1:50 PM EDT on October 10, 2022
MLB's new wild card format is hilarious, until it comes for you. The Cardinals—screw 'em!—got their Albert Pujols fairytale dreams snuffed out by a six-run Phillies ninth inning on Friday and then one more traditional loss on Saturday. The Blue Jays—who cares?—saw their season end with a ridiculous seven-run Mariners comeback in an unforgettable 10-9 game. And the Rays—hahahaha—held the Guardians to just three runs across 24 innings and still didn't have the firepower to advance to the ALDS. All of these encounters were fun, weird, and packed with drama. They ruled. But the Mets ... oh, my poor Mets ... they deserved so much better than this abbreviated abomination.
Regular followers of Defector likely already know that everyone at this site, especially Barry, loves the Mets. But no one saw more of a dramatic uptick in their Metcitement (Mets excitement) this year than yours truly. Feeling lost in the midst of my hometown Tigers' eighth straight season of irrelevancy, I jumped onto the local boys' bandwagon and went all in on the Mets as they enjoyed their winningest season since 1988. There was just too much charisma to ignore, all over a roster that boasted a dozen guys who could easily be someone's favorite player. Pete Alonso slugged 40 dingers, Jeff McNeil won the NL batting title, Francisco Lindor was just all-around lovable, Luis Guillorme could be plugged into any spot in the infield, Mark Canha posted delicious meals, Daniel Vogelbach was a big boy, Max Scherzer was a freak, Jacob deGrom's return from injury felt like the second coming, and Edwin Díaz dramatically closed out wins with the help of a trumpet fanfare. They even added base-stealing specialist Terrance Gore for the late-season run!
This remarkable group lit up my summer and powered the Mets to 101 wins. Every slight wobble was counterbalanced by an awesome comeback, a display of dominance, or some luck that counterintuitively went their way. The Mets never suffered worse than a three-game losing streak, played above .633 ball in four of the season's six months, and went a thrilling 10-2 in extra-inning games. But after a slow start to their own season, the defending champion Atlanta Braves managed to chase them down, putting together an absurd 78-34 record after the beginning of June to eventually erase the large division lead of a Mets squad that didn't really even falter. Well, except in their last meeting of the year, as the Mets got swept out of Georgia to give Atlanta the 10-9 lead on the overall season series, and thus the tiebreaker when the two eventually finished with the same record.
Thanks to that small difference, the Braves haven't played an inning of postseason baseball yet, while the Mets are already on their winter break. Over the course of three games against the troubled but talented San Diego Padres, the high spirits that surrounded New York all year were all sucked out of their ballpark. Scherzer, whose recent IL stint might have been more cause for concern than he initially stated, got shelled in a 7-1 loss. A burst of offense on Saturday tied the best-of-three with a 7-3 win. But on Sunday night, the Mets were completely stymied by the wet ears of Joe Musgrove, who pitched a seven-inning, one-hit shutout while his team piled up singles and walks to win 6-0. The Díaz entrance in the eighth, which had electrified fans all season, sounded like a funeral dirge.
I hate this! While MLB probably got its wish with all the drama on display this past weekend, the baseball postseason, even when it ends in failure, is about the emotional investment of a long series: the bizarre hot and cold streaks, the management of pitching staffs, the chances for humiliation and then redemption. These stories need time to cook. The journeys of the various characters need twists and turns. I spent the whole second half of summer mentally preparing for the exhilarating stress of a newfound personal investment in October baseball. But because the 101-win Mets lost two out of three to their 89-win opponents, it feels like I overslept and missed the whole party.
I have spent the hours since the Mets' elimination, in the words of my editor, "casting around, mostly unsuccessfully, for something/someone to be mad at." There's no shortage of options! You could say that the Mets' lineup, with its relative lack of power, just wasn't built for the short-sighted firefight that defines the modern playoffs. You could put the blame on manager Buck Showalter, who for all his career victories now has an even longer record of underachievement in the postseason. You can shake a fist at broadcaster Keith Hernandez's freak late-season injury for messing with the vibes of the best booth in baseball. You could get annoyed with the Padres themselves, who are clearly in the pocket of Big Champagne with how decadently they celebrated their two measly wins. You can say fuck the Braves, because they deserve it. And of course, you can get mad at the playoff format itself, and the farcical idea that three baseball games are enough to determine a superior competitor. But it's all unsatisfying, because the important part of the Mets' season didn't even last long enough for a villain to emerge.