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10 MLB Teams Who Need to Get Busy This Offseason

The New York Mets surprised fans by making a run to the World Series. That New York fan base now wants more than just a pennant. 

A professional sports competition such as Major League Baseball is a “what have you done for me lately” business. The Mets are about to learn that the hard way. Winning the National League Championship Series and playing in five World Series games was a pleasant surprise from a team that has been a disappointment for several years. 

Welcome to New York, where fans are only truly pleased when they are celebrating titles and attending parades. 

We have entered the “hot stove” portion of the MLB calendar. It is that magical time of the year when free-agent ace pitchers sign life-changing deals and when any available sluggers are swooped up by teams willing to overpay for power hitters. 

World Series winners are not bought via free agency as they were during the 1990s and parts of the 2000s. True contenders to the throne use this period to build on solid foundations that were previously created via drafts and prior signings.

Each of the 10 teams that are spotlighted in this piece could be in it to win it in October 2016. All of them would do well to get busy this offseason. Every day that passes could represent a lost opportunity for a club that is a few players away from being a World Series contender. 

Even the team that celebrated winning it all earlier this month needs to be back on the clock as Thanksgiving Day approaches. 

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Why Travis D’Arnaud Is Key to the Mets Hoisting the World Series Trophy

No New York Mets player will be more active during the 2015 World Series than Travis d’Arnaud

The catcher for the Mets has not yet missed a postseason game. D’Arnaud should, so long as he remains healthy, be behind the plate for every pitch made by the Mets against the Kansas City Royals. The task at hand will be that much more difficult for the Mets if d’Arnaud is not, for whatever reasons, at his best. 

His World Series got off to a rough start on Tuesday night. 

With d’Arnaud crouched behind the dish, Matt Harvey began the bottom of the first inning by tossing a fastball over the plate. Alcides Escobar, to the surprise of nobody who watched him in the American League Championship Series, came out swinging. Escobar smashed a ball deep into center field, and Michael Conforto and Yoenis Cespedes failed to properly communicate on who would play the ball. 

Cespedes followed that up with a pair of miscues that allowed Escobar to complete his journey around the bases for an inside-the-park home run. 

Harvey and d’Arnaud not only needed to be on the same page before Harvey took the hill; both should have realized that tempting Escobar so early in the game was unwise. This point was not lost on ESPN analyst Buster Olney, who immediately questioned the pitch after Escobar scored.

What is particularly upsetting about that early mistake for fans of the Mets is that d’Arnaud has been terrific behind the plate for much of the playoffs. D’Arnaud is currently, per ESPN Stats and Info, the best catcher in Major League Baseball as it pertains to getting strike calls for pitchers. His ability to “frame” pitches during the National League Championship Series earned d’Arnaud praise from analysts and fans.

As Jonah Kari of Grantland pointed out in September, d’Arnaud has not always been known for his defensive skills:

Improvement has come behind the plate, too. As a rookie last season, d’Arnaud led the National League with 12 passed balls (in 105 games behind the plate); this year he’s allowed just one (in 53 games as a catcher). Last year, opposing base-stealers ran wild on d’Arnaud, swiping 58 bags in 72 attempts — marking a lousy 19 percent caught stealing rate. This year, they’ve stolen 26 times in 38 tries, good for a much improved 32 percent caught stealing rate. Amid that improvement, d’Arnaud has remained one of the better pitch-framers in the game, ranking 13th this year (and 14th last year) in that category per

The Royals will continue to be aggressive at the plate and on the basepaths during the World Series. It is what has gotten the club to within three wins of a championship. This was not lost on Kevin Kernan of the New York Post as he was previewing the World Series: 

The Royals steal bases, go first to third and even first to home as (Lorenzo) Cain did to send the Blue Jays packing in the ALCS.

The pressure will be on catcher Travis d’Arnaud.

“We just have to execute,’’ he said. “We’re definitely ready for this challenge. We all believe in each other and that’s all we can really do. Get your work in and get your routines down and just go out there and play the game. It’s tough to know what is going to happen. All I can do is be best prepared for it as I can.’’

