Looking back at the Kansas City Royals’ 4 games to 1 triumph over the Mets in the 2015 World Series, they were decisively the better team. Yet, unlike some other World Series where one team dominated the other, this series was particularly painful to the Mets because there were three close games where the Mets squandered late leads because the Royals fielded better, played more opportunistically, executed the fundamentals, and came through in the late innings while the Mets did not.
The poor play in the field by the Mets started in the first inning of the first game when Cespedes misplayed Escobar’s flyball into a trip around the bases and continued through Lucas Duda’s wild throw in the ninth inning of the last game (which appeared to be closer to the on deck circle than to Travis d’Arnaud’s glove) scored the tying run for the Royals. Surprisingly to me, neither misplay was scored an error. Also, when Jeurys Familia induced the ground balls he needed in Games 4 and 5, somehow the Mets still managed to misplay them to the Royals advantage.
Daniel Murphy played out of this world in the NLDS and NLCS but he came back down to earth in the World Series and unfortunately for the Mets, most of his teammates were similarly grounded.
I couldn’t help but feel sympathetic for manager Terry Collins who blamed himself for following his “heart” and not his “gut” in sticking with Matt Harvey in the ninth inning of Game 5. To me, it brought to mind the story of the seventh game of the 1964 World Series when Bob Gibson was allowed to finish the game even after surrendering two solo homeruns in the ninth inning. When asked after the game why he stuck with Gibson, his manager Johnny Keane famously said that he “had a committment” to Gibson’s heart. Of course, Gibson had a four run lead entering the ninth inning and was a much more seasoned pitcher than Harvey, who pitched great but also had a smaller margin for error.
For the Mets, this should be a learning experience for them. For instance, perhaps they could learn something from the Royals more opportunistic approach on offense, in contrast to the Mets, who seemingly were waiting for someone to hit homeruns that wouldn’t happen. Was it me, or did it seem like every time the Royals had a man on second with no outs, they moved him to third base on an out and then he came around to score?
Daniel Murphy of the Mets had had a storybook postseason as the veteran infielder hit homeruns in six consecutive postseason game as he powered the Mets to the World Series.
Whether it is the law of averages or the Royals advanced scouting, the Murph has cooled off in the World Series, batting a mere .176 through four games, and the closest he has come to hitting a homerun is watching David Wright hit one from the on-deck-circle in Game 3.
Then with the Mets on the verge of tying the Royals two games apiece in the World Series before a frenzied Halloween crowd at Citi Field, his error in the field in the eighth inning of Game 4 opened the door to the Royals comeback and now the Mets stand on the precipice of elimination.
Considering the Mets would probably have been in their dens watching the World Series on TV if not for Murphy, it’s a shame for Murphy if this becomes the moment Mets fans remember most. Barring a miraculous comeback from down 3-1, which would disinfect any of the current disappointment of the fans, I hope the fans give Murphy the standing ovation he deserves tonight.
On a historical note, back in 1941 when my Dad was a teenager, the team he rooted for, the Brooklyn Dodgers, returned to the World Series after a quarter century absence and when on the verge of tying the World Series 2-2 against the Yankees, Dodger catcher Mickey Owen dropped a third strike for a passed ball that would have ended Game 4 and the Yankees subsequently staged an improbable winning rally and took a commanding 3 games to 1 advantage on their way to a championship. The good news for Mets fans is the Dodgers eventually recovered and won a World Series…the less than good news is that it took 14 years to win it in 1955.
After Yoennis Cespedes kicked Alcides Escobar’s long fly ball across the outfield of Kauffman Stadium for an inside the park homerun (by the way, how is missing and kicking a flyball not scored an error) to lead off the bottom of the first inning, a Facebook friend posted “uh oh” to which I replied, “Fear not” because the 1969 World Series opened in a similar fashion with an outfielder misplaying a ball into a homerun. Forty six October ago, Don Buford homered off of Tom Seaver to lead off the 1969 series in large part because rightfielder Ron Swoboda did not back all the way to the wall, thus allowing Buford’s blow to clear the wall for a homer. The Mets were stunned but they ultimately won the series and became the Miracle Mets.
Unfortunately for the Mets, Jeurys Familia allowed a gut-punching game tying homerun to Alex Gordon in the ninth inning, and much like the 2000 World Series, when Armando Benitez could not close out the Yankees in Game One of that series, the stage was set for grueling extra inning losses 15 years apart.
With the Mets having lost the first two games in Kansas City to the Royals, the pessimists pointed to 2000 in despair and the optimists looked to 1986 for hope. As I sit here writing during the opening inning of Game Four, hope is edging out despair as the Mets dropped the Royals in Game Three a la 1986 against the Red Sox and now trail the Royals 2 games to 1.
So which will it be, 1986 or 2000? Well, we’ll have a better idea if the Mets win Game Four tonight behind rookie starter Steven Matz. One thing I know, if the Mets take three straight at Citi Field this weekend and go back to Kansas City up 3 games to 2, I hope we don’t see a repeat of the seven game loss in 1973 when they dropped Games 6 and 7 in Oakland.