Sandy Alderson was on the phone last month talking about Steve Cohen’s commitment and resources, and the chance the owner has given the Mets for lasting success, when I asked the team president a question. on the Yankees.
You know how it is in this town. Any large-scale conversation about the Mets eventually finds its way to the Yanks.
I asked Alderson if it was important for the Queens team to eventually supplant the Bronx team as the city’s major baseball tenant. He replied that he checked the Braves and Phillies scores every night before arriving at the Yankees score.
“My hope for the Mets,” Alderson said, “isn’t necessarily that we take over the city, because that would indicate some degree of disrespect for the Yankees fans who are so ardent in their love for the Yankees as the fans of the Mets are for the Mets. What I hope is that… in time we will reach a status that I don’t think we have reached to date as far as the Yankees But I think we have that potential.
And if the Mets are to reach that potential, they must embrace a cold, harsh reality of life on the striped side of town:
Nothing matters except October.
Other than reaching October, of course.
In other words, the Mets are free to get swept by the Cubs and pitch in September if they choose, and treat the month more like a necessary evil than a valuable gateway to the playoffs. They may even return the National League East title to Atlanta, as much as it would hurt a fanbase that has been too practiced giving things up to the Braves.
But only if the Mets are ready to win their wildcard round streak and then survive their likely NLDS duel with the Dodgers, the freight train they can avoid all the way to the NLCS if they hold Atlanta in their division.
Meanwhile, after the Braves cut the Mets off a break with a loss at San Francisco, David Peterson needed just 29 shots to come undone Wednesday night at Citi Field, where the Cubs scored six times in the first inning en route to the sweep punctuating 6-3 victory. That left the home team with a Sept. 6-7 record of seven losses to the Nationals, Pirates, Marlins and Cubs, four teams that came into play Wednesday for a combined 125 games under .500.
“It’s always there for us,” Mets manager Buck Showalter said. “I said to the players today, ‘You control it.’ … We have to play better.
The Mets really need to win at least three of Pittsburgh’s next four. But if they continue to treat baseball’s simplest closing schedule as Sunday ninth at Augusta National, that’s fine. As long as they string together a whole bunch of birdies in October.
“Finishing a good season is tough,” Showalter said.
He’s been consistent with that message, which has been the only consistent thing about his team in first place lately. The Mets have been everywhere in September, appearing one night and just as surely disappearing the next two or three.
They clearly want to hurry up and be done with this regular season.
“You know how many times they’ve been mentally challenged this year?” Showalter asked his players. “We have played a hundred games. Football, basketball and hockey, they don’t care how many games we play.
“It’s hard. You keep going for that good, the mental, emotional good. … It’s a sport of repetition. It’s a routine, and sometimes it can wear you down.
The Mets have looked exhausted at times, which, again, is acceptable at the moment. They still have more wins than any big league team not named the Dodgers and Astros. They still have one of the best 1-2 pitching combinations in baseball history (Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer), the best closer in the world (Edwin Diaz), a home leadoff batter (Pete Alonso), a $341 million star to a signing position. (shortstop Francisco Lindor), one of the best clean hitters in the game (Jeff McNeil), and a 66-year-old manager who’s seen it all.
That seems enough to overcome GM Billy Eppler’s non-execution of acquisitions by the trade deadline.
“We’re trying to get to that finish line and have a shot at being the last team standing,” Showalter said, “and all of those goals are still there for us. … I think some good baseball is ahead of us. .
But if that good baseball isn’t immediately ahead of the Mets, well, dull Septembers have already been overcome — some at the expense of the Mets. The 2000 Yankees lost 15 of their last 18 regular season games and beat the Mets in the World Series. The 2006 Cardinals went 12-17 after August ended and beat the Mets in the NLCS. The 2015 Royals lost 17 of 27 games in a single September streak and beat the Mets in the World Series.
Buck Showalter’s team still has the time and the opportunity to fix it. The Mets can afford to be indifferent and ineffective this month…as long as they make up for it next month.
New York Post