Monday, September 22, 2008

Loser's Reward

Two weeks ago today, the Mets had a 2-game lead on the Phillies and were looking at a favorable two-week stretch of games against the Nationals and the Braves in front of them. Since Washington and Atlanta happen to be the two worst teams in the N.L. East, the Mets seemed to be in prime position to have a comfortable lead in the division coming into the final week of the season.

Instead, the Mets went 6-6 against mediocre competition and today find themselves 1.5 games behind the Phillies, who won 10 of 13 games against much tougher competition (the Marlins, Brewers and Braves). If Philadelphia holds on to win the division - and really, there's no reason to believe that they won't - it will be because they earned their crown. The Phillies have won big games when they needed to and have played well enough in September to end up with home-field advantage in their Division Series.

The Mets, on the other hand, do not deserve to make the playoffs. They are an incomplete team, one with fine starting pitching and an occasionally dangerous lineup that sometimes struggles with consistency. They also have a terrible bullpen, headed by a makeshift closer and six specialists of varying effectiveness. When the postseason party begins next week, the Mets have no right to be holding an invitation.

And yet, despite yakking 3.5 games in the standings in the last 14 days, the Mets are even closer to a playoff berth today than they were two weeks ago. That's because the Milwaukee Brewers have gone 3-10 during that stretch to drop 1.5 games behind New York in the Wild Card race.

I'll probably go more into it at Flushing University this week, but every year some undeserving team makes the playoffs because of the folly that is the Wild Card. If the Mets can simply be less incompetent than the Brewers over the next seven days, they will be that undeserving team this year.


James Allen said...

A tad harsh, given that they will end up with a record better than the NL West winner. They might even win 90 games. To win the division they need only tie with the Phils (assuming the Brewers are out of it.) They will not be the lamest team ever to make the playoffs. Also, teams have limped home and did well (the 2006 Cards and Tigers come to mind.) And these red-hot, clutch Phils, with all the "momentum" (if ever there was a more meaningless word in baseball, I haven't heard it) in the world went out 1-2-3 in the playoffs last year. Current hot streak aside, they are only slightly less flawed overall than the Mets. If they were such a goddamn good team, the Mets wouldn't have beat them 11 out of 18 times and they'd be up by more than one in the loss column.

And I'll take October baseball anyway I can get it, and yeah, watching this bullpen possibly in Wrigley next week doing what they do gives me the shudders, but what the heck. (And what if they play the Dodgers? Manny or no, they're not very scary.)

It'll be the exact opposite of 2006, when the Mets were expected to get to the Series and heartbreakingly failed. This year it'll be house money all the way. And if they manage to clinch a playoff spot, maybe a few guys on the team can loosen up. The burden of gagging on it last year is still very pervasive in the atmosphere. That alone is worth quite a lot.

P.S. That being said, yeah, this team pisses me off too.

P.S.S. If, during tonight's game, they go on about this being a "possible playoff preview" I will scream, as the Cubs have barely any reason to expend too much effort in these games, which of course will make it all the more frustrating when the Mets lose a game.

P.S.S. Can I hit Scott Schoeneweis in the face with a banana cream pie? I wanted to say "can I kick him in the nuts" but I don't have in it me to be that violent. Also (here it comes) I'm not sure he has any (oh, snap!)

tim said...

Undeserving? They only have one of the best records in the majors since July, despite the bullpen and sveral injuries. But screw, they don't deserve it.

You really are a Jackass.

James Allen said...

Grand slam to the opposing pitcher. Terrific. I wonder, how many teams can say they allowed such a thing twice in one season?

Jack Flynn said...

James: I can't get my mind around rewarding teams that don't win their divisions, and the Wild Card does virtually nothing to put the boost the division winner's chances in a short series. Personally, I would give the division winner four home games in a five-game series and six home games in a seven-game series.

Anyway, they wouldn't be the lamest or least deserving team to win a Wild Card and make the playoffs, but that doesn't mean the Mets aren't lame and undeserving. The Phillies are a better team, because they tread water with the Mets all season and have pulled away when it matters most.

Tim: Your attempt at analysis was a failure. The Mets are 6-7 in their last 13, while the Phillies are 11-3 and leaving the Mets in their dust. One team deserves to go to the playoffs, the other team is the Mets. The Mets are losers when it counts and they have no business sneaking in the back door and potentially upsetting the legitimacy of the playoffs.

James Allen said...

Divisions are just groupings done for whatever arbitrary reasons you like. ("Geography" you say, but whose geography? Last I checked, a drive from NY to Pittsburgh is shorter than one to Miami or Atlanta, but that's beside the point). And groupings like these were always created with the idea of artificially creating more "winners."

