With Halloween directly in the rear view mirror, it is time to look at the real monsters out there; the ghouls/opposing players that haunted the Mets through the 2016 season. While there were many ups and downs this year, I believe we all can agree that we saw enough of these nightmarish beings:
Before I even get to the Wild Card Game we have to look at how Madison Bumgarner ended the season of Michael Conforto. Yes, this is an exaggeration, but it must be remembered that when the season started, Conforto was exactly the player we were hoping he’d be. He was batting third, primarily against right handed bats, and when April came to a close he was hitting .365 with 18 RBIs.
On May 1st, the Mets were facing the Giants and, of course, Bumgarner. The fans wanted it, Terry Collins wanted it, Conforto wanted it: A start against a top southpaw, giving Michael the chance to show he could produce no matter who was on the mound.
Keith Hernandez had stated countless times that there are some pitchers who could put a batter into a slump, and that certainly rang true that night. Michael’s 0-5 with three strike outs was the beginning of the end for his 2016 season. The rookie who hit 2 homers in a World Series game hit .169 for the month of May and .119 in June. Ouch.
And, great, now I’m having flashbacks to the Wild Card Game. The Mets went in with no plan to work counts or try to get Bumgarner out of the game, letting him throw 21 pitches total in the first three innings. He carried his success from those early innings into a complete game shut out, and the end of the Mets’ 2016 season. The highlight of the playoffs so far was when Bumgarner let up a three run homer to an opposing pitcher, and if we never see him pitch against us in the playoffs again, I won’t complain.
The Atlanta Braves
Back when the Braves had guys like Greg Maddux, John Smoltz, Tom Glavine, and Chipper Jones, it seemed as though they never lost to us in a big game. Now they’re all gone, three of them in the Hall of Fame, one of them on the way. This Braves team has few Hall of Famers, and they finished the year with a 68-93 record, dead last in the National League East and 26 games behind the first place Nationals.
The Mets played 19 games against them in 2016. To quote Keith again, “That’s time to make some hay.” Instead, the Mets went 9-10 against them, including 2-7 at Citi Field. It seemed like everyone had the Braves number in 2016 except the Mets. New York’s final standings, 8 games behind the Nationals, should have been a lot closer had the Mets been able to handle Atlanta like they should have. I don’t expect the same results next year, but it is certainly nice knowing we never have to go near Turner Field again.
Murph drove us crazy when he played here, but was even worse when he left.
On the Mets, he consistently hit .290 with a dozen or so homers and 40 doubles. However, his botched plays in the field frustrated us, and he baffled everyone on the base paths. “A net negative,” Gary Cohen called him, and despite his historic playoff run, he was shown the door without receiving any kind of long term offer.
And what happens next? Murphy is not just the MVP of the Nationals, he should be the MVP of the National League. A .347 avg, 25 homers, 104 RBIs, and 47 doubles carried the team when guys like Ryan Zimmerman and Bryce Harper slumped.
Oh, but this boogeyman saved his best abuse for us. Not only did he hit in all 18 games against the Mets, he hit .411 with 7 homers and 6 doubles. He drove in 21 runs and scored another 13. The joy he took in beating the Mets time and time again was evident on his face. He was so good that when Jerry Blevins struck him out in a big spot at the end of the season, Dusty Baker said, “They got Murph today. Murph’s gotten them many many many many many, many times.”
There they are, the borderline supernatural creatures that haunted the 2016 Mets. Who will it be in 2017? Christian Yelich? Freddie Freeman? The Nationals? With a healthy pitching staff, Cespedes back in left field and a bounce back year from Conforto, the Mets could be the nightmares for the rest of the National League in 2017.