Going into the 2015 season there were high hopes for the Mets. They had seen what young arms like Matt Harvey, reigning Rookie of the Year Jacob de Grom and Zack Wheeler could do. Lucas Duda was coming off a breakthrough year in which he eclipsed the elusive 30 HR mark. Jenrry Mejia had established himself as a formidable closer. Gold Glove winner Juan Lagares was a human highlight reel. Daniel Murphy was a steady offensive presence at 2nd base.
Of course, not everyone was seeing the world through orange and blue glasses. David Wright had another sub-par season. Curtis Granderson was drawing comparisons to Jason Bay. The Chris Young debacle in left field left the Mets with egg on their face, particularly when he went cross town and did for the Yankees what they’d hoped he’d do in Queens. Shortstop continued to be a black hole with the skipper sticking with Mendoza-hitting Ruben Tejada until the season was long gone in August before finally giving newcomer Wilmer Flores a try. Travis d’Arnaud couldn’t stay healthy. Jenrry Mejia was lost for PED abuse. The manager turned in four straight losing seasons while providing nightly head scratching decisions in terms of lineup construction, bullpen usage and baseball fundamentals.
Coming out of the gate things looked like they might be pointed in the right direction but then the injuries struck. Zack Wheeler and surprisingly effective Josh Edgin both got shelved with Tommy John Surgery. Newcomer Jerry Blevins lost a fight with a batted ball to his pitching arm. David Wright and Travis d’Arnaud went down almost immediately.
By the time May and June rolled around, 2-1 seemed like an insurmountable lead. The offense was beyond pathetic, culminating with the day in which the Mets 3-4 hitters were both under .200 and the entire bench was under .200 as well. Yet as bad as things were, the Mets were hovering in the top half of the division, within striking distance of the powerhouse Washington Nationals.
Then the personnel changes came. First it was the duo of Juan Uribe and Kelly Johnson to replace the AAAA players that had comprised the bench. Then came the return of All-Star David Wright and catcher Travis d’Arnaud. An injury to Michael Cuddyer opened the door to the promotion of AA hitting sensation Michael Conforto. 8th inning magician Tyler Clippard arrived just as Jenrry Mejia was pinched once again for PED abuse. Then, of course, Yoenis Cespedes arrived and they’ve been on over a .700 winning percentage ever since.
Coinciding with the Mets ascent and the Nationals’ demise was the sterling play of the Toronto Blue Jays. After having trailed the New York Yankees for most of the season, the slugging Canadians behind the bats of Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, Josh Donaldson, Russell Martin and late season acquisition Troy Tulowitzki surged to a 4.5 game lead over the formerly division leading Bronx Bombers.
What led to the Yankees downward spiral? Well, age and injuries have caught up to a great many of their players. Jacoby Ellsbury and Mark Teixera have both missed a lot of time. The man they love to hate, Alex Rodriguez, and catcher Brian McCann are having good offensive years but they have gotten lower than typical production from many others. Then there’s the pitching staff...remember the “What outfield?” days of the Mets? That’s kind of how it is over in the house that Ruth didn’t build...
Miami Marlins import Nate Eovaldi is sporting a gaudy 14-3 record, but his ERA, WHIP and hits allowed are below league average. CC Sabathia looks like he’s lost his mojo. Masahiro Tanaka has not recovered to pitch as he did prior to his 2014 injury. Michael Pineda is above .500 but not dominating and Ivan Nova has been pretty much awful all year.
In what appears a likely third straight year of missing the post season, the Yankees fans are growing restless while their Mets counterparts are dancing in the streets. The casual fans are flocking to Citi Field. People are talking about October roster construction, pitching rotation and 2016 personnel decisions. Yankee fans are talking football.
Granted, I’m getting this sense having only briefly visited Citi Field in August and reading what I do in the media living 2000 miles away from New York, but is it as uncomfortable for Yankee fans now as it seems?