch hit homer followed by J.D. Davis‘ sacrifice fly to give the Mets an exciting victory. Of course, the less said the better about Paul Sewald, Luis Avilan, Edwin Diaz, Ryan Zimmerman, and Kurt Suzuki, the better.
New York Yankees
Putting aside Yankee fans crowing about all the rings won back in the days of the reserve clause and the game being integrated, there is enough history between these teams to despite the Yankees. There’s Derek Jeter being named the MVP of the 2000 World Series. As bad as the blown game against the Nationals was, Luis Castillo dropping Alex Rodriguez leading to Mark Teixeira scoring the winning run arguably felt all the worse.
Since Interleague Play started, this has been an intense rivalry with the Mets having a number of low moments. Aside from these, there was Mariano Rivera being walked to force in a run, Johan Santana having a career worst start, and everything Roger Clemens. Really, Clemens throwing a ball and bat at Mike Piazza with the Yankees who once accused Clemens of head hunting rushing to his defense is sufficient enough to hate them.
Of course, we then have Joe Torre, who has been the one who not only delivers the message but also defends Major League Baseball not allowing the Mets to wear the First Responders’ caps on 9/11.
St. Louis Cardinals
The so-called “Best Fans in Baseball” called the New York Mets teams of the 1980s pond scum. That’s how intense this rivalry was, and really, continues to be.
Going back to the 1980s, this was as intense a rivalry as there was in baseball. You can pinpoint to any number of plays and player like Terry Pendleton, John Tudor, and so much more. Even with realignment, this rivalry never truly subdued. The Mets got the better of the Cardinals with Timo Perez, Edgardo Alfonzo, and NLCS MVP Mike Hampton running roughshod over the Cardinals.
In 2006, Adam Wainwright freezing Carlos Beltran is forever crystalized into everyone’s minds. Beyond that was Scott Spiezio‘s game tying RBI triple off Guillermo Mota (why did he shake off Paul Lo Duca) and So Taguchi‘s homer off Billy Wagner. There was much more including Albert Pujols trash talking Tom Glavine (back when that was a bad thing).
Overall, the absolute worst case scenario is a Cardinals-Yankees World Series. Really, Yankees against anyone is the worst case scenario. Of course, that is the worst case for this World Series. The real worst case is seeing what Brodie Van Wagenen has in store as he tries to top trading away Jarred Kelenic and Justin Dunn to get Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz.
Looking at the BBWAA criteria for MVP voting, which I try to follow, it does not give much guidance on how to evaluate a player in a pennant race against a player who was stuck on a horrendous team but had an incredible season. Overall, this has created a rift between people who interpret MVP to mean “most valuable” and for those who interpret MVP to mean “best player.” While people stand on soap boxes and pound the podium for their side, there really is no wrong answer.
Personally, I tend to look at the “most valuable” side of the spectrum. A player who had a great year for a playoff team certainly had more value than a player who had a great year for a last place club. As the late great Ralph Kiner used to say during Mets telecasts, when he asked for a raise after a season he led the league in home runs (which he would do an impressive seven straight seasons), Branch Rickey told him something to the effect of, “We finished last with you, we could’ve finished last without you.”
While that is a little extreme, there is another factor at play. With the exception of players like Mike Scott and Bobby Richardson, it is generally accepted that the MVP comes from the team that won the postseason series. For example, in hitting three home runs, and big home runs at that, Curtis Granderson was arguably the best player in the 2015 World Series. However, the MVP went to Salvador Perez who had a good World Series for the Kansas City Royals. The guiding principle here is that you need to have an otherworldly type of series (or season) to win an MVP award for a losing team.
This is where it gets dicey as Mike Trout had one of those seasons. In 159 games, Trout hit .315/.441/.550 with 32 doubles, five triples, 29 homers, and 100 RBI. Trout would lead the league in runs (123), walks (116), OBP, OPS+ (174), runs created (148), adjusted batting runs (65), times on base (300), WPA (6.5), and wRC+ (171). His name was also scatterd across the Top 10s of the few categories he did not lead. It should come as no surprise then that he lead the majors in both bWAR (10.6) and fWAR (9.4). With a season like that, how can you justify voting for someone else?