So why is the wild card designation any less deserving than a team that happens to be from California, Colorado, or Arizona that has an inferior record? The answer is they ain't less deserving. Remember when a team that was 13 games under .500 was about to make the playoffs before the strike killed the 1994 post-season? It's the division set-up in general that's flawed, not just the wild card.

And no matter what set-up you have, even if you scrap the divisions and just take the best 4 records, the fact of the matter is that the more teams you let in, the bigger chance some team some people think is "undeserving" will make it.

And the more I think about it, I've realized it's not the enough to say that it's the Mets that are lame, it's the entire National League that's lame. There is absolutely no real dominant team, only the Cubs have been truly decent and consistent. The Phils seem to have the timing down, but, as I said, if they were really that good they would run away with the thing. And the NL West is pathetic.

So no, the circumstances being what they are, I will feel no guilt or need to apologize if the Mets make the playoffs via the wild card route. Playoff purity, if that's what you're looking for, was dead and buried a long time ago, if it even ever really existed.

tim said...

The point of the matter is this, if after 162 games your in the playoffs, you deserve it. And I could argue this point further but there's no sense. You are not an athlete and simply cannot understand how a season of such length could take its toll. It's a gauntlet, when teams get hot, they don't need to rely on their strengths alone, when a team is cold, their weaknesses are bound to show. Just because the Mets are inconsistent or flawed doesn't make them undeserving.

Jack Flynn said...

Oh for Christ's sake. I can't believe you actually played the "not an athlete" card. That's almost as bad as when the Luddites at FU complain that stat heads spend too much time in their mother's basement instead of "watching the game."

Now, I didn't realize the Jamaica HS baseball team played 162-game seasons, but then again I wasn't the athlete that you were. What I do know is that MLB plays 162 games to separate the best teams from the rest of the pack. The Mets not being able to hack it in September should make it clear that they are not among the best in the league.

The Mets have coughed up six games to the Phillies in 12 days. They led the division by 3.5 on September 10 and trail by 2.5 today. If you think teams deserve to be in the playoffs after choking like that, then you and I have different positions on rewarding incompetence.

Deb said...

Jack, do not despair. At least one person (me) could not agree with you more; in fact, check out my blog entry for today, lol.

This team simply is not worthy of the playoffs, and frankly, is barely worthing of watching anymore. When's the last time you actually ENJOYED a Mets game? These guys are painful to watch more often than not, and it's as if you say to yourself, why bother? The games follow the same script, day after day. The offense doesn't score, and the bullpen doesn't pitch. In different variations.

Brian said...

Quite simply, if the Mets win 2 more games than the Phillies from here on, the Mets win the division. For all the gibberish about "grinders" vs "chokers", that is the only reality in this situation.

tim said...

Its so easy to get your goat, Jack.

You are the guy who tried to point out to me that that how these guys always give their best when I called some their characters into question, and said maybe they didn't play so hard for Willie. Given your previous feelings on the matter of professional baseball players trying hard, If they are playing as hard as they can, how can you say they don't deserve a playoff berth regardless of how any other team finishes?

This is going to come down to the Mets needing to win one more game then the Brewers and/or two more than the Phillies, if they do that, they deserve to be in, if they don't then they don't. But to state that they don't deserve the playoffs at this point is absolute jackassery.

Exactly, Brian. They are one John Belushi speech away from the playoffs.

James Allen said...

I'm as pissed off as anybody at the chokery of this team as of late, but it's not like they haven't shown these traits all year. And still, they are as close as they are because other teams also have weaknesses. I mean, we are so down on this team, still so traumatized at what happened last year, that we are ready to throw dirt on a team before they are out of it; a team that, amazingly, is still in it despite having no bullpen. It's still astonishes me when I think about it. This team should have been dead a long time ago. Someone somewhere on this team deserves a little credit for something.

And the playoff rules are what they are. And fortunately, this ain't the NCAA tourney where the last month of the season gets weighted more than the rest of the season. It's the final record that counts and that's it.

We'll have plenty of time to throw dirt on this team next week. Or we may be talking about Santana vs. Zambrano. Till then, we get to live and die with this team for the next six games. We're fans, it's what we do.

James Allen said...

See? Johan Santana, a wacky broken bat, and our old friend Mike Hampton add up to one game being chopped away. Can everyone hold off giving the NL east crown to the Phils already?

tim said...

We're going to have to walk old Jack off the ledge, even if he doesn't "deserve" it.

Brian said...

Correction: Now, the Mets simply have to win 2 more games than the Phillies to win the division.

We can all hope the Phillies lose a couple in a row just to see what Jack looks like while engulfed in a whirlwind of cognitive dissonance.