Lightly regarded entering the season, New York has exceeded all expectations
By Sarah D. Morris
After a hard-fought National League Division Series with the Los Angeles Dodgers, the New York Mets used their young starting pitching to sweep the Chicago Cubs in the NL Championship Series and advance to the World Series. The Mets haven't been to the World Series since 2000, and they haven't been World Series champions since 1986.
Neither the Mets nor the Cubs were supposed to be in the postseason this year. In 2014, both teams had losing records and had young players who needed time to mature.
The Cubs didn't play badly during the NLCS, and their manager, Joe Maddon, kept his youngsters loose throughout the series. Their pitchers couldn't silence the potent Mets offense, especially Daniel Murphy. Whenever the Cubs created a scoring opportunity, they failed to capitalize on it. And during the NLCS, they had too many strikeouts. Sometimes they made a fielding miscue, and the Mets always took advantage of it.
At the beginning of the season, not many baseball people thought the Mets would be competitive in the NL East. Yes, they had great young starting pitching, but their offense was weak, especially after their captain, David Wright, missed a significant portion of the season with a back injury. Many wondered whether he could play again.
Since 2006 -- the most recent time the Mets were in the postseason -- the team had made many questionable moves designed to save money and stockpile young, powerful arms. However, at this year's non-waiver Trading Deadline -- when it appeared the Mets had a chance to win their division -- resources were made available to improve the offense.
Obtaining Yoenis Céspedes from the Detroit Tigers and Kelly Johnson and Juan Uribe from the Atlanta Braves dramatically improved the offense. The Mets' starting rotation had runs to work with, so the young starters could perfect their pitching style. Not wanting to damage their young arms, manager Terry Collins figured out a way to rest his starters without them losing their sharpness.
During the NLCS, Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah "Thor" Syndergaard and Steven Matz displayed their ability to throw hard for more than five innings, but they also showed their willingness to use the breaking ball and to change speeds effectively to keep the Cubs guessing. The free-swinging Cubs couldn't stop themselves from chasing and striking out.
The Mets also had brilliant performances from their bullpen. Whenever a starter couldn't go six innings, the 42-year-old Bartolo Colon came in and did his magic, often stomping out a potential rally. Their young closer Jeurys Familla handled the pressure beautifully, not letting the Cubs have a ninth-inning rally that would shift the momentum of the series. During the NLCS, it never felt like the Cubs had the momentum, even while playing in front of a very enthusiastic crowd at Wrigley Field.
Though the Mets were underdogs coming into the postseason, they have demonstrated an unwavering confidence in their ability to win. No one panics if a player fails to advance a runner, since he knows his teammate will do it. They don't rush a play in the field, so they haven't committed many errors. When Ruben Tejeda suffered a broken leg from a hard slide by the Dodgers' Chase Utley, understandably the Mets were upset, but they didn't think they were doomed, nor did they try to hit a Dodgers player to pay for Utley injuring their shortstop. Nothing has distracted the Mets from reaching their goal of winning a World Series championship.
What Murphy, MVP of the NLCS, has done this postseason is unbelievable. He has become the first player in Major League history to homer in six consecutive postseason games. Wednesday night, he had four hits, including an eighth-inning two-run homer, which sealed the fate of the Cubs. When Murphy received his MVP trophy, he refused to take any credit for the improbable series victory.
If all of the Mets feel like Murphy does, they deserve to be World Series champions, since baseball is a team sport.
Sarah D. Morris can be reached at email@example.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.