Mike Silva of NYBaseballDigest.com brought up a great point in his post yesterday seeing where the Mets would fit in a playoff race under a potential expanded format. Prior to yesterday’s game they stood 1.5GB of the final wild card spot.
For those unaware there are reports that MLB is considering expanding the playoffs potentially as early as next year. There are two primary systems that I’ve heard of. One is expanding to six teams with the 2 top division winners getting a bye, and the latter 4 playing a 1-3 game series. The other, and probably more likely scenario, is the addition of a second wild card and the two wild card winners face off in a play-in game. As many can recall from Al Leiter’s masterpiece in 1999, a one game playoff can be very exciting.
Personally, I’d prefer the first scenario. This would encourage teams running away with the division not to coast to the finish, and a one game playoff while fun, is very flukey. Imagine Mets and Braves winning 95 games, going to a one game playoff, and Johan Santana injures himself on a comeback to the first batter. Or an umpire blowing a call as blatant as Gibson’s “safe” at home yesterday? I’d prefer reducing the season to a 152 game schedule and expanded playoffs.
Regardless of which scenario, or another, comes out an expanded playoff in the near future looks to be a near certainty. It will generate more revenue for MLB, will curtail the constant “selling off” of pieces at the trade deadline to a minimum, and will create more parity on a yearly basis.
Which brings us back to the present. The Mets have been a pleasant surprise this year, especially playing through the adversity of not having an ace, losing Chris Young for the season, potentially Ike Davis for the season, a month without Bay, and Wright for who knows what length of time, among others.They’ve played well despite two teams among the best in baseball in the division. What my heart wants to see if how they do when Reyes, Wright and possibly Santana come back. I want to see them surprise and make a run.
Then i think of 2004. When the Mets also were on a run and playing over their heads. The rest doesn’t need to be rehashed except for a gratuitous Anna Benson photo.
The fact that playoffs are likely to expand means the Mets will have a far better shot of reaching the playoffs the next two years even if they don’t go back to their $140M payroll level. One WC slots increase their chances greatly, and once you’re in, as the Giants prove, anything can happen. It also means that it is less likely they’ll be able to trade for any pieces mid year next year as OTHER teams are going to be in the race as well.
As much as I want to see otherwise, Sandy has to look at the big picture and play the percentages. Can the Mets recover 6 games and catch the Braves for the Wild Card? Sure they can. It doesn’t make it a safe bet. However, if you deal Krod, Byrdak, Izzy and even Beltran for significant minor leagues pieces, it does make it more likely to contend in the future, and it gives Sandy more room to work with. We’ve seen that he can find some good pieces even without monetary resources (Izzy, Paulino, Capuano, Bucholz, even Hairston & Harris have contributed after a poor start) and I’d like to see him have the opportunity to build the team with as much money and prospects as possible.
The idea of a boring second half out of the race does not thrill me, but the idea of a lost opportunity worries me more. Sandy Alderson has to give Mets fan the needle, deliver the medicine, so we can feel better later. With Bud Selig apparently ready for a change, the Mets will need to change as well.
Even if it hurts.