The fortunes of New York’s two teams share a rare moment of alignment in baseball’s new wildcard format.
Last night, watching the Mets lost in the most heartbreaking (and somehow entirely predictable) fashion, I couldn’t help but notice a certain similarity.
After a series of injuries cost the Mets the better part of their star-studded starting rotation, they somehow put enough wins together to not only sneak into, but host, the wildcard game.
Their prize? A winner-take-all matchup against perhaps the best postseason pitcher in the sport’s history, against a sleeping giant that seemed due to break out of a second-half slump, against the calendar. The hopes of the Metropolitans laid on the shoulders of their God, the last, long healthy arm in that mythical starting rotation.
The hopes of the Metropolitans laid on the shoulders of their God, the last, long healthy arm in that mythical starting rotation. Thor did not disappoint. He was dominant and deserved to win to walk away victorious. Unfortunately for the God, however, his opponent was a Titan, perhaps one with witchcraft on his side. It just wasn’t meant to be.
Unfortunately for the God, however, his opponent was a Titan, perhaps one with witchcraft on his side. It just wasn’t meant to be.
Based on the reaction in Queens last night, there’s no doubt that Syndergaard, along with a more than a few other men in that clubhouse, could use a sympathetic ear during the next few days. Maybe they can give their pinstriped counterparts across town a call.
Because while the Yankees and Mets have rarely shared the same fate during the time they have shared a city, they did last night.
Just a year ago, it was the Yankees that had run into a buzzsaw. An unlikely and eventful season in New York ended thanks to the arm of a pitcher that could simply not be touched, this year as it had last.
That’s what baseball’s new one-game wildcard will do to you.
The Yankees and Mets didn’t find their way into the playoffs exactly in the same fashion, sure. The Yankees started the season off hot before tapering off as older players began to show cracks in the foundation, while the Mets caught fire late on the backs of some unheralded additions.
But in playoff game number one, it unfolded the same way. Like MadBum in Citi Field, Dallas Keuchel and his beard were dominant against the clean-shaven Yankees, and made it clear it would take a miracle or an error to cross the plate on his watch. The Giants and Astros each posted three runs, but only needed one.
This similarity could be cited as an example of an argument against baseball’s new playoff system. After playing more games than any other major sport over the course of a season, the fates of two successful teams were decided not by their body of work, but by a pitcher who owned the building for that night. In both cases, the home team, the one that finished that long grind with the better record (or at least a tiebreaker) went to the offseason without getting to prove their worth in a full series.
But, despite my team getting knocked out last year, these performances are exactly why the new format is so great. It’s often the best of what two teams have to offer, trying to earn that last desperate ticket to the next round.
The baseball playoffs are so great, in large part, because it’s so difficult to get there. By the time a team reaches even a divisional round, the investment is so sizable, it feels gut wrenching to have it ripped away. So, I’m okay with making it that much harder.
As for the Yankees and Mets, their fortunes will likely diverge once again from this point. In Queens, fans will hope they can turn a strong foundation into a championship before the window closes. Those in the Bronx will hope the Yankees can even build a similar foundation in this brave new era for the Evil Empire.
But for a pair of October nights, all baseball fans in New York felt the same gut wrenching way. There’s a certain kind of poetry in that, and I’m glad we got to see it.
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