Let’s put it this way, if we must: There was nothing pre-ordained to suggest the New York Mets couldn’t have won the now-finished World Series. There was nothing pre-ordained suggesting the Kansas City Royals couldn’t have lost it. Unless you were fool enough to give the Royals an inch.
Take a yard? These Royals took the circumference of the earth when given any inches. And these Mets, who’d gotten to the postseason so gallantly in the first place, when nobody including perhaps themselves started the season thinking they had a sliver of a chance, had inches to give and then some. Time and again.
Nobody wants to take anything away from the Royals. Their relentless move-the-line approach at the plate got them a World Series triumph a year after they couldn’t solve Madison Bumgarner. They’d spent three decades in the wilderness before reaching last year’s Series and now they moved the line right to the top of the baseball bean hill.
But these Mets just about handed the Series to them. The Royals went in knowing it was a very distinct possibility. So credit the Royals with doing their homework. And remind the Mets they can’t say the dog ate theirs.
The Royals’ scouting reports told them the Mets could be had if you played to their porous infield. David Wright and Lucas Duda were singled out especially. But Wright’s a well-seasoned veteran sapped by injuries in recent seasons, costing him range afield as well as some of his once-formidable hitting power. And Duda was never a threat to Keith Hernandez’s stature as the greatest first base Met of them all.
For all the Royals’ deservedly renowned tenacity, even they have to wonder just how on earth they really overthrew the Mets no matter what they knew about them going in. For all that the Royals pride themselves on a never-quit approach, even they have to be amazed that the Mets all but threw away a World Series they actually could have won.
Even these Royals have to wonder how the better Johnny Cueto showed up at the right time to throttle the Mets in Game Two, the only game in which the Mets didn’t have a lead late. Oh, the Mets scored the first run of that game. It was the only run Cueto let them get away with, too.
Even these Royals have to wonder, for all that they’re known for solid defense, how Alex Rios’s mishap in the third inning of Game Four, Yordano Ventura’s failure to cover first in Game Three, and Franklin Morales’s brain freeze on a sure double play ball also in Game Three, didn’t send them to the Series cemetery.
But when they do wonder about such things, they have the immediate answer: We’re not the greatest gloves in the business, but the Mets made us look like Ozzie Smith, Brooks Robinson, Graig Nettles, and Willie Mays.
They’re far too kind. When the Mets got to a World Series they probably had no business getting to in the first place, they suddenly morphed into whatever your idea was about seeing the 1962 Mets, the Original Mets, the F Troop Mets (oops! The ’62 Mets preceded F Troop) in a Series. Assuming your imagination gets that absurd.
The Mets entered this Series with an offense that dominated the league in the second half of the regular season and did what it had to do against the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Chicago Cubs to get to the Series—back up that impeccable pitching, out-hit its own defense, and make it stick.
In the Series? The biggest Met bats turned to foam. Duda, the streaky power hitter, didn’t get anywhere near hitting one out though he did produce a few runs.
Yoenis Cespedes—the big non-waiver deadline acquisition who practically yanked the Mets over the National League East hump to stay—has been asleep at the switch since mid-September and showed no sign of awakening in the Series, either at the plate or in the outfield. They won’t be in that big a hurry to try re-signing him this winter.
Michael Conforto, the well regarded rookie, awoke a little too late for comfort from a postseason slumber borne of inexperience. (He’d played in only 56 regular-season games.) Even if his two hefty home runs in Game Four gave the Mets a lead they’d surrender to a tie in the sixth.
Daniel Murphy, who’d electrified the world and maybe a few distant planets with his mashing before the Series, went 3-for-20 with five walks, seven strikeouts, and no runs batted in. Not to mention the errors that probably did the most to plant the question of not if but when the Royals would finish the Mets off.
Just over a week ago the question became whether the Mets would swallow it and make a real effort to re-sign Murphy, who also hits free agency this winter. The answer now is: Thanks for the memory, Dan, best of luck in the future, but we’re sure you don’t mind if we decide we have one without you. (And, by the way, thanks for the draft pick, too, if Murphy ignores a possible qualifying offer.)
None of the Mets’ stellar pitching could overcome the Mets’ extraterrestrial mistakes. And none of the Royals would trade those for anything. Any Royal offering to make such a trade would have a date with a psychiatrist:
* Conforto and Cespedes cross each other up on a catchable leadoff fly that turns into a Series-opening inside-the-park home run. Jeurys Familia, stout Mets closer, with the Mets two outs from nailing Game One, throws Alex Gordon a too-fat pitch that sails over the center field fence.
* Mets manager Terry Collins misreads Jacob deGrom’s tank in Game Two, misuses Jonathon Niese out of the pen, while the Mets can’t solve Cueto—he who had a 4.02 lifetime ERA against them, he whom they’d hit for a .734 team OPS—and lose 7-1.
(Memo to Collins: When you warm a man up twice before finally bringing him in, think twice. Niese had probably thrown enough warmup pitches in the pen to equal a five-inning start. You were lucky to get a scoreless seventh out of him before leaving him in empty in the eighth.)
* Collins brings in Familia to close out a Met blowout in Game Three. Big waste of a valuable resource. Then he doesn’t ask Familia for a badly-needed six-out save in Game Four, even knowing Royals manager Ned Yost wouldn’t think twice about asking Wade Davis for likewise.
* He asks for a five-out save instead. And watches Murphy misplay Eric Hosmer’s seeing-eye, game-tying RBI single and Mike Moustakas’s followup, both on a pair of grounders even a wheelchair bound infielder could and would have fielded for outs.
* Cespedes—around long enough to know better—gets himself caught completely flatfoot more than halfway to second on a soft line drive infield out. And doubled up ignominiously to end Game Four.
* Collins sends Harvey out for the ninth in Game Five, giving in to his heart, the Citi Field chanters, and Harvey’s demand. Doesn’t hook him after handing Lorenzo Cain a leadoff walk. Hooks him after Hosmer’s RBI double spoils the shutout. Brings in Familia. Duda can’t make a simple throw home to consummate a should-have-been game-ending double play and Hosmer scores the tying run.
The Mets ought to be grateful that Familia refuses to blame his defense for the two saves they blew for him. I could name you a few relief pitchers and a general manager or two who’d have them measured for lethal injections.
* Addison Reed—working magnificently in the Series until now—runs out of fuel at last and turns Christian Colon into a Kansas City immortal. Then watches helplessly as Murphy plays Paolo Orlando’s hopper off his chest to set up first and second and a two-run double.
* Bartolo Colon—the old man working out of the pen after a serviceable season as a starter—comes in after a free pass to set up a double play and gets nailed for Cain’s coffin lid hammering three-run double.
The Royals trailed the Mets in all five World Series games and won three games in which they trailed the Mets in the eighth inning or later. They’d like to thank the Mets very much for allowing them to win the Series, I’m sure.
To their eternal credit none of the most errant Mets ducked responsibility for their misplays and malplays. Collins’s mantra from the moment he took command of the Mets’ bridge five years ago has been accountability. Including and especially from himself.
No wonder he loves these Mets. He and they stood up like men, copped to their collapses, and gave the Royals their due. It won’t get them a do-over this time, but it might bode well enough for their immediate future. A very few changes and the Mets might be back next postseason.
Just like last year’s Royals did this year.