ESPN’s Olney spotted something concerning while watching d’Arnaud during a Mets’ workout session on Monday:

The Royals tested d’Arnaud and his comfort in the bottom of the sixth of Game 1.

With Kendrys Morales at the plate and the Mets leading 3-2, Cain took a short lead from first. Cain broke for second when it could have been argued that d’Arnaud should have called for a pitchout. The New York catcher came up firing, but the throw from d’Arnaud was late and well off the mark.

Cain scored the tying run later in the inning.

It would, of course, be only a plus for the Mets is d’Arnaud were to catch fire as a hitter during the World Series. The same can be said about anybody in the New York lineup. D’Arnaud is currently batting just .200 in the playoffs, 68 points under what he averaged in the regular season (h/t ESPN). The Mets need better from his spot in the order.

What d’Arnaud will provide the Mets as a catcher, though, could make or break the team during the World Series. 

Calling smart games. Keeping pitchers from being overwhelmed by the moment. Earning strikes for starters and relievers. Preventing the Royals from taking extra bases. D’Arnaud must be spot-on in these aspects. He wasn’t in Game 1, and the Mets lost. 

He will hope to have at least four more nights to redeem himself. 

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NLCS Game 4: How Twitter Reacted to Chicago Cubs’ Loss to Mets

Wrigley Field was a haunted house for the Chicago Cubs in Game 3 of the National League Championship Series. Daniel Murphy of the New York Mets again played the ghoul. 

Murphy hit a home run for the fifth straight postseason game, and he scored another run as the Mets jumped out to a 3-0 NLCS lead over the Cubs on Tuesday night. A man who would not have been recognized by some casual baseball fans a couple of weeks ago is now generating headlines literally every time that he takes the field. The Los Angeles Dodgers couldn’t cool Murphy down. Now it’s the Cubs being terrorized by the new Mr. October of New York.

You may have heard about the “curse” that supposedly hovers over the Cubs. Mike Vaccaro of the New York Post wrote about it on October 19: 

And by now, you almost certainly know that on Oct. 6, 1945, with the Cubs leading the Tigers 2-1 after three games of the World Series, Bill Sianis bought two tickets for Game 4. The War was over, but travel restrictions were still in effect so after three games in Detroit the Series shifted to Chicago; the Cubs needed to only split those games to win their first championship since 1908.

There are various versions of what happened when Sianis showed up at Wrigley that day with his “guest” — Murphy the goat. The most popular one goes something like this: The ushers stopped Sianis, told him no animals were allowed in the park. Sianis appealed to P. K. Wrigley himself, who confirmed the decision: “Let Billy in,” the Cubs owner said. “But not the goat.”

Sianis, incensed, demanded an explanation. And Wrigley gave him one.

“Because the goat stinks,” he said.

No matter the version of the story, this part is not in dispute: Sianis told Wrigley, “The Cubs ain’t gonna win no more. The Cubs will never win a World Series so long as the goat is not allowed in Wrigley Field.”

When the Tigers took three out of four to win the ’45 Series, a telegram arrived in the offices of P. K. Wrigley: “WHO STINKS NOW?”

That it is a man named Murphy who could have a role in the Cubs being swept right out of the NLCS has not been lost on social media. 


It is understandable that some fans of the Cubs and even members of the club are shocked following Game 3. This wasn’t supposed to happen. Murphy, who had all of 14 home runs during the regular season (h/t ESPN), was not supposed to become the most feared hitter in baseball. The renewal of the Cubs-Mets rivalry from decades ago presented, on paper, an ideal opportunity for the Cubs to end this “jinx” that has plagued Chicago since 1908.

