2020 is definitely a weird neighborhood to find yourself in. When you’re talking about this year, everything is in question and anything you thought you’d believed in is up for grabs, be it politics, health, societal norms and yes, even sports. To wit: we are in the home stretch of the 2020 baseball season, but only 45 games into it – 15 games left, rather than 117. It makes one wonder if it counts, or if it even should. And because of the brevity of the schedule, the season long shakeout of playoff contenders is obviously curtailed. To combat this, the deep thinkers at the MLB office decided to turn the MLB playoffs into hockey: 16 teams will make the post season, twice the norm and more than half of the League’s population. So right now, three quarters of the way to the end, the math is pretty simple. .500 is the demarcation line for contenders. There are eight teams in each League with at least as many wins as losses. Right now, it looks like if you play break-even ball or better, you’re going to the dance.
As this is written, the Mets are on the other side of that line. At 21-24, they find themselves two games out of a playoff spot. They are in a mishmash in the middle of the pack of have-nots, scrumming with Milwaukee, Colorado and Cincinnati to try and unseat surprising San Francisco from the number eight seed. This team has played schizophrenically all year, sweeping the Yankees in a doubleheader, getting swept by the Marlins in a similar set, Toronto — the hottest team in the AL – hosted the Mets last night and were dismantled to the tune of 18-1. Jacob deGrom was the stingy starter and Michael Conforto contributed one of the two homers by the New Yorkers. In his six innings, deGrom walked two, struck out nine. In his five plate appearances, Conforto had two hits, walked once and drove in four runs. I serve up these details from last night’s game as a typical example of the season each is having. They are both drawing strong consideration for some postseason hardware, as unprecedented at this whack-o season itself. There is some more than serious talk about deGrom walking away with his third consecutive Cy Young Award, something no Met has ever done – not even the late, great Tom Seaver – and only two other souls have achieved: Greg Maddux and Randy Johnson, two other Hall-of-Famers who took home four trophies apiece. Conforto has grown into the slugger a lot of us knew he could be, and it looks like his defense has caught up with his bat. He is garnering some strong notice for his play, perhaps with an outside shot at becoming the first ever Mets MVP – only 59 seasons into the team’s existence.
They’ll get help from the likes of Dom Smith, Pete Alonso, Jeff McNeil and J.D. Davis, for sure, and hopefully more consistent performances from the rest of the pitching staff, but if the Mets are to make some noise in October, it will be on the backs of deGrom and Conforto. If the two of them can continue their spectacular work over the next two weeks, the Mets can find themselves right in the middle of the messy round-robin the playoffs are likely to be. And who knows? Anything can happen at that point.
Flags do fly forever, even if the season carries an asterisk.