Monday, September 5, 2022

The Party Crasher

Please don't show up at someone else's party just to rain on their parade.

If you'll indulge me for a minute, I'd like to start this post by throwing some numbers at you: 1-6, 2-5, 2-4, 0-7, 3-4, 4-3, 2-4, 1-5, 3-4*. Those numbers represent the New York Mets' regular season record against the Los Angeles Dodgers for every season from 2021, going back to when the Dodgers were sold to their current ownership group early in the 2012 season. (They didn't play at all in the 2020 pandemic season.)

Cumulatively, the Mets have only won 18 out of 60 regular season contests with LA over that time period. That's a winning percentage of exactly .300. To put this into perspective, the two worst teams in baseball last season, the Orioles and the Diamondbacks, finished with a .321 winning percentage. On the plus side, the Mets did manage to beat the Dodgers in the 2015 NLDS 3 games to 2, but the Mets' record of futility against LA over those years is starkly awful nonetheless.

I've watched most of those games in that period. Some were blowouts, but many featured a final score that was quite close. Honestly, that's how it felt watching many of those contests — tantalizingly competitive, but almost inevitably ending up as just another "L" in the ledger. Being a Mets fan in the dying years of the Wilpon era was often a challenge, but those games against the Dodgers were often the smelliest turd in the larger sh*t sandwich. They highlighted just how far from being a legit contender the Mets really were.

2022 has been a transformative year for the Mets. Sitting at 85 wins even after the dreadful weekend against the Nats, the Mets have already exceeded their win totals for all but 7 seasons since the year 2000. With 27 games still to play, the Mets should exceed 100 wins for only the fourth time in their existence — last accomplished in 1988 when mullets were still considered cool. They've taken care of business quite well against lesser teams to build up that impressive win total, but they've also fared well against most of the better teams they've played. After splitting 4 games in LA earlier this summer, the Mets won the season series by taking 2 of 3 at home earlier this week — a feat only accomplished once before in the time period cited above, by the 2015 Mets, who made it all the way to the World Series.

Now, no reasonable Mets fan is going to claim that winning one more game than LA "proves" the Mets will be the better team in October. That would be quite silly. Almost as silly as some of the stuff written in the local papers when the Mets lost 4 games to the Astros earlier this summer or those 2 recent contests in the Bronx to the Yankees. Most of us who have followed this game for a while understand that nothing that transpires before October really proves much of anything, except for baseball writers who want to bury your team.

However, for all of that, it sure was wonderful for Mets fans to see our side outplay Los Angeles over those 7 contests this season. It really gave me a sense of pride in my ball club when they held on to beat the Dodgers on Thursday afternoon. It was only the latest proof point this season that this New York Mets team is a legitimate contender, with a real chance to give fans an October to remember. No guarantees, of course, but long-suffering Mets fans sure have waited a long time for this.

Now, if you'll pardon a brief divergence from the main topic, I have a question for you. Would it be a classy move to attend a wedding reception and grab a seat at the head table to regale the happy bride and groom with a discussion of the latest divorce statistics? Hey guys, did you know that there is a 41% chance that you two are going to wind up in Divorce Court? Wait, this is your second marriage? Make that a 60% chance. Seriously, have you considered an annulment?

This is some incredibly low-class behavior that most of us wouldn't even consider doing on our worst day. But now, imagine that the person citing these depressing numbers wasn't even invited to the celebration at all. This ill-mannered lout deserves to get tossed out on his ear PDQ. Life is short, and people deserve to enjoy their celebration without Captain Buzzkill showing up to rain on their parade.

The afterglow of Thursday's victory was still slowly fading when the Captain, AKA the Post's Joel Sherman, crashed the Mets fans' party with a dreary piece dismissing the significance of it all:

And now (sorry) the disclaimers. It is great that the Mets inflicted the first series loss on the Dodgers since July 25-27. The last to do it? The Nationals, who have the NL's worst record. It is terrific that the Mets won a season series against the most dominant club in the sport in 2022. But you know who has the best record against the Dodgers this year? That would be the Pirates, who went 5-1 against the Dodgers, yet still have the NL's second-worst record.

So fickle stuff happens over the course of a long season and one series after another over six months. The Mets once won a season series 10-1 over the Dodgers and outscored them 49-18 and then lost the 1988 NLCS in seven games to Los Angeles.

Thus, I hate to spoil the obvious theme, especially because these games were so fun and the crowds were large and the passion exceeded that of normal regular-season games. Still, approach drawing too much information and implication out of these seven games with caution.

Look, there's nothing in this steaming pile of an article that wasn't true. The thing is, all of it was so obviously true. Anyone who has followed baseball (or all major American sports, for that matter) for more than a minute understands that regular season results mean nothing in the win-or-go-home crucible of a playoff series. And all but the most blindly loyal of Mets fans understand that the Dodgers are a deeper, more complete team than the Mets. But the Mets proved that the distance between the two teams is no longer an unbridgeable chasm. A Mets-Dodgers playoff series, if it happens, will not be a preordained LA win. And that's all a fan could ask for from a team that hasn't sniffed the playoffs since a one-and-done 2016 wildcard game loss.

More than that, though, this piece bugged me because Sherman, who really is a fine baseball writer, couldn't give Mets fans a freaking day to feel good before he attempted to dump cold water on that warm feeling. What is it about the New York media that they feel compelled to constantly pile all of these really blatantly obvious caveats onto the spirits of Mets fans during moments when we're really enjoying this season that we've waited so long for?

When you call them on it, they sniff contemptuously and claim that we're just fanboys and fangirls who can't handle any criticism of our team. But that's not even true. If anything, Mets fans can be too critical of their ball club. But we understand all too well that good moments in a long season are to be savored. We've waited a long time to beat the Dodgers, and it felt freaking great. But, as Saturday and Sunday's games clearly demonstrated, those moments of joy are all too fleeting.

Sherman assured us that he "hate[ed] to spoil" the fun and passion of the fans, but that was clearly not true. If he really felt that way, he might have waited for longer than a couple of hours to dump all over it with Andy Martino-level trolling. Not cool, Joel. Not cool.

Please be well and take care. Let's go Mets.

* Thanks to the indispensable Ultimate Mets Database for being the source of the W-L info cited in the first paragraph.

Follow me on Twitter @MikeSteffanos.

No comments:

Post a Comment

The Defense Doesn't Rest

A renewed emphasis on defense would be a good thing for the New York Mets. Mike Vaccaro had an interesting column in the New York Post  abou...