Thursday, October 29, 2015

NFL Picks Week Eight: The Mets have the Royals right where they want them

Ok. I'll be honest. Game 2 last night did not exactly go how I wanted it to. Actually, it went the exact opposite way of how I wanted it to. Down 1-0 in the World Series, but with the Mets' top pitcher this season Jacob deGrom and Kansas City's wildly unpredictable Johnny Cueto facing off, I anticipated the Mets would win the game and earn a split in KC. Most importantly, though, the key was getting to Cueto early, not just because it would mean runs on the board, but because the Royals' bullpen had expended itself dramatically in that epic 14-inning win in Game 1. Kick Cueto to the curb early, force an already tired bullpen to throw six innings and you might have the Royals on their heels for the rest of the series.

A complete-game two-hitter that saves a tired bullpen and puts the Mets down 2-0 is not exactly what I was looking for.

But hey, here we are. The 2015 National League Champion New York Mets are headed back home to Citi Field facing a 2-0 deficit in the World Series ahead of Game 3 Friday night. It didn't have to be this way. The Mets have blown three separate leads over the first two games of this series, and almost certainly should have taken Game 1, which Kansas City tied on a solo home run by Alex Gordon with New York two outs away from victory. But ifs and buts, etc. What's done is done and all the Mets can hope to do now is even the score with three games in Queens this weekend.

Surprisingly, I actually like their chances. After all, Noah Syndergaard has basically been dynamite this postseason and Steven Matz, well, everyone says he's really great, so he must be even though I never see him pitch into the sixth inning. What I'm saying is, Mets fans across the boroughs are having a bit of a doomsday freakout right now, which, uh, I guess is understandable. But we could very easily be sitting here in three days with the series all square at 2-2 and Matt Harvey on the mound at home in a pivotal Game 5.

Am I dreaming? Probably. But after demoralizing back-to-back defeats, what other choice do I have? Fans in this stage often find themselves at a fork in the road with two choices: To assume the die is cast and hope is lost, or to grasp at straws seeking irrational reasons to believe. I often like to think of myself as one of those deliberate, contemplative, calm, thinking fans. I don't like to have a spastic reaction to the games I watch one way or the other.

But, um, I'm in a bit of a quagmire here, so, baby, let's get irrational.

The key sign that you're really looking for something -- anything -- that can prove your team's comeback is not just possible, but certain, is to see how quickly you look for parallel facts from baseball history. For me, this began before the series even began with two key facts:

1) The Mets alternate World Series wins and losses:
 -- 1969: Win
 -- 1973: Loss
 -- 1986: Win
 -- 2000: Loss
 -- 2015: uh, you know.

2) Mets utility infielder Juan Uribe has won the World Series twice before and always does so in a cycle of five years:
 -- 2005: Uribe wins the World Series with the Chicago White Sox
 -- 2010: Uribe wins the World Series with the San Francisco Giants
 -- 2015: Figure it out.

Once the Mets blew Game 1 on Tuesday night, I got past the deflation with this knowledge safe in my mind:
 -- The Mets, they of the two World Series championships, have never won Game 1 of the World Series. Ever.

Now that the Mets are down 2-0, though, it's getting a little tricky. Rallies from 2-0 to win a best-of-seven series aren't unheard of, but they're certainly not easy, though the 1985 Kansas City Royals somehow managed to do it twice.  In fact, the 1985 St. Louis Cardinals, whom KC defeated in the fall classic also rallied from 2-0 down in the NLCS.

Something must have been in the water in 1985. And not just because I was born that year.

The last time anyone turned the trick was the Boston Red Sox' historic rally from 3-0 down against the New York Yankees in the 2004 ALCS. Nobody has done it in the World Series since the 1996 New York Yankees came back after dropping the first two games at home. 19 years ago might mean we're due for something like that, though:
 -- 53 teams have fallen behind 2-0 in the World Series. 10 have come back to win.
 -- The first one of these happened in 1955, when the Dodgers rallied to beat the Yankees.
 -- That means it happened roughly once every 4.1 years between the first and last occurrence.
 -- The last time it happened was 19 years ago.

What I'm saying here is rallies from two-game deficits aren't exactly dependable events like Halley's Comet (and that I'm completely ignoring the first five decades of World Series play in which it never happened) .... but maybe we're due?

Another fact, which definitely has an impact on how the rest of the Series will play out:
 -- Were the Mets to rally, they would be the 14th team to do so. 14 is my favorite number.

An even more important fact:
 -- I've been listening to a ton of Billy Joel over the past two weeks. And guess who is singing the national anthem on Friday night. Then again, maybe that's not such a great sign.

Finally, there is this irrefutable historic nugget. One of those 10 teams to rally back from a 2-0 deficit to win the World Series was the 1986 New York Mets, who not only lost Games 1 and 2, but lost them at home before taking two of three in Fenway Park. The results of those first two games?
 -- 1986 Game 1: Mets lose by 1
 -- 1986 Game 2: Mets lose by 6
 -- 2015 Game 1: Mets lose by 1
 -- 2015 Game 2: Mets lose by 6

I am not a man of capricious passions nor leaps of faith. I ground myself in reality, which is why I don't keep kosher and think trickle-down economics is complete nonsense. I do not like to deal in bullshit. Given that, and the fact that I wholly have faith in the impact of the facts above, I am supremely confident. I don't want to give off the wrong impression. I am not guaranteeing that the Mets will comeback and win the World Series.

But how can you tell me I'm wrong?

Historic rates of recurrence? Parallel timelines? Patterns? Juan Uribe? Billy Joel? It simply all adds up. I have taken my turn at that fork and am leaning on my unrelatable, but totally true and real facts to draw one single conclusion. The New York Mets will win the 2015 World Series.

Take it to the bank. It's a done deal.

Last week: 7-7-0
Season: 47-56-2

NEW ENGLAND (-8) over Miami
KANSAS CITY (-5) over Detroit
ATLANTA (-7) over Tampa Bay
Minnesota (even) over CHICAGO
Arizona (-4.5) over CLEVELAND
ST. LOUIS (-9) over San Francisco
NY Giants (+3.5) over NEW ORLEANS
Cincinnati (-1.5) over PITTSBURGH
San Diego (+3) over BALTIMORE
HOUSTON (off) over Tennessee
NY Jets (-1.5) over OAKLAND
Seattle (-6) over DALLAS
DENVER (+2.5) over Green Bay
CAROLINA (-7) over Indianapolis

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