Still, the New York Mets are in the postseason for the first time in nine years.
Will they run into a buzzsaw facing Los Angeles Dodgers aces Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke and have a quick departure from the postseason? Or will the Mets be riding down the Canyon of Heroes as the third championship team in franchise history, joining their 1969 and 1986 counterparts?
Here are five reasons for optimism and pessimism:
FIVE REASONS THE METS CAN GO ALL THE WAY
1. Mets have aces, too
Captain David Wright acknowledged the Mets do not have a Kershaw and Greinke, but they also don’t have a Brett Anderson, who will start Game 3 for the Dodgers. The Mets have a formidable quartet with Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Matt Harvey and, if healthy, Steven Matz. And they have depth, too, with Bartolo Colon capable of stepping in if Matz is unable to pitch because of recent back spasms.
2. The offense is fixed
The Mets ranked near last in most offensive categories into late July, but the Amazin’s did a U-turn after promoting Michael Conforto from Double-A Binghamton, acquiring Yoenis Cespedes, Kelly Johnson and Juan Uribe, and eventually welcoming Wright back from a back injury.
3. The bullpen has been solidified
On the final day of the regular season, Jeurys Familia notched his 43rd save. That matched Armando Benitez's 2001 total for the franchise’s single-season record. Familia actually was third in the pecking order to be the closer, but Jenrry Mejia twice was suspended for positive PED tests and Bobby Parnell badly struggled in his first season back from Tommy John surgery. A pair of trades stabilized the setup situation. Tyler Clippard from the Oakland Athletics and Addison Reed from the Arizona Diamondbacks both proved to be vital acquisitions.
Cespedes performed so well after joining the Mets that he started to generate some buzz as an National League MVP candidate despite being in the league only the final two months of the season. Cespedes hit .287 with 17 homers and 44 RBIs in 57 games as a Met.
5. Ya Gotta Believe
Since Carlos Beltran watched a curveball from Adam Wainwright become strike three to eliminate the Amazin's in Game 7 of the National League Championship Series in 2006, Mets fans endured two collapses followed by six straight losing seasons. Let’s just say their fans are due for something positive to happen.
FIVE REASONS THE METS CAN’T GO ALL THE WAY
1. Kershaw and Greinke
If the series goes the distance, the Mets may face the Dodgers’ co-aces in four of the five games. Kershaw recorded 301 strikeouts this season. The only other pitcher in Dodgers' history to reach that threshold was Sandy Koufax. Greinke had a 1.66 ERA. Both pitchers should finish in the top three in NL Cy Young balloting.
2. Did you watch the past week?
After clinching the division in Cincinnati, the Mets stumbled during the final week. They endured a five-game losing streak before finally winning the regular-season finale against the Washington Nationals. The Mets scored only two runs in their final 43 innings and were no-hit by Max Scherzer on Saturday night.
3. Cracks in the bullpen
Although Reed and Clippard stabilized the bullpen, Clippard limped down the stretch. In his final 12 appearances, Clippard had a 7.11 ERA and surrendered four homers in 12 2/3 innings. Manager Terry Collins has mentioned potentially using Reed as the primary setup man instead of Clippard.
4. Lefties on lefties?
During the latter part of the regular season, the Mets loaded up on righty bats against southpaws. With Uribe injured and the Mets not wanting to sit their top players, lefty-hitting Lucas Duda, Daniel Murphy and Curtis Granderson will start against the Dodgers’ southpaws, including Kershaw and Anderson. The only lefty bat to sit will be Conforto. Michael Cuddyer instead starts in left field. Granderson hit only .183 against southpaws this season.
5. Limited experience
Yes, some of the players acquired during the season have postseason experience, including Cespedes, Clippard and Johnson. With the exception of Wright, the homegrown players have never participated before. Will that matter? Stay tuned.