Orange in October: The Rise of the 2015 New York Mets

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October 22, 2015 by NowhereButPop

by Andrew Doscas

Image result for 2015 national league pennant

Being a Mets fan is an odd experience.  Every inch of success is tempered with a heavy dose of suspicion and paranoia that the other shoe will soon drop.  In general, Met fans are some of the most loyal, but disillusioned fans in all of sports.  They root for their team, but they’re always expected to be let down by their team.[1]  Met fans aren’t as cheerfully masochist as Cubs fans are, nor are they as blindly and obnoxiously devoted to their team as Jets fans are.[2]  One of my buddies summed up the plight of Mets fans with the following truism: “No one wants to be a Mets fan, you’re just conned into it somehow”.

As a Yankee fan and a baseball elitist, I can’t help but be mesmerized by the Mets postseason run.  I’ve never seen a fan base so reluctant to embrace their team’s dominance despite overwhelming evidence.  Unlike Red Sox fans, who crowned the 2004 Red Sox as world champs the moment they won game 4 of the ALCS, all of my friends who are Met fans refused to even speak about the possibility of evening going to the World Series until after they swept the Cubs.  What it comes down to, I think, is that no one wants to recognize how good this Mets team is (and will be for the foreseeable future) for fear that they’ll soon remind everyone that they are, in fact, the Mets that everyone has become accustomed to.

For the past nine years, since their last trip to the postseason back in 2006, the Mets had become a joke.  Two monstrous late season collapses in 2007 and 2008, followed by borderline financial ruin, which led to penny-pinching tactics (despite owner Fred Wilpon refutes to the contrary), and a horrible Jason Bay signing led to four straight fourth place finishes and six consecutive losing season prior to 2015.  If not but for the saving grace of the Florida/Miami Marlins and their moderately evil owner, Jeff Loria, the Mets would have become the laughing stock of the entire National League.  Instead they merely became the perfect template on how not to run a sports franchise.

Enjoy the celebration, just don’t get too big for your britches. After all, you still share a city with the Yankees.

In a lot of ways being a Mets fan is a lot like being a Knicks fan, and despite my own folly of youth of constantly hating the Mets, I’ve started to sympathize with their fans, as my own illogical and increasingly masochist support for the Knicks continues to grow.  Both teams are run by the shittiest of owners whose fortunes have convinced them that they are good at everything.  Both teams have a very embarrassing and disreputable history and routinely undergo long stretches of unprecedented futility.  And finally, fans of both the Mets and the Knicks constantly expect the worst and have come to accept the fact that they could live to be 106 and never see their team win a championship.  Ultimately, there’s no real joy in being a fan of either team.  You just continue to root for either team despite your better judgment and hope that next year isn’t as bad or embarrassing as the year before.

However, we’re in New York, where everything is magnified and everyone talks loudly and all the time.  The Mets live (now and forever more) under the shadow of the Yankees, and the Knicks are literally the worst franchise out of all the sports teams based in New York City.  Yes, even behind the tabloid loving, back-page seeking, attention whores who call themselves the New York Jets.[3]

The thing that I credit the Mets with the most over these past nine lean years is that they’ve always been able to hold down their own fanbase.  Clearly, they are the second rate team of their city, but they still matter to New York; there’s still a place for them in the city.  I don’t think anyone in Los Angeles (or Anaheim for that matter) knows where the hell the Angels even play, and the Chicago White Sox are more like the city’s stepmom who tries to get her stepchildren to call her mom even though she only sees the kids once every other weekend.  By contrast, the Mets are important to New York City.  They represent the fight in the city and present its mortality to the world.  The Mets are the epitome of the underdog because they face the impossible task of trying to supplant their older brother, the Yankees.  The Mets bleed and that’s why it’s so easy to support the Mets as they march on to try and win the franchise’s third championship.  Everyone recognizes what the Mets went through and acknowledges that because of the shit the fans had to put up with, they deserve to be in the World Series.

Along with Donn Clendenon and Ray Knight, Daniel Murphy will forever be included on the list of obscure players who somehow became postseason superstars for the Mets.

To put it bluntly, Met fans have been put through the wringer these last few years, almost as if owner Fred Wilpon actively tried to do everything imaginable to piss his fans off and try to get them to root for other teams.  Like God, testing Job, Wilpon threw everything he could at Met fans, in some perverse test of their loyalty.  The Bobby Bonilla deferred salary deal, the Jason Bay deal, being friends with Bernie Madoff, the Oliver Perez drama, and desperately trying to upstage the Marlins as the most poorly run team in the division.

Here we are however, in 2015 and the Mets are in the World Series because of patience, great player developments, and shrewd trades made by the much-maligned and underappreciated Sandy Alderson.  Selecting Matt Harvey and Steven Matz in the draft finally address the Mets (or rather Citifield’s) need for quality starting pitching.  Then trading Carlos Beltran’s expiring contract for top San Francisco pitching prospect Zack Wheeler was a move made with the future in mind to give the Mets a trio of near major-league ready pitching.  But that wasn’t all Alderson did to assemble the best pitching rotation since the 1998 Atlanta Braves.  He then somehow flipped one-year-wonder, R.A. Dickey (coming off his CY Young award win) for the Blue Jays’ top prospects Travis d’Arnaud and Noah Syndergaard.[4]  With foresight in mind, Alderson then signed Curtis Granderson, in a move that has paid off dividends for the Mets despite the initial criticism the Mets were greeted with for the deal.  Even the Bartolo Colon (who led the team in innings pitched this season) signing looks like a genius move for Christ’s sake!

Aided by the mid-season trades for Cespedes, Juan Uribe, Tyler Clippard, and Kelly Johnson, the Mets suddenly threw down the gauntlet not only for the N.L. East, but for the entire National League.  They put the league on alert that they were all in for 2015, as well as letting the fans know that 2015 was “next year”.  Pitching wins championships and the Mets built their championship caliber squad around pitching, specifically around a starting rotation that’s built to last for the next few years.  Through a combination of timely trades mindful of the future and a few key signings, Sandy Alderson, who doesn’t get nearly enough credit, quietly forged a true contender in the New York Mets.  Even in the midst of a 7-game road losing streak when literally everyone, even the mute, were calling for Terry Collins’ head on a silver platter (or a rusty pike), Alderson stayed the course, and weathered the storm to greener pastures.

After everything that the Mets have put their fans and themselves through, both are finally collecting the dividends of their toils.  And truth be told, the Mets and Met fans actually deserve this.  With the amount of jeers, derisive jokes at their expense, and poorly run front office, Alderson and Terry Collins managed to turn coal into diamonds.  They developed great players internally, did right by their veteran star in David Wright, and brought in savvy veterans who want to win.  It took time and it took patience, but the 2015 Mets are the fruits of the labors of the franchise, Sandy Alderson, and the fans.  Even if the Mets don’t win the World Series, everyone should enjoy the ride.  It’s been a long time in the making, but it’s finally here.  Enjoy it Met fans, you deserve it.

Now, how the fuck are they going to fix the Knicks?

[1] Examples include the 1988 NLCS, 2000 World Series, 2006 NLCS, and September 2007.

[2] Seriously.  Why anyone would want to be a Jets fan is beyond me.

[3] When you spend six years of your childhood bullied by Jets fans, hating the Jets becomes just as natural as breathing.

[4] As a Yankee fan, I can’t thank Sandy Alderson enough for this trade.


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