The Cubs start a huge series tonight in New York against the Mets. It has to be huge, right? It’s four games—which is bigger than normal—and it’s against the team that unceremoniously knocked the plucky Cubs out of the playoffs last year, and…you know what? This series won’t prove anything, and the regular season last year showed us it didn’t matter at all.
The Cubs won all seven games they played against the Mets last year. They won four at Wrigley against the Mets in May. Then, they swept three from them at Citi Field in a series that started almost exactly a year ago today, The Cubs came stumbling into New York on a five game losing streak. You remember that. Joe Maddon brought out the magician to break the tension before game one. Anthony Rizzo invented the magic slide that Javy Baez has now perfected.
And when they two teams met in the playoffs? The Mets won all four.
So the regular season proved nothing. A big part of it was that the Mets team the Cubs played in the playoffs was markedly different. Yoenis Cespedes wasn’t on the team for any of the seven regular season games. Daniel Murphy hadn’t made his deal with the Devil yet. Michael Conforto was still in the minor leagues. Kelly Johnson and Juan Uribe were still Barves. David Wright hadn’t returned from the DL.
To be fair, Kyle Schwarber didn’t play in any of the regular season games against the Mets. Starlin Castro was still the shortstop for all of them. Mike Baxter was still a Cub. Jason Motte got a save and a win during the series in New York.
So yeah, it’d be nice for the Cubs to kick the Mets while they’re down, if in fact, they’re any more down than the Cubs are right now. The Cubs recent nosedive was perfumed a little by a trip to the awful Reds, while the Mets took it in the shorts in Washington. Both teams are operating at something far less than peak efficiency. The Mets are without Wright (again), Conforto bombed and is in AAA, Steven Matz has a big bone spur on his left elbow and will try to pitch through it, but will likely have to have it shaved off soon, which will cost him the rest of the season. Noah Syndergaard also has a bone spur, but the Mets claim it’s too small to really bother him, though it’s not “really bothered him” enough to leave two games early and to get lit up in his last start. Matt Harvey spends more time in line at Steak Shack than most of his starts last.
The Cubs are still missing Dexter Fowler, and the bullpen is a mess, and maybe they’ll get Tommy LaStella back, but they won’t get Jorge Soler back in the near future. And Chris Coghlan will play in this series, and ugh.
So the marquee part of this matchup is lacking. A lot.
But it’s New York v. Chicago and it’s a “rematch” of the 2015 NLCS and a lot of very big conclusions will be drawn, and then they’ll all have been forgotten when the teams meet again in three weeks. And even that series will be held before the trade deadline and if these teams play again in the playoffs both teams will have new, significant pieces that weren’t even in their organizations when these games were played.
So yes, it’s important for the Cubs to keep winning games to continue to pull away from the Cardinals and Pirates, but nothing that happens specifically in these four games, or three at Wrigley that start on July 18 will really matter all that much.
Well, maybe Todd Ricketts will come to the games and get in a fight with Mets fans. A guy can dream, I guess.
It’s no safe bet that the Mets will even make the playoffs. They are shuffling along at 40-37, which is the same record they had at this time last season. But last season they were getting excellent starting pitching every night and their offense was terrible. This year, the offense is terrible again, but their pitching’s not as good.
Last year their late season run was fueled by the Cespedes trade, but it would be almost impossible to luck into another trade paying off that well this year. Hell, originally they traded for Carlos Gomez last year and if they hadn’t flunked his physical Yo would have been on some other playoff contender. And instead of just trying to fix their offense like they did last year they’re going to probably need to get some pitching, too. And their still Madoff-strapped finances 1 will surely tie Sandy Alderson’s hands.
They wouldn’t have even made the playoffs last year if not for a collapse by the Nationals, because their record would not have been good enough to quality for the Pissburgh Open, the annual Wild Card game that the Cubs ended up winning. This year, the Nats won’t collapse. Dusty’s not going to let that happen. This isn’t the 2004 Cubs that he’s managing. No sir, this is much more like the 2002 Giants, 2003 Cubs or 2012 Reds. Dusty’s saving the disaster for the playoffs.
But given the landscape in the NL this year, the Mets don’t have to be as good to make the playoffs. Incredibly, on June 30 the divisions look settled. The Cubs are running (at the moment they are basically walking or slow jogging, but they’ll pick it up again) away from the rest of the Central. The Giants only threat in the West is the Dodgers and Clayton Kershaw just went on the DL, and the Nats are crushing the Mets head-to-head repeatedly. Unless Pissburgh gets its head out its ass soon, the Wild Card is going to come down to two of the Cardinals, Mets, Marlins and Dodgers.
The Cubs found out first-hand that the Marlins are actually pretty good, and they just traded for old friend Fernando Rodney to help shore up their bullpen. 2
It would be nice for the Cardinals to just miss the playoffs completely this year, 3 But IF they make it and IF they win the Pissburgh Open and IF the Cubs end the season with a better record than the Giants, it’d be pretty nice to send them home again. They could barely deal with it happening once. When it becomes a trend, they’ll really lose their shit.
So anyway, enjoy the games in New York this weekend. But they don’t really matter all that much. Win all four and remember what that mattered last year for the Cubs. Lose all four and remember what that mattered for the Mets.
Here are those annoying footnotes.
- And at this point there is real dispute over whether those financial woes are still real or just conveniently imaged at this point.
- Fernando’s been really good this year (ONE earned run in 28 innings), but he’s 39 and took turns being good, disastrous then competent last year. So expecting him to do it all year seems folly.
- Because they are assholes and we hate them.