Being labeled a "frontrunner" or a "bandwagon fan" often gets a bad rep among the rabid fans of a sport or team. Here at Amazin' Avenue, we mostly write what we write for the hardcore, diehard Mets fans who want to know everything about the team and dig in deep, often statistically. By doing this, we've created a great community here and of course we have no intentions of changing that!
In the playoffs, that approach leaves a huge chunk of people who might hop on the Mets train out in the dark. If you fit that description, this is the post for you to read! Maybe you're a fan of another MLB team and you're just rooting for the Mets in the playoffs because your team was eliminated. Maybe you like the Mets but at some point in the long stretch of losing that the team went through prior to 2015, your interest waned. You had better things to do, which is understandable. Life happens. Or maybe you're not a Mets fan at all, maybe you're not even a baseball fan, but something about the Mets has piqued your interest!
Well, whoever you are, welcome aboard! Hopefully the Mets ride their young arms through the playoffs and you stick around for a while. To begin, let's give you a little history lesson.
A Mets History Lesson
Maybe you tuned out after 2008, after the Mets had squandered a number of playoff opportunities. It could've easily been sometime during the dreadful mess of a year that was 2009, when the Mets were running out lineups featuring the likes of Jeremy Reed, Corey Sullivan, WIlson Valdez, and Omir Santos on the regular. We wouldn't blame you for tuning out on that mess, a season marred with injuries that resulted in just 70 Mets victories. If you'd like to take a positive out of that season (and believe us, there were very few), it's that the Mets claimed the #7 overall draft pick in the subsequent draft and with that pick, landed a right handed pitcher named Matt Harvey.
2010 wasn't much better for the Mets. Seriously, in some ways it was worse (just find a copy of their Opening Day lineup that season). After the season, GM Omar Minaya and manager Jerry Manuel lost their jobs, paving the way for the current regime of Sandy Alderson and Terry Collins to take over. That 2010 draft, however, laid out a pretty great future for the Mets. In addition to Harvey, they plucked a little known pitching prospect out of Stetson University. Pitching prospect is a somewhat loose term, as this kid named Jacob deGrom actually played shortstop for most of his college career. In 2015, they now front the Mets rotation.
There was one more key acquisition in 2010 and that was the minor league signing of knuckleballer R.A. Dickey, who turned in 3 stellar seasons for the Mets including winning a Cy Young award in 2012. That offseason, Sandy Alderson shrewdly dealt Dickey to the Blue Jays and in return, received catcher Travis d'Arnaud and pitcher Noah Syndergaard. Both of them, along with Harvey and deGrom, are crucial pieces of the Mets young core of players.
From 2009-2014, the Mets finished under .500 every season winning between 70-79 games each year. Those seasons were mostly poor, unremarkable outside of a few signs of light here and there. Behind the scenes, however, the Mets were building their next contender and that ultimately bore fruit in 2015.
2015 NL East Champions
It's been a wild season of highs and lows but the 2015 Mets have been a fun ride and much of that is due to incredible starting pitching. Despite the loss of Zack Wheeler during spring training, Matt Harvey made his return from Tommy John surgery and was mostly fantastic. Along with Jacob deGrom proving his Rookie of the Year campaign was real and the emergence of Syndergaard, who joined the club in May, the Mets have a fine trio of young, hard-throwing top of the rotation starters. Add lefty Steven Matz, another young hard-throwing pitcher, to the group and suddenly it's an exciting quartet. Then there's Bartolo Colon and Jon Niese, both of whom were steady if not as spectacular all season.
The Mets' starting pitching riches certainly helped keep the bullpen well-rested most of the season but Jeurys Familia emerged as the closer and wow, was he exciting to watch. Sporting a mid to high 90's sinker and a suddenly developed wipeout slider, Familia took the Mets' closer role after Jenrry Mejia was suspended the first time and ran with it. Oh yeah, we should also mention that Familia added a 94 MPH splitter late in the season that was mostly unhittable. The rest of the Mets bullpen has mostly been solid but Familia is a star at the backend. Pitching ahead of him are righties Addison Reed and Tyler Clippard, both late season acquisitions who've held down the 7th and 8th innings and have closer experience.
For most of the season, the offense was a different story. David Wright and Travis d'Arnaud went down early in April with injuries and missed large chunks of time. Michael Cuddyer struggled and Lucas Duda had a few raging hot streaks surrounded by long ice cold streaks.
With the offense struggling through June and July, you may have heard the story. The Mets made a few big trades which catapulted them from iffy contender to division favorite. Bringing in Juan Uribe, Kelly Johnson, and the big fish Yoenis Cespedes in two moves greatly improved the offense and the promotion of top prospect Michael Conforto from Double-A provided an extra boost. The return of d'Arnaud and Wright soon after has given the Mets a very strong lineup 1-8.
Prior to the acquisition of Cespedes, one of the biggest turning points of the season was quite widely covered in the media. As the story goes, the Mets were supposedly close to re-acquiring former outfielder Carlos Gomez from the Brewers in exchange for SP Zack Wheeler and SS Wilmer Flores and the news broke during a game. Despite this, the Mets didn't remove Flores from the game and he found out about the rumored deal from fans telling him. When Flores ran out to his position after finding out, this happened:
After the game, it was announced the trade had fallen through meaning Flores would stick around. Two days later, the Mets acquired Cespedes from the Tigers and that night, Flores likely etched his name in Mets lore forever by doing this:
A storybook ending starting with a trade rumor, a player's tears, and the trade falling apart, and ending with a walkoff home run and the player at the heart of it becoming a folk hero. It's one of the greatest few days I've ever seen watching the Mets.
Of course, the great days wouldn't end, as the Mets dominated the rest of the season going a combined 37-22 from August 1st through the end of the regular season. Yoenis Cespedes assaulted National League pitching, crushing 17 home runs and the Mets twice swept the preseason division favorite Washington Nationals in separate three game series, winning the finale of the second series with a home run hit by Cespedes off of Drew Storen.
Fittingly, it was Familia on the mound when the Mets clinched the National League East title on September 26th and Mets announcer Gary Cohen had quite a fitting call, given the events of late July mentioned up above:
Such a fantastic Mets season has them in the playoffs for the first time since 2006 and we couldn't be more excited! Hopefully that gives you, the bandwagon/frontrunning Mets fan, some insight into where this team is coming from. Enjoy the playoffs, happy frontrunning, and please don't be afraid to ask questions to our community!