As it was in the 2015 World Series and the 2016 Wild Card game, the opposing team celebrated a playoff series win Sunday night on the Mets home turf, Citi Field. This time it was the lower seed and NL Wild Card San Diego Padres. Moments after their best-of-three win, the Padres were the team posing for photos on the mound and in their clubhouse down the hall.
The Mets were packing their boxes and their bags. They are headed home for the winter after a 101 win season. They leave with questions of what went wrong, who will return next year, and with a majority of their pitching rotation and bullpen being free agents.
A few position players also will test free agency, including outfielder Brandon Nimmo who did everything the Mes asked for in center field and in the leadoff spot.
“Nobody cared that we won 101 games,” Nimmo said. “Just that we lost the last two.
Which leads to questions as to why the Mets fell short of their goals, always believing they were a World Series contender. More so, the offseason begins with a roster that will probably look a lot different when the Mets reconvene at their Spring Training complex in Port St. Lucie, Florida.
These next four months will be difficult for the Mets to comprehend as to what went wrong. It begins with losing a 10-½ game lead that the Braves overcame to win the NL East and getting a first round bye to the NL Division Series.
“Our goal was to win the World Series and we failed,” said Max Scherzer. His mega contract was supposed to lead the Mets to that World Series along with Jacob deGrom. They both failed in what became a horrible September stretch on the mound.
Scherzer added, “We had a ballclub that could do it. I really love this clubhouse. I love all the guys here. I thought we had great chemistry, I really thought we had the makeup to do it. Unfortunately, we got beat.”
Sunday night the Mets got beat. One hit, the fewest ever in their postseason game franchise history. Francisco Lindor and Pete Alonso, who combined for over 240 RBI during the regular season, failed to produce.
“It’s tough, it’s really tough,” said Alonso. “That’s going to be a tough pill to swallow for a while.”
One of those questions is about deGrom who has indicated he will exercise the opt out in his contract. He could have said goodbye to Citi Field after winning two Cy Young Awards and battling injuries to his elbow and shoulder.
degrom would say in a disappointed and frustrated Mets clubhouse, “We just lost the game and our season’s over and that’s all there is to it.” About his future, deGrom said “I haven’t really thought about it. I have no clue.”
But a few minutes earlier, many of the Mets remained in the dugout and hanged by the rails. They watched Manny Machado and Juan Soto along with the winning Padres. It was, as they say, a tough pill to swallow.
It was supposed to be the Mets moving on to Los Angeles and facing the potent Dodgers. And now that will have to wait until next year. Yes, the game of baseball can be nasty as a deGrom fastball that helped his team get a win in Game 2 Saturday night.
“It’s raw. It’s sports,” said manager Buck Showalter. “It’s so gratifying and so many great things happen. It’s just cruel too, at times like this. Hopefully we can gain something from the pain.”
A pain that will linger with all these questions about the future. An owner, Steve Cohen, who will regroup with GM Billy Eppler and Showalter. Cohen will open his billion dollar check book and continue to fulfill a commitment of bringing a World Series championship to Citi Field.
The future as Seth Lugo said, “Is a mystery.” He is one of those free agents out of the bullpen, a homegrown Met that will try and understand what went wrong and if there is a future for him with the Mets.
Regardless, it was those 101 wins and that should have been enough for the first round bye into the NL Division Series. And it was a three game sweep down in Atlanta, as the Braves became the division winner because they won the season series between the teams.
More importantly, they are a better team than the Mets and will be viable in years to come. So here we are again, the Mets with expectations, who experienced an early exit in October with many questions to be answered.
It wasn’t supposed to end so soon.
Rich Mancuso: [email protected] Facebook.com Watch “Sports with Rich” live on Tuesday Nights at 10pm EST on The SLG Network/Youtube with Robert Rizzo Available on Apple Podcasts and Spotify under The SLG Network.