The shortened 60-game season could have gone in a lot of directions for the New York Mets, but few expected it to end up where it did. The Mets had a chance to reach the playoffs until the bitter end but fell short thanks to an 11-14 run in September. As a result, the Mets finished in last place in the National League East, the first time they have finished in the cellar since 2003 when they went 66-95 in the first full year of the Wilpon regime.
The Mets closest pass at a playoff spot came at the beginning of the month, when they won four out of five to close to 19-22 with a big game against the Philadelphia Phillies on Labor Day. The Phillies jumped out in front 6-0 before the Mets rallied to take the lead before the bullpen coughed up the lead in the eighth inning. The Mets would lose that game in extra innings to fall to four games below .500, effectively putting a dagger in their postseason hopes.
The expanded playoff field gave a flawed Mets’ team life for much longer than it rightfully deserved since even a mediocre finish could have gotten them into the tournament as an eight seed. This group simply couldn’t win three games in a row, collapsing due to some combination of poor starting pitching, shaky relief work, bad defense, horrible baserunning, or inept clutch hitting. The Mets actually had a path to the playoffs in the season’s final week, when winning five games along with a combination of losses from the Phillies, San Francisco Giants, and Milwaukee Brewers would have opened a back door into the playoffs. The help the Mets would have needed improbably came but they couldn’t take advantage of it by falling flat on their face, going 1-4 over their final five games when a 4-1 mark would have earned a playoff spot.
It was a truly fitting end to the Wilpon era, which is expected to conclude at some point in the next few months when the sale of the team to Steve Cohen gets approved by the other owners. There were some highs for sure, including the 97-win 2006 entry and a pennant winner in 2015, some lows like the collapses of 2007 and 2008, but plenty of mediocrity and underperformance in there too. The 2020 edition of the Mets certainly fits the latter criteria.
Despite the sloppy finish, the Mets did have some standout performers in September. Jeff McNeil finished strong, hitting .356 with four homers and 14 RBI’s, while Amed Rosario (.366/1/5 in limited at-bats), Brandon Nimmo (.338/3/8), Michael Conforto (.329/4/14) and Dominic Smith (.306/3/16) contributed down the stretch.
The Mets’ best starter down the stretch was predictably Jacob deGrom, who went 2-1 with a 3.33 ERA in five September starts, but two bad performances in the final weeks of the season cost him a chance at a third straight Cy Young. The bullpen saw a huge performance out of Edwin Diaz, who recorded four saves and pitched to a 0.77 ERA while striking out 20 batters in 11.2 innings pitched. Erasmo Ramirez (0.63 ERA in 14.1 innings pitched) and Justin Wilson (1.00 ERA in 10 appearances) also finished strong.
What’s next for the Mets will certainly be fascinating as the Cohen era begins this offseason. There figure to be plenty of changes, most of them good, and hopefully Mets’ fans will be able to leave behind memories of regular underachieving like the 2020 team provided.