Chicago Cubs fans should empathize with New York Mets supporters
By Jake Misener
In 2015, it appeared as if the arms of the New York Mets and bats of the Chicago Cubs were destined to battle for NL supremacy. Oh, how things change.
After a crushing four-game sweep in the 2015 National League Championship series, as Chicago Cubs fans, we all felt pretty good. Well, maybe not right after the series. I’ll admit, it was a pretty disheartening end to the campaign. But we were competing a year earlier than expected and put together one of the best seasons in years.
New York went on to advance to the World Series before falling to the Kansas City Royals. That marked the Mets’ first pennant since 2000 – and just their second since 1986. And with a young rotation boasting the likes of Matt Harvey, Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom – with more talent in the minors, the future was brighter than it had been in years.
But since that World Series appearance, things have gone all wrong for New York.
A tale of two cities
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Over the last two seasons, the Mets compiled a 157-167 record. They made it to the National League wild card game in 2016, but fell to Madison Bumgarner and the San Francisco Giants. After that series, San Francisco squared off with Chicago, who took down the Giants before en route to a World Series title.
Since that ’15 LCS meeting, Chicago, meanwhile, has put together one of the best stretches in franchise history. In 2015, 2016 and 2017, the Cubs won at least 92 games. During the same two-year stretch in which New York sat 10 games under .500, Chicago put up a 195-128 (.603) in the regular season.
Oh, and apart from a National League pennant and World Series title, the Cubs returned to the LCS for the third consecutive time in 2017 before running out of gas against the Dodgers. Better yet, the team figures to be in the hunt for a third-straight National League Central crown in 2018.
Injuries have doomed the Mets
Meanwhile, injuries continue to be a concern for the Mets. Matt Harvey hasn’t been the same guy in some time. Last season, in fact, he battled injuries and put up an earned run average north of 6.00. Noah Syndergaard made just seven starts before suffering a torn lat – ending his season.
The lone bright spot in the New York rotation last season? deGrom. The right-hander was the only Mets hurler to make more than 30 starts, putting up a 3.50 FIP across 201 1/3 innings of work. The rest of the staff was a hodgepodge of talented, yet unproven arms. Robert Gsellman, Rafael Montero, Seth Lugo and Zack Wheeler all turned in at least 17 starts in 2017. Yet none of them managed an earned run average south of 4.71, which belonged to Lugo.
By and large, the Cubs, meanwhile have avoided catastrophic injuries. Granted, they saw more starters lose time in 2017 than in their remarkably healthy 2016 season. But Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta and Kyle Hendricks all missed starts last year due to injury. The team pushed on and eventually did enough to capture the Central late in September.
A cautionary tale
When the Cubs lost Kyle Schwarber a week into the 2016 campaign, they had the depth to make up for it. Which, to be frank, most teams don’t. They weathered the storm, Schwarber made his improbable return in the World Series and the rest, as they say, is history.
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But there’s a lesson to be learned in all this. The Mets’ future was once as bright – maybe even brighter – than the Cubs. But heading into 2018, New York isn’t even the favorite in their own division, let alone the National League.
Injuries, poor management and a head-scratching front office/ownership combination have left Mets fans pulling their hair out, asking, “What might have been?” The Cubs are blessed – in more ways than one. But don’t let that fool you. Championship windows are always slowly closing – and you have to capitalize as often as possible while they remain open.