What could have been a fairy-tale ending for long-suffering fans of the Cubs is quickly becoming a nightmare. The Cubs are not just on the brink of elimination via a sweep. To make what would now be an historic run to the World Series, the Cubs will have to defeat the following starting pitchers: Steven Matz, Matt Harvey, Noah Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom


Somewhat ironic in all of this is that the fanbase of the Mets is about as emotionally broken as are supporters of the Cubs. New York sports talk radio host Joe Benigno is but one tortured Mets fan. He theorized, during a segment that aired on WFAN on Tuesday afternoon, that it would be fitting for the Cubs to put an end to their World Series drought by coming back from being down 0-3 in the NLCS. That discussion sparked talk of when the Boston Red Sox completed their comeback against the New York Yankees during the 2004 ALCS. 

Cubs manager Joe Maddon knows his history. So does Chicago first baseman Anthony Rizzo. 

Members of the Cubs have to remain positive. The team’s season is, after all, not over. “One game at a time” may be a sports cliche, but it is one that is true for any series. The pressure is now on the Mets to close the Cubs out before things get interesting.

Chicago fans may not share that optimism. Could anybody blame them? “Unfortunately, their history is losing” is a line used to describe the relationship fans have with the Cubs in a wrap-up video for Game 3 of the NLCS. That says a lot, and it is a gut-punch to those fans.

His past play suggests that Murphy will soon return to form. That he hasn’t already is astonishing. Once that happens, it should theoretically have negative impacts on others in the lineup of the Mets. That domino effect could be just what the Cubs need to turn the NLCS around. 

Then again, one would think that a franchise could fall into a World Series championship at some point between 1908-2015. 

The Mets have looked like a runaway train in the NLCS. Harvey being nailed by a rocket-shot line drive early in the series didn’t slow the Mets. Neither did a lost ball in the ivy that cost the Mets at least an additional run in Game 3. Outside of having blind hope, Chicago fans have little reason to believe that the Mets will completely fall apart between now and Game 7. 

Perhaps it’s time to rename it the “Murphy Curse.” 

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Mets at Dodgers Game 1 Preview: Can New York Figure out Clayton Kershaw?

One man. One pitch. That is what stands in the way of the New York Mets potentially taking a 1-0 National League Division Series lead over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Friday night.

The man is Los Angeles ace Clayton Kershaw. Kershaw, maybe the best pitcher in Major League Baseball when he is on, will take his 16-7 regular-season record to the hill versus the Mets. The 27-year-old struck out 301 batters in 2015, and he has a 0.88 WHIP (h/t ESPN). Kershaw‘s impressive resume speaks for itself.

The southpaw’s incredible curveball is the pitch. It is a pitch that has baffled opposing batters for years, and it is one that could haunt the Mets all night long on Friday.

The Mets being subpar versus a particular pitch is, on its own, not a massive concern. Kershaw is many things as a pitcher. Average or ordinary doesn’t make the list. Along with bringing his dynamic arm to the mound for Game 1, Kershaw will also be looking to shake off his postseason demons as he attempts to guide the Dodgers to a series lead.

Anybody who has followed the Dodgers and/or Kershaw over the years is probably familiar with his playoff stats. Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register presented those numbers on October 8:

Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw has a 1-5 record and 5.12 ERA in 11 career playoff appearances (including three relief appearances in 2008 and 2009). His past four postseason starts have ended in ugly defeats – two in elimination games for the Dodgers. Kershaw has a 7.15 ERA in those games.

Kershaw, per Plunkett, is aware of his past. It will be on his mind when he faces the Mets:

“I don’t need to be fueled by too much,” Kershaw said when asked the inevitable questions about past failures providing greater motivation to succeed this postseason. “I definitely remember. But it’s a new team, new season and hopefully for me a new outcome.”

One way a lineup can combat a pitcher who has a devastating curveball is to hope for first-pitch fastballs, and then come out swinging early and often. Kershaw is not a conventional pitcher, and he may not, as explained by Joel Sherman of the New York Post, give the Mets any openings early in at-bats:

Two keys: Can you lay off his back-foot slider and is he landing his 12-to-6 curve? If he has that curve working, Kershaw will get ahead with it and can finish off a hitter going backdoor. If not, then that is a pitch you can eliminate as a hitter, especially the one that starts low and ends in the dirt.

