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Mourn the Mets

The fact that the Mets made it to the Wild Card game is nothing short of miraculous.

The Mets are dead. Long live the Mets.

On August 19th, I published an article here in which I declared the Mets’ season over. They had just been dealt a devastating loss at the hands of the Giants the night before, and they would go on to lose 9-1 that day. The cosmic forces that sometimes deign to interact with baseball did something of more significance on August 19th, however. That was the day that Yoenis Cespedes and Asdrubal Cabrera returned to the lineup. Both had missed time with injuries. They proved to be the most important position players on the team from that point forward.

For the final stretch of the season, the Mets rolled out a starting rotation that included rookies Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo, as well as, of course, a 43-year-old Bartolo Colon. They played a cast of characters all over the field when Neil Walker was placed on the DL, Jay Bruce played like the weight of the world was on his shoulders, and Wilmer Flores found himself hurt.

They made the playoffs. It was a one-game sudden death playoff against a Giants team imbued with the most remarkable form of magic, but it was a playoff game nonetheless. Noah Syndergaard pitched his heart out. Even one of the most dominant outings of his career wasn’t enough to stop the human steamroller that is Madison Bumgarner in October. In what may have been the most predictable piece of absurdity ever, Bumgarner pitched a shutout and Conor Gillaspie hit a three-run home run off Mets closer Jeurys Familia for the win. There should have been little doubt that this was precisely how the game was going to happen, because the Giants have shown time and again that they’re not in the business of winning playoff games in normal fashion. Their star position players don’t win playoff games. Bumgarner and men like Gillaspie do.

Fate came for the Mets after they had dodged it all year long. A team that was built on its titanic pitching staff had only two members of its opening day rotation intact for the playoffs. A season that would make a roller coaster seem calm tried its hardest to smite the Mets, and they bobbed and weaved until they could no more.

The fact that the Mets found themselves in the postseason at all these last two years is incredible. Both times they were aided by outside forces (the hilarious collapse of the 2015 Nationals, a soft second half schedule in 2016), but wins are wins, and they made it.

Baseball is a sport of endurance, elation, and crushing defeat. No team over the last two seasons has better embodied this than the Mets. No other team has been torpedoed and risen from the grave as often as they have. No other team has been handed more astoundingly embarrassing losses and succeeded with so little on the roster. Between the interesting choices of their manager, their knack for turning day-to-day status into 60-day DL stints, the endless march of faceless Triple-A players, and their unrivaled capacity for incredible moments of heroics, the Mets are the most pure and essential form of baseball in the 21st century.

Not everyone is a Mets fan, nor should they be. Most have their own favorite team, and there are good and valid reasons to dislike the Mets. Jose Reyes was brought back into the fold. The Wilpons have done quite a bit to hurt the franchise.

Regardless of whether or not the team is your cup of coffee, it is important to appreciate what has happened in Queens. Perhaps had the Cardinals made the game and not the Giants, this postmortem would not have been written so soon. Fate and a possible deal with the devil put the Giants and Bumgarner there instead. So ends the Mets’ unlikely run, and so ends a little bit of raw wonder.

We don’t know what lies in store in 2017. Cespedes will in all likelihood head to free agency for the second time in as many years. Whether the Mets and the Wilpons give him the necessary money to bring him back is anyone’s guess. The end of Cespedes’ time in New York may very well spell the end of the Mets as contenders for the immediate future. But stranger things have happened. Cespedes did come back last winter, and he may yet do so again. There is a chance that the Mets will do what they can next year to give their fans heart attacks while tripping over themselves en route to October baseball.

There is a sort of intangible mysticism to the Mets. At times it feels like something out of a Marx brothers film. But it is undeniably there, and it has given rise to some of the best and most important baseball we’ve seen in a long time.

The Mets are dead. Long live the Mets.

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Nicolas Stellini is a featured writer at Beyond the Box Score. He also writes for Baseball Prospectus and BP Bronx. You can follow him on Twitter at @StelliniTweets.