It’s playoff time again. If you’re a Mets fan, you may not have noticed. Since 1962, this is the 46th postseason without the Mets in it, so you could be forgiven if it had slipped your mind. In case you have missed it, the combatants this year are putting on a fabulous show. The Los Angeles Dodgers and Milwaukee Brewers are matching each other pitch-for-pitch, in what looks like the ultimate battle between sabermetrics and eyeball tests, between Moneyball and moneyed ball. Right now, the dollar Dodgers are heading to Milwaukee up three games to two. Over in the AL, the Boston Red Sox won last night to take a commanding 3-1 lead over the defending champ Houston Astros in that Championship Series. The Red Sox won 108 games during the regular season. That’s .667 baseball – winning two out of every three games is certainly a tribute to consistency, if nothing else. A few legendary teams won that many. The Mets of 1986 are one of them. These Red Sox share a trait with those Mets: 108 wins makes them distinctly nervous.
Back in ’86, the Mets were the scourge of the NL – big, bad, swaggering, curtain-calling, and yes, arrogant. They had the division basically wrapped up right after the fourth of July. They were ready to take on anybody in the NLCS…except Mike Scott. That series against the NL iteration of the Houston Astros went six games and Scott won two of them, thoroughly befuddling a hitherto dominant Mets offense, such that game six – in which the Mets won the pennant – became an epic battle, a dramatization of War and Peace, simply in order to avoid him in a seventh game. When you’re on the brink of elimination in the postseason, 108 wins doesn’t mean a whole lot.
The Red Sox have had similar doubts cast on their success as well. In their Division Series against the Yankees, they looked shaky at times, they looked vulnerable, they looked human. Until they scored 16 runs in game three, that is. And after the Astros won game one of this ALCS, the doubters became full-throated. Only since the Boston bats came alive again have the naysayers been quieted. It all goes to show that 108 definitely increases the pressure on the team that achieves them, another one of those beautiful baseball paradoxes.
It’s funny when your own success becomes your worst enemy.
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