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No, the Mets didn’t blow it

This isn't the collapse of September 2007 or the 2015 World Series. The Mets just lost a playoff series to a good team. That's all.

Go ahead. Get your jokes off. I know how easy it is to poke fun at the Mets.

It’d be pretty easy, too. This team went berserk buying players in the offseason, blowing past the luxury tax threshold and fielding the most expensive team in the league. At times they looked unbeatable, taking season series against both the Yankees and the Dodgers, at one point their two biggest obstacles to a World Series title. They won over 100 games for only the second time in franchise history. 

And then their pitchers got hurt, their offense went cold, and the Padres beat them in the wild-card round. It’s a disappointing finish, for sure, as this was a team built to win the World Series losing to a team that barely hobbled into the playoffs. But despite what many baseball fans will have you believe, including 99% of Mets fans, the Mets didn’t collapse, choke, or blow a sure-fire championship season.

The Mets lost a playoff series to a good team. That’s it. It doesn’t have to be any more complicated than that.

The Mets shame is self-inflicted

There’s this pervading notion that the Mets are a losing franchise worthy of shame and ridicule, but this narrative is dumb. The Mets have produced above-average results throughout their history, a fact that few baseball fans would care to admit. 

By just about any statistical measure, the Mets are the most successful post-expansion team in MLB history, winning more pennants than any team established after the 1950s. The Mets even have the same number of World Series wins as Cleveland and Philadelphia, two franchises that have existed for twice as long as the Mets have. They’re also only two behind the Atlanta Braves, the oldest still-operating franchise in baseball history. If we’re measuring success by rings, then how exactly is this a losing franchise?

Perhaps we measure by expectations, and the Mets had high ones coming into the season. And then they met them, winning 101 games and only losing the division on a tiebreaker to the defending champions, which can hardly be called a failure of a season. They made the playoffs, giving them as much of a title chance as anyone else in the league, but in a gauntlet of the National League race that included three 100-win teams and two more highly-talented potential spoilers. 

And then the Mets lost because the Padres played better than them in a three-game series. That sucks! I’m sadder today than I was two days ago. But I don’t think my team blew it, I just think that baseball happened.

“My s— doesn’t work in the playoffs”

Anyone who claims to know the secret to playoff success is lying. Billy Beane, the architect of the most overachieving franchise run in baseball history, once said that his job was to get his team to the playoffs, and that whatever happens after is “f—ing luck.” A 2013 Harvard study confirms this, concluding that the MLB playoffs are mostly random and incredibly difficult to predict. The Mets fell victim to this randomness and are not the only ones. 

The 2019 and 2021 Dodgers both set franchise records winning 106 games in the regular season, and both teams lost in the playoffs, first to a 93-win Nationals team and then to an 88-win Braves team (who both coincidentally won the World Series those years). The 107-win Giants couldn’t even make it out of the division series last year. The 116-win Mariners, who set the all-time regular-season wins record in 2001, didn’t even make it to the World Series. This happens all the time.

And yes, if you want to quibble about bad bullpen management, or underwhelming trade deadline acquisitions, or injuries, or one of the many other faults of the Mets during the season, that’s fine. But these quibbles are standard of any team that didn’t quite make it, and they don’t make this Mets season exceptional. The way the Mets lost this season was, refreshingly, pretty ordinary. 

At times this season, the Yankees, Mets, Dodgers, Braves, and Astros all looked like the best team in baseball, and all of them are good enough to win the World Series. But here’s the kicker: At least four of those teams are not going to. It might even be all five! And when that happens, each fanbase has the right to feel sad or disappointed, but it would be ludicrous to think that all of them blew an opportunity when there is only one spot at the top of the table. None of them will have blown it, just like the Mets didn’t. All they did was lose, and for that their prize is to wait until next season. How typical.