Mets manager Terry Collins could go with up to four left-handed hitters against Kershaw on Friday. Both Curtis Granderson and Lucas Duda are, according to Jonah Keri of Grantland, expected to be in the lineup for the Mets versus Kershaw. Those two have, per Sherman, gone a combined 2-for-20 when facing the ace. Granderson went .183 against southpaws this season, per Keri.

The sad stats, as explained by Keri, continue. Daniel Murphy hit .254 against lefties. Left-handers held Michael Conforto to a .214 average. Kershaw could realistically eliminate half of the New York lineup without allowing those men on base once on Friday. 

Looking for any hope for the Mets? Look toward the New York captain. Ignore any stats and numbers when considering how well or how poorly David Wright will play against the Dodgers. Instead, think back to the emotional boost that he provided the New York clubhouse upon his return in August.

This is the same Wright who bleeds orange and blue. The same Wright who was with the Mets during the heartbreaks of 2006 and 2007. The same Wright who hung around when the Mets were the forgotten baseball team of New York for several seasons.

Wright could set the tone for Game 1 and for the series against the Dodgers when he strolls to the plate in the first inning. Imagine, just imagine, what could unfold if a patient Wright gets his pitch and crushes it for a home run. How much energy would that give to the Mets? How would Kershaw react to history possibly repeating itself? 

Other than Wright, the task of taking Kershaw down will fall upon Yoenis Cespedes. Cespedes, a true NL Most Valuable Player candidate after joining the Mets before the trade deadline, is more than just a solid bat. He is a man who can clear the bases with one swing of his bat, and he has proved in the past that he thrives in the postseason.

Cespedes, per Jorge L. Ortiz of USA Today, batted .350 in 10 playoff appearances for the Oakland Athletics in 2012 and 2013. It is also worth noting that Cespedes is chasing a big payday that will come this offseason. Every good playoff series Cespedes has only increases the worth of his future contract.

Whether or not the Mets are able to get to Kershaw could, in the end, fall on Kershaw. SweetSpot blogger/ESPN writer David Schoenfield:

As Molly Knight wrote at Sports on Earth in her look back at Kershaw‘s postseason history, “Pitcher wins and losses don’t mean much, except when you’re the best pitcher of your generation and you lose elimination games, two years in a row, to the same godforsaken team in excruciating fashion, and have to spend 12 months dealing with hecklers and keyboard warriors calling you a choker when you are perhaps one of the most mentally tough athletes on the planet …”

So, yes, Kershaw is the best pitcher on the planet. Now he has to prove he’s the best postseason pitcher on the planet. Fair or not, that’s his legacy heading into these playoffs. Molly believes Kershaw is ready. I think he’s going to have that signature game … or three.

Kershaw will eventually have a dominant postseason outing for the ages. He is too good to not give at least one to the Dodgers. This Mets lineup is made to be blown away by Kershaw. Kershaw will be facing a New York team in prime time and in front of a national television audience. Bet against him at your own risk. 

Fans of the Mets should not enter a panic room if Kershaw is untouchable on Friday. A series is a marathon, not a sprint. Leaving Los Angeles with a split will still be possible if Kershaw throws nine innings of shutout baseball. Yes, the Mets have to face Cy Young Award candidate Zack Greinke in Game 2.

New York will have to worry about that on Saturday.

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Cubs vs. Pirates: Last-Minute News and Predictions for NL Wild Card Game

The Pittsburgh Pirates will host the Chicago Cubs in the one-and-done NL Wild Card Game on Wednesday night. Pittsburgh is the underdog in the eyes of a plethora of observers, many of whom are expecting to see a low-scoring affair at PNC Park.

No team in baseball, either in the National League or American League, was hotter at the end of the season than the Cubs. The club from the North Side closed the campaign out with eight consecutive victories.

According to the New York Times, Chicago manager Joe Maddon will be sending maybe the best starting pitcher in the game today to the hill for his team’s first playoff appearance in seven seasons.

