By Joe Rini
The New York Mets begin their postseason quest for a championship a few days earlier than expected. The Mets spent nearly every day of the 2022 season atop the NL Eastern division in first place. Unfortunately, one of those days in first place was not the last day of the regular season. Therefore, they will host the San Diego Padres in the best-of-three wildcard series starting on Friday night.
A 101-win season shouldn’t be considered a failure if it doesn’t end in the franchise’s first championship since 1986. However, a quick exit for the Mets from their postseason quest would be disappointing given the enthusiasm and promise of 2022. The Mets face a stiff competitor in the Padres, a team that defeated them in four out of six games in 2022. Additionally, the outcome of this series would affect the legacy of people like Buck Showalter and Jacob deGrom.
Showalter in Postseason
In his inaugural season as the Mets’ manager, Showalter turned around a team that collapsed into a heap of 85 losses in 2021. The Mets bypassed Showalter during the winter of 2018, but didn’t repeat that mistake two years later. Considered as one of the best managers of his generation, he walked into the Mets’ clubhouse in spring training with perhaps the most gravitas of any new Mets manager since Gil Hodges in 1968. He navigated the Mets through the absence of deGrom for most of the season and might win his fourth Manager of the Year Award.
The Mets are the fourth team Showalter has taken to the postseason. However, his past teams’ performances in the postseason have been spotty. He laid the foundation for World Series titles for the New York Yankees and the Arizona Diamondbacks, yet it was his successors who hoisted World Series trophies over their heads. A trip to the World Series is the one entry not on his sterling managerial resume. However, a very good Padres team is capable of ending the Mets’ season before the foliage brightens the New York autumnal landscape.
Is deGrom deGone?
Veteran Yu Darvish will start Game One for the Padres. The sixteen-game winner is an NL Cy Young Award candidate. More significantly, he handled the Mets easily in 2022. He picked up two wins in two starts, allowing only one run in 14 innings. The Mets’ offense, prone to disappearing acts late in the season, can not afford a slump this weekend.
Max Scherzer matches up against Darvish and he’ll need to improve upon his last performance against the Atlanta Braves. Nerves won’t be a factor for the veteran Scherzer, but he spent time on the IL in September with a left-side injury. Preventing All-Stars Manny Machado and Juan Soto from dominating this series is an obvious key for the Mets’ pitchers.
Ultimately, it may fall to deGrom to clinch the series for the Mets, or keep their season alive. The blueprint for the Mets was for deGrom to pitch himself into midseason form for the postseason. However, the more recent version of deGrom evokes a mere mortal than the other-worldly two-time Cy Young Award winner. After winning five of his first six decisions, deGrom dropped his final three decisions and his ERA ballooned from 1.66 to 3.08. Also, hanging over each deGrom start is the specter that it could be his final appearance in a Mets uniform if he opts out of his contract after the season. Physically ready or not, the Mets are relying heavily on deGrom.
Mets’ Postseason Quest Begins
It’s been a great 2022 for the Mets as a team and individually. Their 101 wins trail only the 1986 champions’ 108 wins. Pete Alonso tied Aaron Judge for the MLB leading 131 RBI to go with his 40 home runs. A late-season hot streak catapulted Jeff McNeil to a batting title and an MLB-leading .326 average. Closer Edwin Diaz dominated the ninth inning all season long for the Mets. Whether the good feelings carry on will be determined against the Padres this weekend.