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Meditations in Metsland

Midnight on a carousel ride / Reaching for the Gold Ring / Down inside / Never could reach it, just slips away / But I try

MLB: Wild Card-San Diego Padres at New York Mets Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

Disappointed and sad as I felt, and still feel, in the aftermath of the Mets’ expulsion from the playoffs by the Dads, I have found myself coming back to a central notion: It’s hard for me to get too upset about a team that won 101 games in the regular season.

It undeniably sucks that the Mets got smoked by the Padres. It sucks that they missed out on first place and a first-round bye by a single game—though I can’t say for sure a bye would have mattered, ultimately. The vibes were a bit shaky there at the end. None of that changes the cool and novel fact that the Mets were among the best teams in baseball in 2022.

As has been noted many times before, the MLB playoffs are the province of chance; if ever you needed proof of that concept, look no further than some of the other things that have happened so far in this year’s version of the thing. In light of such immutable insanity at the end of each season, the only thing to do—assuming you aren’t one of the dithering and/or tanking clubs—is build a team good enough to make it in, maybe add a dash of a certain je ne sais quois, often embodied in a player with a preposterous beard or ultra-niche skillset, and hope that it all congeals into a useful alloy—a pleasing offering unto the mercurial spirit-lords of the sport. If you can work that forge and build that ship and set sail on the frothy seas of the MLB playoffs, you might just go the distance. Or, you know, probably not.

The Mets took those steps, pretty much, and as a result I feel like I got pretty much everything I could have reasonably asked for out of the 2022 baseball season, or any baseball season, for that matter. The overwhelming majority of the past year has been overwhelmingly good in Metsland, which is something I’ve almost never been able to say in my conscious lifetime. I will take a very good team that falls short in the playoffs over a mediocre one that goes home at the end of the regular season 10 out of 10 times. I will do that because I’m having a better time watching the good team than I am the bad team, and since baseball seasons are so incredibly long and time-intensive, the sort of time you’re having as a fan along the way really does count for something, both as it’s happening in the dirt-and-emerald dreamscape and in the cold accounting of retrospection.

The one thought that admittedly threatens my inner sanctum of undisturbed peace centers on the question of the immediate future. It is difficult for me to calmly sit with the fact that we do not have a Steve Cohen Precedent to draw from when considering the various courses of action that team brass might take this offseason in putting together the 2023 version of the team.

Billy Eppler’s recent remarks about sustainability were vaguely threatening and worrying, but I also hesitate to read too closely into those remarks, given that Eppler, like all of his quarter-zip contemporaries across the sport speak about this sort of thing as if they went to one of the Six Sigma or McKinsey Finishing Schools for Bloodless Value Extraction. It’s just how those guys think. Steve Cohen might think that way this offseason, too. Or, he might not. That uncertainty, and the possibility for a big ol’ letdown next year, freaks me out; but, at least for now, there is still the distinct possibility that a lot of cool and fun things are in store next season. If the latter is true, then one playoff failure won’t hurt so bad. The issues, right now, are, first, that the Mets have never been good at maintaining this sort of thing, and, second, we will not, cannot know one way or the other until a whole bunch of time has passed.

As I embark on this interminable interlude of waiting, I choose, for now, to assume it will be fine, probably or maybe. One way or the other, we will find out, in retrospect as always, whether the 2022 Mets were a happy blip, or the beginning of a longer story of better times than the ones that came before.