Who are these Mets and what have you done with my team?
My friend Michael has a saying about the Mets each year: "Just get me to football season."
After eight long painful seasons, the New York Metropolitans not only got him (and I) to football season, but have now become the must see sport of October.
At the All-Star break, we were sure the 47-42 record was a fluke. The Washington Nationals were predestined to capture the National League East. We would try to just enjoy the moment. But we knew how this ended. We had seen the end of the 2006 season. And 2007. And 2008. And had never really gotten over it.
Then an amazin' thing occurred.
The owners woke up from a long winter's nap and made some much needed roster moves.
New players climbed aboard the 7 train during the season. Yoenis Cespedes, Michael Conforto, Michael Cuddyer, Juan Uribe, Kelly Johnson, Tyler Clippard, Eric O'Flaherty.
The veteran manager Terry Collins gave his team an ultimatum -- hit or sit.
The Crying Game, starring homegrown shortstop Wilmer Flores, tapped into a whole new level of team passion.
The attitude of "we're just as surprised as the fans we're winning" changed to "we're gonna win the National League East."
Along the way, the fans started believing again.
It worked. The Mets recorded 90 wins for the 11th season in team history and for the first time since they went 97-65 in 2006.
When the players take the field in the National League Division Series, they will vie for a chance to advance to the National League Championship series for the first time since 2000.
Here are five keys for the Mets in postseason:
1. Pitching Match-ups
Much has been made of LA's double trouble pitchers, Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke, starting Games 1 and 2, respectively. They had a combined 1.90 ERA during the regular season, the lowest by a set of teammates since 1968.
But the Mets have their own triple threat: Jacob DeGrom, Noah Syndergaard and Matt Harvey. Harvey's innings will be closely monitored by Terry Collins, the pitching staff and of course, his agent.
The real key is the bullpen and the seventh inning curse.
Planned backup closer Jeurys Familia has become the man after original closer Jenrry Mejia was suspended twice for positive PED tests. In fact, Familia tied the team's single save record at 43.
If the middle relief team of Clippard, Erik Goeddel, Hansel Robles, Addison Reed and starters turned bullpen men Jonathon Niese and the ageless Bartolo Colon can power through until the 9th innings, the Mets have a good chance of winning with Familia.
2. Platoons and New Starters
Terry Collins will likely look to maximize his run production and defense by employing a platoon approach.
Ruben Tejada will likely start at shortstop instead of Wilmer Flores, who has been battling strep throat. Outfielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis will start in place of injured Juan Uribe. Michael Cuddyer, one of the biggest reasons the Mets are playing in October, will see time in the outfield as well. His 22 games of experience in the postseason, combined with Curtis Granderson's playoff wisdom will serve as examples for the newbies.
3. The Return of the Captain
When the Mets clinched the title on Sept. 26th against the Cincinnati Reds, no one was more excited than team captain David Wright. He didn't play most of the season -- from April until August -- and many doubted he would come back at all, due to spinal stenosis. Wright grew emotional when interviewed in the ensuing locker room celebration at the Great American Ballpark. His reaction -- "I bleed orange and blue" -- showed his true devotion to a team he has spent his whole career playing for.
Now Mr. Wright has a chance to be Mr. October.
4. Chavez Revine vs. FKA Shea
The Dodgers have home-field advantage; they went 55-26 at home and 37-44 on the road this season. The Mets are 49-32 at home and 41-40 away. These may be meaningless stats after the series is over, but for now, many are predicting home field will be the key to the Dodgers winning.
The last time the Mets were in the post season they played at Shea Stadium. On Monday the 12th, a playoff game will be hosted at Citi Field for the first time ever. Fans want nothing more than to see the iconic red apple home run pop up multiple times for a 'W' in Queens.
Former Yankee great Don Mattingly has helmed the Dodgers since 2011, amassing 446 wins and 363 losses.
Terry Collins has also been the skipper of the Mets since 2001. His record is 394-414. Like Mattingly, Collins has had to manage injuries, young guns and financial issues of team owners.
In 1988, the Mets lost to the Dodgers in the NLCS. They won against them in 2006.
So what can fans expect for this match-up? Will hearts be broken or is it a year of destiny?
The calendar shows October. And for my Mets fanatic friend and myself, it's still baseball season.