Sometimes your favorite team doesn't make the playoffs, and if you're in that unenviable position this year, we at Beyond the Box Score want to help you decide who you're going to root for (or against) this postseason. We'll be publishing ten articles, one for each playoff team, with writers laying out the case in favor of and opposed to each team. In this one, we break down a team that's lost a number of its key players to injury: the New York Mets.
Root for the Mets
After a memorable run to the World Series in 2015, where they ultimately fell short to the Royals, the Mets face a longer road in 2016, beginning in the Wild Card game at Citi Field. This year might be more special, however, especially when you consider how far from the playoff picture they were just a month ago:
If your favorite team did not make the playoffs, there are two big reasons you should be rooting for the New York Mets.
1. Only one player on the 40-man roster has won a World Series!
Go ahead, I'll give you a few minutes to guess who is the only current Met on the roster with a World Series ring. The answer is Fernando Salas! Salas won with the 2011 St. Lous Cardinals, and did not join the Mets until Sandy Alderson acquired him from the Angels on August 31st. While he's been a welcome addition to the bullpen (17.1 innings with a 2.08 ERA, 19 strikeouts, 0 walks), he's not exactly a lifetime Met.
Beyond Salas, think of all the other veterans on the Mets that have not won a World Series yet. The lovable Bartolo Colon is in his 20th season and still looking for a win. The consummate professional Curtis Granderson has never won a World Series. The player who has (somehow) been an integral part of the 2016 Mets and a tremendous offseason signing, Asdrubal Cabrera, has never won a World Series. And of course, Yoenis Cespedes, the star of the team, has never won a World Series.
That list sadly does not include the face of the franchise. David Wright has also never won a World Series, but with a serious neck injury, he's totally unable to play this year and thus not on the 40-man. Injuries have derailed what was an outstanding career by one of the greatest players to wear the blue and orange. When given the opportunity to possibly test free agent waters, David Wright declined the opportunity to see what was out there and instead signed an (assuredly below-market) eight year, $138 million extension through 2020 to stay in Queens. While Wright only played in 37 games this season, and while he was out for the entire second half run from the Mets to return to the playoffs, there may not be a player more worth rooting for to achieve his ultimate goal of winning a World Series than David Wright.
2. Terry Collins
Terry Collins, manager of the Mets, has been in professional baseball since 1971, when he was drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates, though he never made it to the major leagues as a player. Before coming to New York in 2011, Collins was 444-434 with the Astros and Angels, but had not held a managerial position at the Major League level in 12 years. The early years of his tenure in New York saw some dismal play and losing records in every season until 2015 when Terry guided the Mets to a division title – his first as a manager in his career. It took until Terry was 66, but he finally reached the postseason and even made it to the World Series.
2016 was perhaps Terry's best year as a manager. He's dealt with a ton of injuries: three members of his Opening Day starting rotation are out, and every starter in the Opening Day lineup was on the DL or demoted (Michael Conforto) at least once this year, except Curtis Granderson. There were calls in August for the Mets to dismiss Terry, but the Mets turned it around after this blow-up in response to an August 11th game against the D'Backs:
Since that point, the Mets have gone 30-18 and are hosting the Wild Card game Wednesday against the Giants. We don't know exactly how much credit to give managers, but it is evident how much the players enjoy playing for Terry Collins; he never throws any of his players under the bus and takes responsibility for any of the team's shortcomings. He's dealt with a ton of unexpected issues this year, basically building their postseason rotation from scratch out of Noah Syndergaard and anyone else with a throwing arm still attached, and led the Mets on a huge comeback in the last month. After every win Terry Collins is at the foul line waiting for each player to come off the field so he can shake their hands to congratulate them, so here's to hoping Terry gets to do that after a World Series win for the New York Mets in 2016.
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Root against the Mets
The New York Mets are back in the playoffs in 2016 after reaching the World Series last October. As my colleague Carl described above, they overcame a ton of injuries to get here, and because of that it may be tempting to root for them to make it back to the World Series this year. Don't give in to temptation, though! Here's why you should not root for the Mets this year:
1. They are the weakest playoff team in the National League
With all the injuries that have befallen the 2016 version of the Mets, it would be easy to classify their making the playoffs as a Cinderella story. Everybody wants the underdog to win, right?
Cinderella stories are fun, but when it comes down to it, I want to see a World Series match-up of the best against the best. Much like this year's NCAA Men's Basketball Championship, it was fun to see 10th seeded Syracuse make it to the Final Four. However, I was ultimately glad the championship game was between Villanova and North Carolina – the teams I felt were the two best in the country. I want the same to happen for baseball this October. Take a look at the Mets' first, second, and third order win percentages compared to the rest of the National League playoff field (from Baseball Prospectus):
No matter which of these three measures of team skill you prefer, the Mets come out last by a fairly significant margin. At sixth out of 15 teams in the National league, the Mets are still mostly deserving of their spot in the postseason (the St. Louis Cardinals come in above them in fifth, but the Mets are still solidly above average). However, making it to the World Series would take that spot away from a team that was much better over the 162-game grind of the regular season. I want the game's biggest stage to feature its two best teams, and this year the Mets are not one of those teams.
2. They just went to the World Series last season!
Another gratifying thing we often get to see in October is long-suffering fans and franchises finally get their chance to play in a World Series. Not if the Mets make it back, though: they were just in the World Series last year! Sure, it's been 30 years since they last won it all in 1986, but if you compare the last time they reached and won a World Series to the rest of the National League playoff field, it doesn't seem like they've had it so bad after all:
We all know about the Giants' even year magic and their three World Series titles since 2010, but check out everyone else. The Cubs last reached the World Series during World War II, and I'd wager no Cubs fan alive remembers the feeling of winning a championship – it last happened for them 108 years ago! Nationals fans have yet to experience the joy of reaching the World Series, even if you go back to their days as the Montreal Expos. Heck, even the Washington Senators – you now know them as the Minnesota Twins – only reached the World Series three times (most recently in 1933) and won it once (in 1924). The Dodgers have at least won a championship slightly more recently than the Mets in 1988, but haven't made it back since. The Mets have gone back twice since then – last year, and in 2000 behind Edgardo Alfonzo and the two Mikes, Hampton and Piazza. This year, let's root to end the drought of a truly long-suffering fan base.
When baseball's regular season ends and your favorite team finds itself on the outside looking in, it can be tough to decide which team to adopt for the season's final month. I'm not here to tell you which team that should be, just that it's not the New York Mets.