Without Baseball

The World Series ended into the wee hours of November 2. It’s been almost nine days since that emotional Game 5 that started on Sunday, November 1 at Citi Field and went past midnight. It was on that night that the Royals did what they do waiting until the final three outs to stage a ninth inning rally against Matt Harvey stunning the Mets and crushing Queens hearts in NYC.

It’s still hard to believe how after he knocked in Lorenzo Cain, Eric Hosmer danced off third and broke for home daring Lucas Duda to throw him out. What might have been a wild and crazy double play to end Game 5 resulted in a wild Duda throw so bad, it resembled Jose Bautista’s dying quail to second allowing a hustling Cain to score all the way from first on a single finishing the Blue Jays in the ALCS. That was the Royals. A team who looked finished against the Astros in the seventh inning of Game 4 in the Division Series. But then reeled off seven runs in the final two innings to dance their way back to a 9-6 victory. A miraculous rally that was once seen before last year against Oakland.

The Royal Crown wouldn’t be denied. They were the one team who solved Jeurys Familia with Alex Gordon crushing a 96 MPH heater to tie Game 1 with one out in the home ninth. Up till that point, Familia had been perfect. But a quick pitch resulted in a Gordon blast to dead center that’s still traveling into orbit. As costly a mistake as October hero Daniel Murphy allowing a routine ground ball to Bill Buckner through his legs in the eighth inning of Game 4. Apologies to Buckner who wasn’t to blame for the Red Sox Game 6 defeat in 1986. That was more Calvin Schiraldi and Bob Stanley.

The Mets were so close. In three games, they led against the Royals with Terry Collins eventually getting the ball to Familia. Even if it was a batter or two too late with blind loyalty shown to Tyler Clippard in Game 4. Familia was charged with three blown saves. Only one was he truly to blame. The other two were similar to Mariano Rivera in Game 5 of that 2004 ALCS when Joe Torre mistakenly trusted Tom Gordon. David Ortiz hit a ball so hard into the Green Monster that Torre should’ve removed Gordon right there and let Rivera go for the six out save a second straight day. He didn’t. Boston made history rallying from a 3-0 series deficit and won their first World Championship since 1918.

Sometimes, managers are faced with tough decisions. In Game 5, Collins was told in the dugout by Harvey he wasn’t coming out. In that moment with thousands of Harvey supporters chanting his name, the likable 66-year old skipper gave in to his star pupil. He said, ‘Okay. Go get ’em.’ He could’ve got him after Cain walked. Probably should have. But didn’t and watched in horror as the most dangerous hitter with runners on Hosmer laced a RBI opposite field double cutting the deficit to 2-1. He went to Familia. Mike Moustakas advanced Hosmer to third on a ground out to first.

Then came the at bat they’ll be talking about all winter. Salvador Perez hit a bouncer to a drawn in infield. David Wright jumped in front of Wilmer Flores looking Hosmer back. The problem was he was the third baseman. It was Flores’ ball. If he takes it, Wright goes back to cover third which forces Hosmer to move closer to the bag. Instead, Wright took charge and didn’t throw a fastball to Duda. A daring Hosmer broke for home. He didn’t get a good jump. A good throw probably gets him. But Duda panicked and threw way wide allowing a sliding Hosmer to score the tying run and get high fives from pumped up teammates.

In that moment, the World Series was lost. The Mets couldn’t touch the Royals bullpen. Kelvin Herrera and Luke Hochevar tossed five scoreless allowing one hit. As I watched with Dad, we both concluded that the Mets only chance was for someone to hit a home run. Talented rookie Michael Conforto came close just missing on a cutter. He’ll be a name to follow in the coming years.

Eventually, the pesky Royals got to Addison Reed in the 12th. In his first postseason at bat, pinch hitter Christian Colon came through with the winning hit because of course he would. That was these Royals. A team who blooped ya to death reminding of those classic 90’s Yankee teams under Torre. This time the manager was oft criticized Ned Yost. Someone who didn’t go by the book. He chose to bring in Ryan Madson in Game 6 of the ALCS and pitch to Bautista rather than go with dominant closer Wade Davis. Bautista hit a tying three-run bomb that hasn’t landed. Of course, Kansas City came back in the bottom half with Cain sprinting around third to stun the Jays. Then Davis escaped second and third with no one out with two K’s and a ground out.

Sometimes, when you come as close as they did a year ago with basically Madison Bumgarner beating them with a virtuoso MVP performance for the Giants, it strengthens you. The Royals still had doubters. I wasn’t sure about their rotation. So, I mistakenly took the White Sox to win the AL Central. Oops. But KC had the pen and the scrappy hitters. They also had the speed and unbelievable team defense. They were motivated.

Still, a week later many Mets fans feel their team lost more than the Royals won. However, that would be discrediting KC’s resiliency. There are nine innings in a game. And in the Royals’ case, sometimes 11, 12, 13 or 14. They were never dead until the final out was recorded. Unless you blew them out like the Mets did in Game 3 on homers from Wright and Curtis Granderson, they had as many lives as Jason, Michael Myers and Freddy Krueger. You had to finish them.

A funny thing happened. The Mets had a golden opportunity to finish the Royals in the home sixth of Game 5. Bases loaded. Nobody out with Yoenis Cespedes up. But he fouled a pitch off his foot injuring himself. Faced with a 0-2 count, Collins could’ve replaced Cespedes with Juan Lagares. But Cespedes wanted to stay in and hit. If he connected, it could have made a huge difference. But anyone can see that he had no left leg favoring it. He weakly popped out in the infield. The Mets only got a run on a sac fly. Instead of breaking it open, they led 2-0.

That left the door open for the Royals who did their best work late. And so they did to the Mets what the Yankees in 2000 once did. Took advantage of mistakes and singled them to death. In some aspects, this series loss was similar. The Mets had leads but made too many mental errors. Only there was no Timo Perez getting nailed at home. But there was Cespedes getting caught off first for a game-ending double play in Game 4 which was unbelievable. He said he didn’t think the ball would be caught by Moustakas who gloved it and easily tossed out Cespedes.

The Mets had a great season. They won the NL East and got back to the postseason for the first time since 2006. They beat the Dodgers in five and swept the Cubs to win the pennant. Before Sandy Alderson acquired Cespedes, they were no playoff lock. His two month performance of 17 homers and 44 RBI’s shouldn’t be forgotten. Even with him probably leaving for more dollars. Ditto Murphy who went from hero to goat after doing his best Roy Hobbs. All he did was hit big home runs and carry the Amazin’s for two rounds. Then came the awful miscues in Games 4 and 5.

Baseball is unpredictable. That’s what makes it great. Many observers complain about the length. Then do us a favor and don’t watch. If you love the sport, you watch. All eyes are glued during October. The Mets were compelling from beginning to end. The whole debate on Harvey and the innings limit with that clown Scott Boras having too much say. In the end, Harvey wanted the ball. He was dominant for eight innings against the best lineup. He was as good as Josh Beckett and Roger Clemens for those first eight. But with over 100 pitches, he couldn’t finish it.

I don’t blame Collins one bit. It was a tough situation to be put in. That was Harvey’s game. What if Hosmer is out at home? Is the manager still getting blamed? He isn’t perfect. No one is. What would’ve happened if it went back to KC for Game 6? Would Jacob deGrom have forced a Game 7 for Noah Syndergaard? We’ll never know.

Here’s what I do know. That the baseball we saw this postseason was remarkable. It’s why it’s still the best game in my book. It’s been over a week and I already miss it. With Hot Stove on deck, at least we have that.