THE METS HAVE WON THE PENNANT! THE METS HAVE WON THE GODDAMN PENNANT! Excuse our exuberance there, but this is all a bit much to take in even five days after THE METS WON THE PENNANT. Now that everyone in your office and on your subway car and in your bodega want to talk Mets with you, it’s about time you got caught up with the Mets before they start their World Series battle with the hated Kansas City Royals. Who’s hot, both in a good at baseball and a physically attractive sense? How did they get here? What’s going to happen? What’s a Syndergaard? We’re here with all your answers, having spent all year watching this damn team, even that game where they sent two guys batting under .200 to hit 4th and 5th in the lineup.
WHEN DOES THE WORLD SERIES START?
Great question! You can’t watch if you don’t know when to, so here’s your World Series schedule:
Game One: Tuesday, October 27, 8:07pm
Game Two: Wednesday, October 28, 8:07pm
Game Three: Friday, October 30, 8:07 pm
Game Four: Saturday, October 31, 8:07pm
Game Five: Sunday, November 1, 8:15pm
Game 6: Tuesday, November 3, 8:07
Game 7: Wednesday, November 4, 8:07pm
THE METS ARE IN THE WORLD SERIES? HOW DID THAT HAPPEN?
Ask even the most die hard Mets fans how they thought the team was going to do this year and most of them would probably tell you something like 83 to 85 wins with a vague shot at the second wild card spot and a one-game playoff. Not great, but definitely an improvement after six straight losing seasons with promises that the team was ready to call up talented young players from the minor leagues any day now. Even halfway through the year, it looked like that was going to be the team’s fate, with great pitching unable to save a them from one of the worst offenses modern baseball had ever seen. Then they ripped off a 36-22 record in August and September to win the division over the pre-season favorite Washington Nationals. In the playoffs, they beat the favored Los Angeles Dodgers and their $300 million payroll and swept the similarly young Chicago Cubs out of existence, firmly establishing New York’s dominance over both the West Coast and Midwest cities that people somehow consider its equal sometimes. Now they’re in the World Series for the first time in 15 years, looking for the franchise’s third trophy and first since the 1986 team won it all 29 years ago.
WHO’S THIS MURPHY GUY EVERYONE’S TALKING ABOUT?
That would be Daniel Murphy, who’s temporarily transformed himself into Babe Ruth at precisely the right time to do something like that. Murphy, a second baseman known more for his ability to hit line drives and play bad defense, now holds the record for consecutive post-seasons games with a home run with 6 and is in second place for most post-season home runs ever in a single playoff run with 7. For context, Murphy hit a career-high 14 home runs over 130 games this season, compared to 7 through 9 games in the playoffs. He’s hitting .421 over those 9 games, so even if he’s not hitting a home run, he’s getting a hit 42% of the time he’s at bat, which is an unheard of success rate.
SO WHO ELSE ON THE METS IS GOOD?
Take your pick, this is a pretty deep team! It starts with their great pitching all year long led by co-aces Matt Harvey (a polarizing but extremely talented young pitcher) and reigning Rookie of the Year Jacob deGrom (who made headlines simply by saying he might cut his trademark long hair). They were bolstered by twin flamethrowing rookies Noah “Thor” Syndergaard who has been throwing 100 miles per hour in the playoffs and Long Island’s own Steven Matz, whose grandfather became a delightful meme during Matz’ first career start. They’ve got a hard throwing closer coming out of the bullpen at the end of games, Jeurys (pronounced jerr-ISS) Familia, who throws 97 miles per hour, as well as doughy ageless wonder Bartolo Colon, who at 42-years-old is still able to do this:
The offense was a work in progress for most of the season, more famous for its ineptitude than anything else, but even that turned things around. First there was a dramatic last-second trade for Cuban slugger Yoenis Cespedes, who went on a home run and RBI tear in August similar to Murphy’s that helped the Mets win the division. The arrival of touted minor league outfielder Michael Conforto and the return of injured catcher Travis d’Arnaud and team captain David Wright happened around the same time and, took the team’s offense from being famous for its badness to one that led the National League in home runs over the last two months of the season. Unintentional Instagram star and first baseman Lucas Duda is a breakout candidate, since even after struggling for the entire playoffs, he broke out in Game 4 against the Cubs with 5 runs batted in and led the team in home runs over the whole season with 27.
WHAT’S THE DEAL WITH THE ROYALS?
