Punch ticket for October with bigger goals ahead

Punch ticket for October with bigger goals ahead

MILWAUKEE — Almost exactly a year ago, the Mets watched from their dugout as the Brewers clinch a playoff berth at American Family Field. It had been a disappointing season for the Mets, whose promise never seemed to turn into enough success. As the brewers celebrated at their expense, Francisco Lindor looked inside.

“It hurt a little bit,” Lindor recalled. “I was saying things like, ‘I wish I had what they had.'”

Telling the story late Monday night, Lindor stood in front of his locker as various Mets teammates crowded around him wearing royal blue t-shirts emblazoned with the words “October rise.” A table that once held dozens of glasses of non-alcoholic sparkling wine was nearly empty. Some players had switched to beer. Others drank straight from a golden champagne bottle, which teammates presented to Max Scherzer in recognition of his 200th career victory. The Mets had just won a 7-2 game over the Brewers to clinch their first playoff spot since 2016. Lindor didn’t need to wish anymore.

“It’s been hard-fought years of losing or thinking we were going to get there and being disappointed in the end,” said outfielder Brandon Nimmo, a Met since 2016 who has seen the franchise play exactly one playoff game. . “It’s been a tough few years there, especially in that market. They expect you to win.

Bigger goals still exist for the Mets, who didn’t spray champagne in the usual way by securing at least a berth in the National League Wild Card Game. They didn’t dogpile on the pitcher’s mound. Instead, when Adam Ottavino knocked out Hunter Renfroe to make things official, their infielders and outfielders got together separately for group hugs and thanks. As these players returned to the dugout, manager Buck Showalter waited to hug them individually.

Then they returned to their clubhouse for a series of short speeches, including one in which owner Steve Cohen, who had arrived from New York earlier in the day, told the Mets he was “excited for them. and what is possible”.

For many around the franchise, such possibilities began when Cohen purchased the team in November 2020. In the nearly two years since that time, Cohen has remade the Mets’ front office and expanded its mass. salary. He spent $341 million to lock up Lindor and another $130 million to bring in Scherzer. He hired general manager Billy Eppler and manager Buck Showalter. Ask anyone around the club, and they’ll trace most cultural differences back to Cohen.

Jacob deGrom is one who can see such transformations from a larger lens. The longest-serving Met, deGrom is the only player who was also here for the team’s last extended post-season run in 2015. He called those games “some of the most fun games I’ve ever had.” had while playing baseball” and “one of the coolest experiences I’ve ever had. At the time, deGrom was certain the Mets would be playoff contenders every year. When disappointment followed, deGrom began to better understand what it means to make the playoffs.

“You celebrate that,” deGrom said. “To go this long without being back, that makes it special.”

For a man, deGrom’s teammates agreed, saying that while the Mets intended to chase the NL East title with all the fervor they could muster, their playoff victory also deserved recognition. So they moved around the clubhouse, drinking beer, taking selfies and cracking jokes at each other. Pete Alonso, whose fourth-inning three-run homer proved to be the hardest-hitting play of the clincher, yelled at his teammates to cover him in “ketchup and mustard.” They obeyed, staining his neck and his T-shirt red.

Later, in a quieter corner of the clubhouse, Cohen stopped Alonso, Nimmo and Eduardo Escobar to tell them how proud he was of their accomplishments. He snuggled up with these three for several moments, praising them for “how you get along with each other.”

Cohen called the Mets playoffs “the first step” in a longer journey, saying “as we move forward, there will be bigger celebrations.” The Mets certainly hope that’s true. As the third MLB team to clinch a playoff berth, the Mets will be aiming for bigger goals come Tuesday, when they return to American Family Field for another game against the Brewers. The Braves are looming just one game back in eastern Newfoundland.

There is little time to rest, but for one night at least there was enough time to celebrate, enough time to reflect, enough time to let go of past disappointments.

“It means something to our organization and it means something to our fans to be in the playoffs,” Scherzer said. “These are the moments you play for. We also realize that there are greater moments to be had in the future. So it makes you smile today, but it squeaks tomorrow.

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