Cy Young candidate Jake Arrieta has proven himself to be downright untouchable when at his best. He went 22-6 over 33 regular-season starts. The Cubs’ ace has a 1.77 ERA and a WHIP of 0.86. Arrieta‘s 0.75 ERA after the All-Star break reads like a stat from a video game that is played on “easy” mode.

The Pirates were reminded of Arrieta‘s greatness when the Cubs hosted Pittsburgh back on September 27. Arrieta retired 18 straight Pittsburgh batters, and he surrendered a single hit in seven innings of work.

If that wasn’t enough, Arrieta also hit a solo home run in the 4-0 win over the Pirates.

Pittsburgh will be up against it at home. No question about it. Do not, however, count the Pirates out before the first pitch is thrown on Wednesday.

Having their playoff lives extended or extinguished on a single night is nothing new for the Pirates. This is the third year in a row that Pittsburgh will be the home of the NL Wild Card Game. The great sports city partied after a win in 2013, but Pirates fans had their hearts broken by the San Francisco Giants in 2014.

Pittsburgh starting pitcher Gerrit Cole will not be intimidated when he faces the Cubs. Cole finished the season at 19-8 and with an ERA of 2.60. His 1.09 WHIP and 202 strikeouts are both impressive, even if they don’t match the marks set by Arrieta.

Jacob Nitzberg of ESPN Stats & Information wrote about why Cole could pitch the Pirates past the Cubs:

In nine career starts against the Cubs, Cole is 7-1 with a 2.88 ERA. He is undefeated in three starts against them at PNC Park.

In 2015, Cole was 2-1 with a 2.13 ERA in four starts against the Cubs, striking out 32 and walking four. He allowed 20 hits in 25 1/3 innings, with a Tommy La Stella double as the only extra-base hit he allowed.

Jonah Keri of Grantland provided another reason you may want to pick the Pirates over the Cubs. Pittsburgh’s bullpen is one of the best in the National League. Closer Mark Melancon recorded 51 saves. Southpaw reliever Tony Watson gave up 17 runs, 16 earned, in 75.1 innings of work.

Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune agrees that the Pirates have the advantage over the Cubs in this aspect:

Mark Melancon earned five of his 51 saves against the Cubs, but he allowed five runs on 12 hits in 10 innings against them. Nevertheless, the Pirates’ bullpen finished with an NL-low 2.57 ERA. Left-handed batters hit .163 against left-handers Antonio Bastardo and Tony Watson. Arquimedes Caminero has been effective against left-handers as well as right-handers. Joakim Soria is a fallback to Melancon.

In the end, the Cubs are the hot pick heading into the evening hours of October 7. Keri touched on that as well:

Arrieta has not only dominated these past few months like few pitchers ever have, he’s also gone deep into games and run up big pitch counts when needed — all without ever showing a hint of slowing down. Backed by the Cubs’ boom-or-bust offense, which figures to catch at least one boom, another dominant Arrieta performance would set up a tantalizing, never-before-seen playoff match-up in the next round: Cubs vs. Cardinals.

Keri is not alone among NL Wild Card predictions. Four of the five experts asked picked the Cubs to beat the Pirates. Each of them, for what it’s worth, accurately predicted that the Houston Astros would down the New York Yankees in the AL Wild Card Game.

Tim Brown, Chris Cwik, Jeff Passan and Mark Townsend of Yahoo Sports all picked the Cubs to emerge victorious. Israel Fehr and Mike Oz went with the Pirates. 

Aaron Goldstein of the American Spectator believes the Cubs will make a run to the World Series.

Those of you who like big bats and lots of scoring may be reaching for your remote by the fourth inning. Baseball diehards who enjoy watching two aces go pitch for pitch could see an NL Wild Card Game to remember.

Viewers on the East Coast may be able to call it a night before the local news begins if both Arrieta and Cole are on.

Baseball history suggests that the Cubs make for a better NLDS opponent for the division rival St. Louis Cardinals. Do not necessarily buy into that. The Pirates and Cardinals have built a nice rivalry of their own during Pittsburgh’s climb to relevancy.

