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The New York playoff baseball vibes are bad

Both the Yankees and the Mets will enter the playoffs with talented rosters and high hopes. But after fast starts, things aren't looking so good in the city

This was supposed to be the summer of New York baseball. The Yankees were a juggernaut, tearing through every AL opponent and looking like one of the greatest teams we had ever seen. The Mets were doing the same in the NL, keeping pace with the Dodgers and finally looking like they exorcised their demons from the recent past. It was going to be a Subway Series! Bronx Bombers! The 7 Line! We outside! Gabagool!

And all of that may still happen, but, uh…it’s not looking likely. Cool stuff is still happening at Yankee Stadium and Citi Field–Aaron Judge just set the AL home run record, while Jeff McNeil won the NL batting title race. And both of these teams are in the playoffs, with the Mets breaking 100 wins and the Yankees just missing the cut. By all measurements, New York City should be in ecstasy over the playoffs.

So why does everything feel bad right now?

The saddest 100-win team of all time

Let’s start with the Mets because the Yankees get enough attention. In the macro, it’s hard not to be impressed with a 100+ win season. New owner Steve Cohen swooped in and signed the best pitcher available and one of the best hitters available this past offseason, along with some excellent pitching and depth options. He cleared out much of the old regime, beefed up the analytics department, and invested enough to turn the Mets into a perennial contender.

The Mets rewarded his investment with a 101-win season, a 34-win improvement from 2021 and only the fourth 100+ win season in franchise history. The only problem? The division rival Braves also won 101 games, and hold the tiebreaker to win the division.

And sometimes that’s just how baseball works. The Dodgers tied a franchise record by winning 106 games last season (a record they shattered this season) and didn’t win their division, either. But the difference is that the Mets had an opportunity to win the division last weekend by just winning one out of three games against the Braves in Atlanta, and they couldn’t do it. In terms of choking, it doesn’t come close to the 2007 collapse or even the 2021 doom spiral. But a choke is a choke, and it doesn’t feel good.

The Mets will host the San Diego Padres for a three-game Wild Card series this weekend. The MLB playoffs often produce unexpected results, so it’ll be impossible to predict what will happen. But if they advance, they have the final-boss-looking Dodgers to play in the division series, and I’m not liking their odds.

But at least they have odds, because, hoo boy, the Yankees just may not.

The Bronx bombed

The Yankees finish the season with 99 wins, but have actually earned a better playoff seed than the Mets on account of their division win. And considering they were a combined 16-9 against the Tampa Bay Rays and the Cleveland Guardians, one of whom they will face in the division series, the likelihood of them advancing looks pretty good.

But there’s no such thing as a moral victory in The Bronx. A successful season ends with a ring ceremony, and that isn’t looking very likely. Even Gerrit Cole knows it.

The troubles actually started immediately after the All-Star break and worsened in August, where they went 3-14 in their first seventeen games. They picked it back up in September with Judge’s home run chase, but as it was then and as is now, the Houston Astros are a lot better than the Yankees. Any path to the World Series likely goes through Houston, and considering the Yankees went 2-5 against the top-seeded AL team this year, Yankees fans might as well make plans away from New York in late October.

New York still has hope

For only the fifth time in major league history, both the Mets and the Yankees have qualified for the playoffs. That means that a Subway Series is still on the table. It may be hanging on the edge of the table about to fall off at any moment, but it’s still there.

And if that gives you any hope, here’s a story that might kill that. When the Mets clinched a playoff spot against in Milwaukee in September, they opted not to hold a champagne celebration because they were put in a rare spot of qualifying for the postseason without knowing where they would finish in the division. And now that the Braves have wrapped up the division title, the Mets are two Wild Card losses away from not having one at all.

You know who had a champagne celebration this year? The 86-win Rays. The 90-win Mariners. The 87-win Phillies even had one and I’m not convinced that’s a good baseball team. In fact, every playoff team had one because clinching a playoff spot is something to be celebrated. Everyone, that is, except for the Mets.

If my team can’t celebrate a 100-win season and a playoff berth by pouring champagne over one another in a plastic-wrapped locker room, then I don’t know if I would consider this a successful season. The playoffs start Friday, and I’d say I’m excited, but I would be lying.