They suck, they’re terrible, you should boo them and throw red paint on the windows of every Kansas City barbecue-loving spot in the city. Well, okay, none of that is true. The Royals rose from a modern history of ineptitude even more dire than the Mets, going from losing record in 18 of 19 years between 1994 and 2012 to two consecutive World Series appearances the last two years. They lost last year’s Series in a hard-fought seven game series against the San Francisco Giants, so they have the experience factor. Their improbable comebacks when they were six outs away from elimination in the ALDS and against one of the best pitchers in baseball in the ALCS has led to the theory that they also have what’s referred to in baseball circles as Cardinals Devil Magic, an infernal and evil force of nature that allows the St. Louis Cardinals to remain in contention every year and is now believed to travel the mystical stretch of Interstate 87 that connects the two cities helping whichever Midwest team needs a boost.
ANYONE IN PARTICULAR I SHOULD WATCH FOR ON THE ROYALS?
Obviously as a team that won 95 games this season, the Royals are no fluke. And while they have a triumvirate of hard throwing starting pitchers (Yordano Ventura, Edinson Volquez and Johnny Cueto), the Royals’ real strength is in their bullpen. The Royals’ flamethrowing relief pitchers are led by Wade Davis, who’s been otherworldly since moving to the bullpen last season, having given up three home runs total over the last two seasons, and is able to pitch more than one inning at a time and remain effective, unlike other relief pitchers. Joining Davis are the young Kelvin Herrera and reclamation project Ryan Madson, who hadn’t pitched in three seasons because of various injuries, before coming back this season to help form a three-headed monster in the bullpen. See? Royals Devil Magic.
Offensively, the Royals rely less on the home run than either of the Mets previous playoff opponents, but that’s not out of weakness. The team has a slap-happy approach to offense, nicking you to death with players that just look to make contact with the baseball and force you to field it like second baseman Alcides Escobar, centerfielder Lorenzo Cain and shortstop Ben Zobrist. This was most on display in Game 4 of the ALDS when they came back from a 6-2 deficit in the 8th inning against the Astros with five straight singles and then a ground ball that should been a double play that instead became a game-tying error.
SO HOW DO THE METS WIN?
It’s a tough path to be the world champs, but the Mets can win. Their pitchers will have to deal with a lineup that’s uniquely suited to hitting fastballs thrown 95 miles per hour and harder, and their fielders will have to be on their toes since the Royals put so many balls in play. If the Mets have any Achilles heel, it’s their infield defense and their bullpen. On the infield, rookie Wilmer Flores is manning shortstop only because no one else was there to do it, and a every infielder has a limited ability to get to batted balls. Beyond Jeurys Familia, Mets’ relief pitchers are a crap shoot, so their starters will have to go deep in to games to avoid exposing the other relievers to the Royals.
On offense, the lineup is deep from top to bottom, so even if Daniel Murphy stops hitting home runs all the time, there’s enough talent that a team-wide offensive slump seems unlikely. Still, the Royals play great defense don’t make mistakes in the field, which means the Mets will have to take advantage of every offensive opportunity they get and not make mistakes on the the bases. You’ll hear the play-by-play team talk about how the Royals excel at “the little things” and “fundamentals,” so the Mets will have to remain focused, concentrate on the little things like good base running and and fielding, and ward off Midwest voodoo with some well-placed mystical runes in their dugout and clubhouse.
IF THE ROYALS AREN’T EVIL, SHOULD I FEEL HAPPY FOR THEM IF THEY WIN?
HELL NO. Ordinarily, we’d say the Royals are a great story, an also-ran that hasn’t won a World Series in 1985 and wandered in the desert before becoming a perennial contender. In any other situation but the one where they’re playing our beloved Metropolitans, that would be true. Embrace the hate in the World Series! Seize on every close call that goes the Royals’ way as proof the umps are screwing the Mets, boo their fans through the television content in the knowledge that the Mets represent everything pure and good in this World and the Royals represent everything cheap and mean and evil. Sure the Mets are owned by a family of incompetent goofs who can’t even avoid an obvious Ponzi scheme, but the Royals are owned by a former CEO of Wal-Mart who sank the team payroll into the depths of the ocean, kept it low through the team’s fallow years and is now being hailed as some kind of hero simply because the team overcame his contemptible attempts at running things like the Indians from the Major League franchise.
DO THE METS HAVE THE TEAM WORK TO MAKE THE DREAM WORK?