It should also be noted that any playoff game that occurs in Pittsburgh, regardless of the sport, has a special atmosphere that even viewers at home feel.

Whatever happens when the Cubs and Pirates meet, casual baseball fans should feel like the big winners. As for a final prediction, it is difficult to believe that Arrieta will slow down anytime soon. He could carry the Cubs on a historic run this October.

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Biggest Takeaways from Yankees’ Loss to Astros in the AL Wild Card

The New York Yankees losing a one-and-done Wild Card Game at home to the Houston Astros on Tuesday night provided another harsh reminder to fans of the famous franchise: These are not your Yankees of old.

Derek Jeter was not coming to save the Yankees this time around. Johnny Damon wasn’t picking up a clutch base hit. Nick Swisher could not provide an emotional boost with his energetic attitude. Jorge Posada was but a spectator.

The Yankees instead had Carlos Beltran coming up empty in three of four at-bats. Catcher Brian McCann went hitless in four plate appearances. In total, three members of the Yankees reached base via hits. That, unfortunately for the Yankees, matched the amount of runs the Astros scored en route to notching the 3-0 victory.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi, per ESPN, spoke about the state of his roster following the loss to the Astros:

“Physically it’s not a very healthy group in there right now at the end of the season. Guys are beat up,” Girardi said. “But they never stopped playing. They never stopped playing hard.”

Girardi wasn’t wrong in pointing out that he did not have the lineup of his choice when the Yankees hosted the Astros. Among the Yankees players who were sidelined on Tuesday was first baseman and slugger Mark Teixeira. Teixeira has been inactive since fouling a ball off of his shin in the middle of August.

Also missing was designated hitter Alex Rodriguez, even though Rodriguez was in the lineup. A-Rod went hitless in four at-bats. He was twice downed on strikes. In all, Rodriguez saw a total of 10 pitches.

Maybe the biggest takeaway from the Yankees’ loss to the Astros is that the result erased a spectacular season had by Rodriguez. Little had been expected of A-Rod among fans of the Yankees back in the spring. The often-criticized A-Rod was a revelation in his return to the Yankees, launching 33 home runs and accumulating 86 RBI throughout the 2015 regular season.

ESPN Staff Writer Wallace Matthews wrote about how Rodriguez could have been a hero for the Yankees against the Astros. Rodriguez stepped up to the plate in the sixth inning. Two runners were on, and the Yankees were trailing by a pair of runs. Astros ace Dallas Keuchel, pitching on three days’ rest, was on the hill. The stage was set for A-Rod:

Only this was not the Rodriguez of 2007, or even the Rodriguez of, say, Aug. 1, 2015. This was a 40-year-old player coming off 19 months of idleness, who had played 151 regular-season games, more than he had since 2007, and his moment in the spotlight lasted all of one pitch. Even though it was the pitch he thought he wanted, a waist-high cutter, Rodriguez could do nothing more than loop it harmlessly to centerfield, where Carlos Gomez was waiting to tuck it — and the Yankees’ hope of pushing their season further into October — into his glove for the final out.

Keuchel, not Rodriguez and not anybody else wearing Yankees pinstripes, was dominant on Tuesday. While Masahiro Tanaka gave up two earned runs off of two solo round-trippers, Keuchel struck out seven batters in six full innings of work. The Yankees then failed to register a single hit off of three Houston relievers, a final whimper from the New York lineup that had run out of steam.

Rodriguez spoke to reporters, Matthews included, about the 2015 campaign following the loss to the Astros:

I mean, it’s hard to kind of reflect on the year right now, but it’s been an incredibly fun year overall. I played a lot of games and that’s probably the biggest surprise of the whole year. Just had a lot of fun playing with the guys and just feel grateful for the opportunity to come back and re-establish myself as a major league baseball player.

