Tomorrow night will be the 167th game of the New York Mets’ 2015 season, potentially the final one.
I haven’t written about the Division Series games… when they finish at or after midnight, it’s tough to find the time before the next day’s news cycle makes any further thoughts about them seem stale or redundant.
And after Saturday night’s game, I was just too angry. I’m willing to let Chase Utley‘s slide go at this point – he was just playing the game the way he has for his entire career… he’s not going to change now. I’m still angry that Chris Guccione is a Major League Baseball umpire even though he either doesn’t understand the rules of his sport or else he just does’t have the guts to enforce them properly. And I can’t believe that Joe Torre would bother to suspend Utley and then Major League Baseball would decide to wait until after the Division Series is over to hear his appeal.
But I didn’t log in today to rehash something we’re all tired of talking about.
Whatever happens in Los Angeles Thursday, I’m proud of the New York Mets. When we heard Sandy Alderson‘s projection of 90 wins for this team in spring training, most of us laughed. I know I did – another Stand Up Sandy joke at the expense of Mets fans, I thought.
The Mets proved us wrong. They got amazing pitching pretty much all year. They had that phenomenal early season winning streak based on that pitching and timely hitting. They overcame injuries and suspensions to stay in the thick of the race until the trade deadline, and they convinced Alderson to make some moves to give them enough pieces to take the next step. And once they got Yoenis Cespedes, Juan Uribe, Kelly Johnson, Michael Conforto and Tyler Clippard, they made us all believe.
We got to watch the Mets win their first division title in nine years and we got at least five games of playoff baseball. Our team outlasted both the Pittsburgh Pirates (98-64, lost the Wild Card Game to the Chicago Cubs) and the St. Louis Cardinals (100-62, lost the NLDS to the Cubs in four games.) And if Jacob deGrom has a better night than Zack Greinke, we’ll get to watch our Mets have their own crack at the Cubs. Wouldn’t it be something to revisit the ghosts of 1969 and quell all of the Back to the Future II “prophecy” talk?
And if Greinke has the better night? I’ll tip my cap… as much as I want the 2015 season to go on for the Mets, a loss tomorrow night takes nothing away from what they’ve already accomplished.
And I’m proud of us. I couldn’t be at Citi Field for the first playoff game in the ballpark’s history, but the electric atmosphere came through the television broadcast and people’s Periscope feeds from the ballpark. Clayton Kershaw gave Mets fans less to cheer about last night, but when they had opportunities, the fans responded. Citi Field will never be Shea Stadium, but at some point it stopped being the Brooklyn Dodger monument we never wanted and just became the Mets’ home.
I planned to go to my last game of the season on Friday, Oct. 1… the first home game since the Mets clinched the National League East division title the week before. While Hurricane Joaquin spared our area, a nor’easter drenched us on Thursday and Friday and that game was rained out.
Because I had to work on Saturday, I wasn’t able to use my tickets for the rescheduled game. (I will have to exchange them for a game next April when I might have the chance to check out a new Mets’ World Series pennant.)
But I was off on Sunday and was able to score $11 tickets to the Mets’ final regular season game… which became significantly more important to me when I realized I hadn’t been to a game at Citi Field since Chris Heston no-hit the Mets in June. It seemed like a bad way to close out my year at the ballpark. When I saw that Jacob deGrom was scheduled to pitch Sunday, I knew it was meant to be… deGrom started all but one of the Mets games I went to this year, and they won all of those starts.
A lot of people must have had the same idea… or else they bought the tickets back when it seemed like the final series of the year could have playoff implications. Either way, Citi Field was packed. I arrived just after the gates opened, but didn’t get inside until almost 1:30.
There were people everywhere in the gift shops, mostly focused on picking out playoff souvenirs. Last year, I was able to find bargains and bought deGrom and Travis d’Arnaud shirseys. Sunday, everything was full price, so I just picked up a 2015 NL East Champs pin for my collection. I met up with my friend Vinny, who was purchasing a pin and pennant, and we wandered around the ballpark for a while.
We stopped to take pictures of the new NL East pennant the Mets are flying below the American flag. I was really happy to see it. I will be even happier if it is gone next April, replaced by a World Series pennant.
Like nearly every game I’ve been to at Citi Field, there was no particular significance to Game 162 of the 2015 season. But it was still nice to get one more afternoon at a ballpark, watching a baseball game with a friend.
And for a little while, we got to wonder if we might see something more. DeGrom pitched four innings without allowing a hit before he departed, having reached his pitch target for the afternoon. Bartolo Colon kept the no-hitter going through five. Logan Verrett did his part in the sixth. And we started trying to remember if any team had ever thrown a “revenge no-hitter” against the team that had no-hit them in their previous game.
Vinny was livid when Jon Niese came in for the seventh. He was sure that Niese would give up the Nationals’ first hit. I was less concerned about that possibility than the idea that we could be watching a repeat of the final game of 2010, which didn’t end until Oliver Perez walked in the winning run in the 14th inning.
As it turned out, Vinny was prophetic. Clint Robinson hit a hard smash to shortstop that deflected off of Ruben Tejada on its way to right field with two outs in the seventh. That chased Niese and brought in Addison Reed to finish out the inning.
It’s probably for the best. Terry Collins used seven pitchers on Sunday – Howie Rose and Gary Cohen would probably even have trouble remembering all of them a few years down the line if they needed to tell the story of the second no-hitter in franchise history.
In the eighth inning, we got word that Ichiro Suzuki was pitching against the Philadelphia Phillies in the Miami Marlins’ final game of 2015. I’m sorry I didn’t get to see it.
But Curtis Granderson wanted to make sure we got to watch the Mets earn their 90th win – fulfilling Sandy Alderson‘s pre-season prediction that was once a source of bitter laughter. He hit a solo home run off of Nationals reliever Blake Treinen.
Despite a 9th inning double from Bryce Harper, Jeurys Familia was able to wrap up his franchise record-tying 43rd save and put the 2015 regular season in the books.
For the first time in nine years, the Mets will keep playing after Game 162. Vinny will have at least one more baseball game to watch at Citi Field this year. I will be watching the playoffs on TV.
That’s ok. For all of its frustrations and disappointments, this season has been a gift. The Mets made us believe again.
A few weeks ago, I finally had the chance to wander around Citi Field before a Mets vs. Phillies game. My first stop was the Mets Museum.
I was initially disappointed that there seemed to be less “stuff” on display than in previous years, but I think the 2015 setup actually represents the best balance between the different eras of Mets history that they’ve had since it opened.
You’ve got Ed Kranepool’s contract from 1973 on display along with one of Rusty Staub‘s bats, one of Darryl Strawberry‘s batting helmets, Mike Hampton‘s 2000 World Series cap, Endy Chavez‘s jersey from the 2006 NLCS game that made him famous and Juan Lagares‘ Gold Glove Award.
While it would be nice to see more of an effort to use the artifacts to illustrate a timeline of Mets history, I can see why the staff members don’t bother. The items are almost all on loan from collectors (or sometimes the players themselves) and will only be on display for one year.
I recommend a visit the next time you are at Citi Field.