As Michael Conforto squeezed his glove around Peter O’Brien’s 9th inning line drive, it not only ended the game, it not only secured Noah Syndergaard’s first ever complete game shutout, it also put an end to the roller coaster ride that was the Mets 2018 season. It’s probably going to take me a few weeks to reflect on the past six months and assemble my thoughts. Fortunately, a couple old friends were immediately ready to take on the task: Mel and Ed.
In case you don’t remember, these two Mets fans can best be summarized as the consistently cynical, “sky is always falling” fan (Mel) and the unendingly optimistic, “they’re just one good player away” fan (Ed). Here’s what they had to say…
Mel: Thank goodness that’s over.
Ed: I already miss Mets baseball.
M: I’ve been missing Mets baseball since mid-May.
E: Well then you’ve been missing out.
M: On what, painful losses, painful injuries, painful lineup card infractions?
E: The Mets went 30-20 in the final fifty games of the season. That’s a 97-win pace.
E: Michael Conforto had 17 home runs, 52 RBI’s, and an .895 OPS after the All-Star Break. Those are really good numbers.
M: They are.
E: Also since the All-Star Break, Brandon Nimmo had a .917 OPS. He was such a nice surprise all season.
M: Indeed he was.
E: You also missed out on Jeff McNeil.
M: Is he one of those pop-country singers who played a concert after a game?
E: No, he was the second baseman for the last sixty-three games and made a good case to be considered the Mets second baseman of the future.
E: What do you mean, “And”?
M: Aren’t you going to tell me about his grade-point average or his GPS, or some other number that doesn’t amount to much in the standings?
E: Why, what numbers do you consider important?
M: How about 5-21, which was their record in June? Or, since you seem to prefer percentages, how about .192, their winning percentage that month?
E: I thought you stopped watching in May.
M: I should have.
E: All I’m saying is that Conforto, Nimmo, McNeil, and Amed Rosario all looked good for the last couple months. On top of that, Jacob deGrom was amazing, Noah Syndergaard was usually very good and sometimes great, and Zack Wheeler was one of the best pitchers in baseball after the All-Star Break.
M: They didn’t trade him?
E: Nope. He was that good for the Mets.
M: Impressive. Of course there’s the other side, like Jason Vargas. Thanks to his sky high ERA, I’ve been using his last name as a non-profane synonym for excrement.
E: You might have to stop doing that. His post-break ERA was below 4.
M: No Vargas?
E: I’m serious. I realize that this season was a disappointment. It had all the things we were afraid it would have: injuries, free agent signings that didn’t work out, extended hitting droughts, more injuries, a terribly unrealiable bullpen..
M: You don’t even need me here.
E: And it also had excitement, history, and hope.
M: Oh, no, I take it back, you do need me here.
E: You have something against hope?
M: As a matter of fact I do. Every year that the Mets fall short of expectations, I start to, um, what’s that word again…
M: Right, I start to hope that they’ll tear this whole thing down, trade away their truly tradeable assets, and actually do a full rebuild, like the way the Royals or the Astros did it.
E: That could take a while. You would wait patiently through a rebuild?
M: If they’re going to lose, I’d rather they give me a reason to…
M: Exactly. Instead, once it stops counting, they play well enough to think that they are just a few players away from turning things around.
E: They are just few players away from turning things around.
M: Yeah, Mike Trout, Ted Williams, Sandy Koufax, and Mariano Rivera.
E: I think that deGrom, Syndergaard, and Wheeler are for real. That’s three top-of-the-line starters. Conforto is solid, Rosario will only get better, and Nimmo and McNeil could be dependable top of the lineup hitters. If those things hold up, they upgrade their bullpen and add one solid hitter, they’ll be tops in the NL East. I’m sure of it.
M: Until they all get hurt.
E: Fine, be that way. Did you at least watch David Wright’s final game?
M: Alav hashalom.
E: He didn’t die, ne
M: Okay, I admit, I watched it. I almost cried.
E: Oh, wow, so you do have some semblance of sensitivity.
M: Not about his retiring, about him popping out in his last at-bat. Had he just gotten a home run there, the game wouldn’t have gone on for thirteen innings. Scoreless. To the Marlins, no less.
E: You can’t be serious.
M: Well, not totally serious. I’ve seen a lot of Mets over the years and I don’t think any represent the team like he does. Full of promise, some incredible moments, a truly endearing approach to the game and to life, and a host of devastating injuries. He may just be the Metsiest player I’ve ever seen, and I’m going to miss him.
E: I can’t figure out if that was a sweet description or a back-handed compliment?
M: Why not both?
E: Any thoughts on Mickey Callaway?
M: He’s a fine pitching coach.
E: But he was the manager.
M: I know.
E: I don’t think he was the problem this year.
M: He probably wasn’t. I’m just not sure he is the answer either. Of course, if they follow your plan and not mine, which I’m sure they will, then I suppose we’ll get another look at him next year.
E: Well, I want them to follow that plan, and I look forward to finally being the one to say “I told you so” at the end of a season.
M: That would be nice.
E: It would?
M: Just because I know they’re going to lose doesn’t mean I want them to. It would be great to celebrate with you again.
E: Is there some part of you that actually thinks that’s possible?
M: Well, one can…um…
M: Yeah, that.