How much fun Rodriguez has left in the tank is a great unknown heading into the offseason. Rodriguez turned 40 years old this past July. He is, per Major League Baseball rules, clean as far as the public knows. The body of every great athlete, even that belonging to A-Rod, eventually breaks down.

It is possible that Rodriguez has made his last great contributions to the Yankees as a player. He may not be alone on that list.

The previously mentioned Teixeira could be on his way out of New York before next spring. Greg Bird is ready to take his rightful spot in the Yankees lineup at first base. A team looking for a veteran right-handed bat could make the Yankees an offer, one that would likely include the Yankees eating some of Teixeira’s pricey contract. Teixeira is, according to Spotrac, owed over $46.2 million between now and the end of the 2016 season.

The perception is that the Yankees will swiftly and easily rebuild the roster via free agency. That’s what the Yankees do, after all. These Yankees are not the Yankees from a decade ago or even from 2009. These Yankees may not be willing to hand left-handed ace David Price a blank check. Zack Greinke will be looking to lock down the final massive contract of his playing career. Bryce Harper isn’t joining the Yankees in 2016. Neither is Mike Trout.

It should not be ignored that the Yankees have young talent. Didi Gregorius, as explained by Roger Rubin of Newsday, has thus far been a solid replacement for the retired Jeter. Bird seems ready for the big show years ahead of schedule. Twenty-one-year old starter Luis Severino went 5-3 in 11 starts.

Fans of the Yankees are going to be asked to embrace patience. The Yankees of old got old. “Buying” a World Series is not an option this time around. The foundation of a championship team exists in the Bronx. A new era for the Yankees will soon arrive.

What’s painful for fans of the Yankees is that the old era must first die before the new era begins.

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Why the New York Mets Will Be Unstoppable in the Postseason

Buckle up, fans of the New York Mets. Your team is about to take you on a World Series ride.

This wasn’t supposed to happen. Not this year. Not this group. Not this manager. Anybody who tells you that he predicted back in March that the 2015 Mets would win the National League East is probably lying to your face. Even supposed Mets “homers” weren’t allowing themselves to get caught up in any hype at the end of last winter.

These are not the ’06 Mets. That team was undeniably the best in the division. Those Mets should have won Game 7 of the NL Championship Series. Those Mets would have won the World Series against any American League opponent from that year. Those Mets should have been the start of a dynasty.

The Mets from this past spring were never supposed to catch up with the Washington Nationals before the fall months. While the Nationals were the uncrowned division champions at the start of the Major League Baseball season, the Mets were about to go through a campaign that would largely be about the team making a decision on the fate of manager Terry Collins. Heck, even general manager Sandy Alderson was, in the eyes of some fans, on the hot seat six months ago.

That seems like a different lifetime ago.

Fate has smiled upon the Mets over the past two months in a way that has, in the past, been experienced by the other New York baseball team. In some alternate universe, the trade of Wilmer Flores for Carlos Gomez goes through on the night of July 29. Gomez is damaged goods when he arrives to the Mets, the clubhouse is deflated by the trade of Flores and the Mets crumble apart as the Nationals ascend to the top of the division standings.

That didn’t happen. Disaster did not strike the Mets this time around. The death of the Gomez deal opened up the possibility of the Mets acquiring outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, and the team pulled the trigger on that trade before the July deadline. Cespedes has been a revelation of a rental player, helping convert the Mets from a postseason contender to a team that could legitimately win a World Series.

How great has Cespedes been in orange and blue? He would, in a fair world, be a Most Valuable Player candidate even though he has only been with the Mets for a third of the season. Mike Vaccaro of the New York Post mentioned this very fact in a piece that was published on September 10:

Of course, in the 36 games since joining the Mets, he has an absurd .675 slugging percentage and an OPS of 1.032 with 14 homers and 36 RBIs. He is not a perfect player by any stretch, swinging at too many fastballs in his eyes, overrunning that ball in the outfield the other night. But the Mets have won 25 of those games. They have gone from down two to up seven on the Nationals after Wednesday night’s sweep-finishing victory at Nationals Park.