Well, Mookie Betts was just that good. In 158 games, Betts hit .318/.363/.534 with 42 doubles, five triples, 31 homers, and 113 RBI. These are great numbers even if they are not on par with the offensive season Trout had. Betts led the league in at-bats (672) and total bases (359). He would also finish second in batting average, tenth in OBP, eighth in slugging, eighth in OPS (.897), second in plate appearances (730), second in runs scored (122), second in hits (214), third in doubles, tenth in triples, fourth in RBI, sixth in stolen bases (26), third in runs created (133), fourth in extra base hits (78), and eighth in WPA (3.1). Again, these are good numbers, but it is not the type of numbers that would cause Betts to be named MVP over Trout.
What gives Betts the edge is defense. Betts led the majors in DRS (32). He was third in the American League and fifth in the majors in UZR (17.8). Betts far outpaced Trout in both of these categories as Trout had a 6 DRS and a -0.3 UZR. Where Trout outclassed Betts as a hitter, Betts outclassed Trout as a fielder.
Accordingly, Betts was just behind Trout in bWAR (9.6) and fWAR (7.8). That was good for second in the American League. Overall, the separation between the two is like the separation between Betts and Trout was the difference between Joe Mauer and Chase Headley.
Looking at it through that prism, was there really that much of a difference between Betts and Trout? In my opinion, there wasn’t. Accordingly, Betts’ team having been in a pennant race all season, and having won the American League East, is a tiebreaker for me. With that Mookie Betts is the American League MVP.
Third – Manny Machado
Machado’s name gets lost in discussions over the young player you would rather have discussions. Most say it’s between Trout and Bryce Harper. However, Machado once again proved he belongs in the discussion. The 23 year old hit .294/.343/.533 with 40 doubles, one triple, 37 homers, and 96 RBI for an Orioles team that squeaked its way into the postseason as a Wild Card despite having next to no starting pitching.
He was his typical Gold Glove self at third base. With a J.J. Hardy injury, Machado had to slide over to shortstop for 45 games where he was above average proving that Machado can do anything in the field.
Fourth – Robinson Cano
In his third year as a Mariner, Cano finally put together a season like the ones he used to have with the Yankees. In 161 games, Cano hit .298/.350/.533 with 33 doubles, two triples, 39 homers, and 103 RBI. He did this while playing a very good second base. He was one of the biggest reasons why the Mariners were in the Wild Card hunt all the way until the final week of the season.
Fifth – Josh Donaldson
The reigning American League MVP put together yet another MVP caliber season. In 155 games, Donaldson hit .284/.404/.549 with 32 doubles, five triples, 37 homers, and 99 RBI. He finished fourth in the American League in WAR (7.4), and he led the Blue Jays to back-to-back postseason berths for the first time since 1992-1993.
Sixth – Adrian Beltre
In the Texas Rangers pre-Beltre history, they had four postseason appearances in their 50year franchise history. With Beltre, the Rangers have gone to the postseason four out of the last six years. Beltre has been a huge part of that as he was again this season. In 153 games, Beltre hit .300/.358/.521 with 31 doubles, 32 homers, and 104 RBI. By the way, the 37 year old still plays a Gold Glove caliber third base.
Seventh – Corey Kluber
Kluber was the best pitcher in the American League this year pitching 215.0 innings in 32 starts going 18-9 with a 3.14 ERA, 1.056 WHIP, 9.5 K/9, 227 strikeouts, 1.056 WHIP, 149 ERA+, 3.26 FIP, and a 6.5 WAR. He led the league in pitching WAR and shutouts. He was the ace for an Indians team that won the Central. While the postseason does not count for regular season awards (and this ballot was submitted prior to the postseason), we have seen just how valuable Kluber is to the Indians.
Eighth – Kyle Seager
If we are being fair, the Mariners were a two-three man group offensively, and that group kept them in the Wild Card race until the last week of the season. Seager was the second best player on the team, and he was almost as responsible for the Mariners success as Cano was. Overall, Seager hit an impressive .278/.359/.499 with 36 doubles, 30 homers, and 99 RBI
Ninth – Jose Altuve
Tenth – Brian Dozier
I remember back in 2000, the stories were that Bobby Valentine needed to make the World Series in order to keep his job. The amazing thing is he actually did it.
