We’re going to divide the column in half today, dear reader, so be prepared. Up first:
The Glass Half Empty
Look, it is useless to sugarcoat the amount of damage the Mets did to themselves this weekend in Georgia. They fulfilled a legion of dark prophesies from a solid core of their fan base, who only know Atlanta as a torture chamber that has ruined too many baseball seasons to count.
Including, for the time being, this one.
For the Mets desperately craved the biggest perk afforded the winner of the NL East. Forget the bonus that the Braves will get to wait an extra round to face the Dodgers; if you’re going to win the NL pennant, the road is almost certainly going straight through Chavez Ravine at some point. No, the best benefit was this: rest.
The Mets look cooked. They seem exhausted. Their best players have played day after day, a necessity since Starling Marte’s bat was removed from the lineup a few weeks ago. They, as much as any team in baseball, could’ve used the five days off between Wednesday’s regular-season finale and the start of the NLDS Oct. 11.
Those batteries are relatively easy to recharge. The more complicated one involves the aspect that was supposed to be the Mets’ biggest weapon: the top of the rotation. Yes, Jacob deGrom, Max Scherzer and Chris Bassitt had a lost weekend at Truist Park, but they still represent the Mets’ best chance for October survival.
The problem is, now deGrom and Scherzer (and, if needed, Bassitt) will pitch in the best-of-three wild-card series with either the Padres or Phillies that’ll occupy next Friday/Saturday/Sunday. The NLDS with the Dodgers begins Tuesday, and there will be but one off day in that best-of-five. That means Scherzer and deGrom only go once apiece, when a bye would’ve allowed one — presumably deGrom — to throw Games 1 and 5.
(And let’s not even speculate on the fool’s-gold errand that could be in play Wednesday if, by some miracle, the Mets sweep their doubleheader vs. the Nats on Tuesday and the Braves lose again to the Marlins after a Monday shutout. deGrom has already said he’d be ready to pitch that day, and while that’s nice, the Mets would still be shifted to the wild card if the Braves win … and wouldn’t have deGrom at all for it.)
So, yeah. The Mets made themselves quite a mess. And now:
The Glass Half Full
Right now, the Mets look like a beaten, broken, dispirited team. They have surrendered all of the momentum and many of the good vibes assembled across the season’s first 156 games. It feels impossible they can muster anything resembling a resurrection at this point.
But I can tell you two things for sure:
Nobody was more beaten or broken than the 1999 Mets. After being nose-to-nose with the Braves in September they lost seven games in a row and headed into the final weekend needing all kinds of help just to make it to a one-game wild-card play-in game in Cincinnati.
“This was an amazing ride,” Bobby Valentine said before the season-ending series against the Pirates, even the rose-lensed manager slipping into the past tense. But they got the help. They beat the Reds. They knocked off a powerful 100-win Diamondbacks team (managed by Buck Showalter) in the NLDS and came within a couple of outs of reaching Game 7 of the NLCS. Nobody saw that coming.
And then there was 2015, a season we best remember for the way the Mets seized the NL East early in September and then ransacked the Dodgers and Cubs in the playoffs. But with six days to go in that season, the Mets had a two-game lead on LA for what was expected to be essential home-field advantage.
The Mets promptly dropped five in a row, the last coming via an almost beyond-belief no-hitter by a Nationals pitcher named Max Scherzer. They squandered home-field to the Dodgers, and that sure felt like a death knell for the Mets’ World Series hopes.
“We know we’re better than this,” David Wright said in the quiet of the post-no-hitter clubhouse at Citi Field, a curious thing to say about a team that had already clinched first place.
Given the chance to prove that, the Mets did, all the way to the World Series. Now none of this means — empty-glass alert! — that this is the destiny of the 2022 Mets. But you really never know. You know?