His value is inarguable.

Cespedes has, in 53 appearances for the Mets (h/t ESPN), hit 17 home runs. He has driven in 44 RBI. No player in the NL has represented an injection of life into a club as has Cespedes since early August. Bryce Harper will probably win MVP, if only because he was with the Nationals on Opening Day. That’s fine.

Harper can accept the award from his couch while he is watching the Mets play October baseball.

As Amazin‘ (pun intended) as Cespedes has been, the story of David Wright has been even more incredible. Concerns about Wright potentially being permanently sidelined by spinal stenosis have been replaced with highlights featuring the living Mr. Met crushing five home runs and delivering 17 RBI in 34 games played (h/t ESPN). Those numbers are nice, but anybody who has followed the Mets since 2004 knows that Wright means far more to the club than what he contributes to the lineup and in the field.

Watch videos of the Mets celebrating after defeating the Cincinnati Reds to clinch the division title last Saturday. Teammates, one by one, approached and embraced Wright. The poor guy couldn’t even get through a single postgame interview with SNY without having champagne dumped on his head multiple times. No other NL team has that kind of emotional presence inside of the clubhouse.

Those looking to crush the dreams of Mets fans may point out that New York could have to face Cy Young candidates Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke of the Los Angeles Dodgers in the opening stages of the postseason. That would be a difficult road to travel for any opponent. The Mets won’t be entering that shootout with rubber bullets. Noah Syndergaard can be dominant so long as he avoids giving up home runs. Jacob deGrom, the reigning NL Rookie of the Year, has ice in his veins. Matt Harvey has embraced his role as “The Dark Knight” by silencing talk about his workload being limited for the time being.

The bullpen of the Mets is about to get stronger. Jonathon Niese, who should get some relief work during the final week of the season so long as the weather cooperates, will give the New York ‘pen the left arm it has been missing. Bartolo Colon, at 42 years old and with 14 wins this year (h/t ESPN), could provide backup if needed. Jeurys Familia may make fans chew on their fingernails from time to time, but the closer of the Mets is third in the NL in saves this season (h/t ESPN).

It would be inaccurate to say that there are not several reasons to doubt the Mets in October. Both Kershaw and Greinke have notched wins over the Mets this season (h/t As Robert Pace of FOX Sports explained, NL Central foes the Pittsburgh Pirates, St. Louis Cardinals and Chicago Cubs defeated the Mets 17 out of 20 times in 2015.

The Mets, as Pace also wrote, have been a different team since acquiring Cespedes:

It’s not just Cespedes that makes the Mets’ lineup dangerous. Daniel Murphy, Curtis Granderson, Lucas Duda and captain David Wright have come up big in spurts this season, and they lead a Mets offense that also has the highest OPS in the NL in the second half of the season.

Pace added:

Wright has struggled through enough losing seasons in New York, and will do everything in his power to ensure he and his teammates make the most of their postseason run.

Think back to the 2009 postseason. It was then when Alex Rodriguez shook his postseason demons and became the best hitter of the postseason. No version of A-Rod ever had the emotional attachment to the New York Yankees that Wright has to the Mets. Wright knows this may be his last chance at winning a World Series before his body betrays him one final time. The veteran leadership and will to win that Wright will bring to the Mets are intangibles that cannot be measured in any statistic.

All that has occurred within the organization since 2006 has been leading up to the Mets once again playing meaningful October baseball. Carlos Beltran striking out in Game 7. The collapse of 2007. The Yankees winning a World Series when the Mets were an afterthought in their own city. Flores crying in the infield. Trading for Cespedes. The story can fittingly only have one ending.

Why will the Mets be unstoppable in the postseason? Because no other NL team is an unbeatable force. Because the Mets can go blow for blow with any opponent that it will face leading up to a World Series. Because these players have rallied around their manager and around Captain Wright. Because Citi Field will be rocking like never before the first time it hosts a playoff game.

Most of all, the Mets will be unstoppable because they still don’t know that they were never supposed to be in the first place.

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