Just think about everything that had to happen that year for the Mets to make the World Series. First, the Mets had an overhaul of its outfield during the season. On Opening Day, the Mets outfield was, from left to right, Rickey Henderson–Darryl Hamilton–Derek Bell. At the end of the year, it was Benny Agbayani–Jay Payton-Derek Bell. Agbayani was only on the Opening Day roster because MLB allowed the team to have expanded rosters for their opening series in Japan.
On top of that, Todd Zeile was signed to replace John Olerud. Zeile had to become a first baseman after playing third for 10 years. Edgardo Alfonzo had to adapt from moving from the second spot in the lineup to the third spot. The Mets lost Rey Ordonez to injury and first replaced him with Melvin Mora for 96 games before trading him for the light hitting Mike Bordick. More or less, all of these moves worked. Then came the postseason.
A lot happened in the NLDS. After losing Game One, the Mets faced a quasi must win in Game Two. They were leading before Armando Benitez blew a save. I know. I’m shocked too. The Mets regained the lead, and they won the game when John Franco got a borderline third strike call against Barry Bonds. In Game Three, the Mets won on a Agbayani 13th inning walk off homerun. This was followed by Bobby Jones closing out the series on a one-hitter.
The Mets were then fortunate that the Braves lost to the Cardinals in the other NLDS series. The Mets tore through the Cardinals with new leadoff hitter Timo Perez. We saw all that luck run out in the World Series. We watched Zeile’s potential homerun land on top of the fence and bounce back. On the same play, Perez was thrown out at home. In the same game, Benitez blew the save. Unfortunately, there were no more heroics.
We saw this repeated in 2015. The epically bad Mets offense had to have its pitching hold things together until help came. Part of that required the Nationals to underperform while the Mets were fighting tooth and nail just to stay in the race.
In the NLDS, the Mets were on the verge of elimination. They weren’t eliminated because somehow, some way Jacob deGrom pitched six innings with absolutely nothing. The Mets then needed Daniel Murphy to have a game for the ages. He stole a base while no one was looking, and he hit a big homerun. It was part of an amazing run through the postseason for Murphy. Like in 2000, it came to a crashing halt in the World Series.
No matter how good your team is, it takes a lot of luck to win the World Series. Look at the 86 Mets.
In the NLCS, they barely outlasted the Astros. In Game Three, they needed a Lenny Dykstra two run homerun in the bottom of the ninth to win 6-5. In Game Five, Gary Carter hit a walk off single in the 12th to send the Mets back to Houston up 3-2. It was important because they didn’t want to face Mike Scott and his newfound abilities. With that pressure, they rallied from three down in the ninth, blew a 14th inning lead, and nearly blew a three run lead in the 16th inning.
Following this, the Mets quickly fell down 0-2 in the World Series before heading to Boston. After taking 2/3 in Boston, the Mets had to rally in the eighth just to tie Game Six. There are books that can be written not only about the 10th inning, but also Mookie Wilson‘s at bat.
First, they had to have a none on two out rally with each batter getting two strikes against them. For Calvin Schiraldi to even be in the position to meltdown, he had to be traded by the Mets to the Red Sox heading into the 1986 season. In return, the Mets got Bobby Ojeda, who won Game Three and started Game Six. John McNamara removed Schiraldi way too late and brought in Bob Stanley. His “wild pitch” in Mookie’s at bat allowed the tying run to score. You know the rest:
By the way, keep in mind Bill Buckner wasn’t pulled for a defensive replacement. Also, the Mets had to rally late from 3-0 deficit just to tie Game Seven.
We need to keep all of this is mind when setting expectations for the 2016 season. Terry Collins is right when he says World Series title or bust is unfair. We know way too much can happen between now and the World Series. Right now, the only goal should be winning the NL East. If the Mets do that, they have met their reasonable expectations. After that, the Mets are going to need a little luck to win the World Series.