The Mets got booted from the playoffs last Wednesday night, mere moments, it seemed, after they had made it in. Granted, being eliminated in the playoffs is infinitely better than not making it there at all; still, playoff elimination losses are uniquely cruel: They deliver a payload of disappointment made heavy by the stakes of the thing—that our hopes for a championship could come to be.
It’s like being sucker-punched: you are fine one moment and compromised the next, suddenly unable to know anything but your pain, and unable to do anything but nurse it. Eventually, the acuity recedes, although how long that recovery takes and how it progresses depends on how hard you were hit (and by what) and how off-guard you were.
There probably weren’t too many of us who were caught fully off-guard by the Mets’ elimination from the playoffs Wednesday night. It defied logic that they were even there. A cold comparison of the Mets’ depleted roster to those of their potential opponents in subsequent rounds—the Cubs, for starters—painted a picture of long odds at best.
But these Mets had surprised us before, and they could absolutely surprise us again—especially in the thunderdome of the playoffs, where goofy hot streaks, unlikely heroes, and small-sample-size deviations from the norm wreck seasons and crown champions. All you have to do is make it in, and then you have a real chance. And so if you were a Mets fan—even of the level-headed variety—you were going to buy this ticket and take this ride in hopes that it would carry you all the way.
It was a fast climb to hope for us Mets fans in 2016—a year that systematically and crushingly laid waste to most of the team’s good players. It bears repeating: Despite the injuries, and in defiance of all logic, they made it to the playoffs—and then, in an instant, they were done.
The loss still hurts, and the pain is aggravated when you consider the uncertainty heading into winter. We have to wait to see where Yoenis Cespedes is going to wind up next year. We have to wait to learn whether Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Steven Matz, David Wright, and Wilmer Flores will recover from their respective surgeries in time—let alone in form—for spring training. What about Bartolo Colon? What about Neil Walker? Is Zack Wheeler finished? Can Lucas Duda be relied upon to be Good again? Was 2016 just a blip for Travis d’Arnaud and Michael Conforto, or are they simply not what we once expected?
Grappling with uncertainties like these (and others) is hard—especially when you have neither influence nor control over their outcomes—and when you are in that space of not knowing, you need something to cling to for comfort. For me, the main thing is that the Mets, on a basic level, seem fairly well-situated for 2017.
Despite the litany of injuries this year, the Mets are once again heading into a new season with a stacked rotation—and, we now know, some decent fallback options to use when the inevitable setbacks occur. There are also some pretty good position players under control for 2017. It doesn’t seem likely that Conforto will do anything but get a lot better or that d’Arnaud, talented as he is, will turn in another lost season (somehow, he will only be 28 next year). As for Cespedes... oof.
My thought process has been like a carousel since Wednesday night. There are pauses when I have a chance to step off and remove myself a bit, but, in truth, I don’t think I’m ready to do that just yet. I still need the carousel; I need to pretend for now that I can will another playoff run, and that it won’t be another long winter before spring training. I know I’ll get past that, of course. And I know it will be the tantalizing thought of the Mets possibly making the playoffs again next year—and maybe, this time, winning it all—that propels me.