So you wanted to root for an underdog…
Of course you did. You’re a Mets fan. You were aware of the other options, from the pinstriped team across town crowing about their 26 or 27 or 28 championships to the new hotness of the moment such as the 2008 Rays or the 2013 Blue Jays or the 2015 Padres. But each time you were reminded that there were more and better baseball teams beyond Queens, you said, “No thanks,” (or something less equanimous) and kept following the Mets. You have your reasons. I’m not going to try to list them all. But at this point, after the frustration and embarrassment and despair of 2007-2014, I feel pretty sure of one of them:
Because long odds make a victory that much sweeter.
This isn’t how 2016 was supposed to go, of course. 2016 was supposed to be Mets fans’ reward for keeping the faith from the Tom Glavine game in 2007 through the runs-free summer of 2015. In 2016, the Mets were supposed to be great, and only the possible also-greatness of the Nationals was supposed to keep the Mets from being *gasp* front runners.
MetsToday readers polled between April 7-11 predicted these win totals for the 2016 team: 101, 94, 93, 92, 92, 90, 90, 89, 88.
But these are the Mets. They don’t just make you earn your fan satisfaction decade by decade. They make you earn it year by year, month by month, sometimes day by day.
So of course Cy Young hopeful Matt Harvey fell apart mechanically and psychologically and had a rib removed. Of course Jacob deGrom frayed a nerve, and Steven Matz grew a new elbow bone, and clapping our hands three times and saying “Ya gotta believe!” didn’t heal David Wright‘s spine. Of course the Mets burned through plans A and B at most positions on the field.
A funny thing happened, though: plans C and D stepped up.
2016 WAR by position:
A) Travis d’Arnaud 0.0
B) Kevin Plawecki -0.1
C) Rene Rivera 0.4 (first game April 30)
A) Lucas Duda 0.3
B) Eric Campbell -0.7
C) James Loney -0.3 (first game May 31)
D) Wilmer Flores 0.6
A) Neil Walker 3.8
B) Kelly Johnson 0.3 (first game June 11)
C) Wilmer Flores -0.1
D) T.J. Rivera 0.7 (MLB debut August 10)
A) Asdrubal Cabrera 2.7
B) Matt Reynolds 0.0 (MLB debut May 17)
C) Jose Reyes 0.1
A) David Wright 0.5
B) Ty Kelly 0.1
C) Wilmer Flores 0.6
D) Jose Reyes 1.1 (first game July 5)
A) Curtis Granderson 1.5
B) Brandon Nimmo -0.1 (MLB debut June 26)
C) Jay Bruce 0.3 (first game August 1)
A) Yoenis Cespedes 1.7
B) Juan Lagares 0.5
C) Michael Conforto 0.2
D) Justin Ruggiano 0.2 (first game July 30)
E) Alejandro De Aza 0.1
F) Curtis Granderson 1.5
A) Michael Conforto 0.6
B) Brandon Nimmo 0.0
C) Yoenis Cespedes 1.1
D) Ty Kelly 0.6 (MLB debut May 24)
A third-choice catcher, fourth-choice third baseman, fourth-choice first baseman, and sixth-choice center fielder? This is the stuff of “poor us” teams, not playoff teams.
With Neil Walker lost for the season, along with two of the Mets’ top 4 starting pitchers (Jacob deGrom and Steven Matz), it’s gotten even crazier during the stretch run, as second base plan D T.J. Rivera and rotation plans F and G Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman have taken on vital roles.
Mets fans, this isn’t what you hoped for, but doesn’t it feel right somehow? Doesn’t embracing an underdog feel like second nature at this point? Wouldn’t watching a team full of established stars dominate the competition feel strangely alien? Don’t you yearn more to see a gritty over-achiever overcome all odds?
This is your team.
Let’s go Mets.
My thoughts at the time on what 89 wins would mean for the Mets: “They could win 89 via a sweep over DC that seizes the division title from the Nats, or they could win 89 while getting knocked out of the division lead and losing their season to Kershaw, Bumgarner or Cole in the wild card game.”