The New York Mets had a better season than 28 other Major League clubs in 2015. Most of the time, that would sound like a pretty good campaign for a professional sports franchise, especially one that had struggled for as many seasons as the Mets. However, after making it to the World Series, New York thought it was better than all 29 other teams in baseball. The Kansas City Royals ended that thought in five drama-filled games.
Losing after making it so far in any sport is never an easy thing for a team to overcome, especially in the next season. Super Bowl losers have been notorious for falling apart the next season in the NFL. We’ve seen NBA teams make it to the Finals only to lose and then disappear for several seasons. It takes a strong mentality to comeback from a tough defeat. Some clubs have it; many others simply don’t.
In 2016, that will be the challenge for the Mets. They have to realize their successes of 2015, but also realize how much losing in the final series of the season truly hurts. Will New York be up to that challenge? That’s the question that needs to be answered.
For inspiration, the Mets have to look no further than the team that beat them in the World Series this season. Just one season after coming up short themselves in the championship, the Royals rebounded to win it all this season. Kansas City played with a relentless grit and determination that fueled the team to the title this season. The Royals knew how terrible it felt to get that far and come up short. Instead of allowing that feeling to derail them, they allowed it to build their success. That’s what it takes to rebound from a World Series loss, and it’s what New York will be faced with.
Important to note, Kansas City’s rebound season in 2015 is certainly an exception to the norm of World Series losers generally struggling to find the same success the next season. Before the Royals, the 2011 Texas Rangers were able to rebound from their 2010 World Series loss and reach the series again, only to lose again. Before that, you have to go all the way back to the 1992 Atlanta Braves to find a runner-up reach the finals series again the next season (the Braves also lost in their reappearance).
Making it to the World Series the year after losing it simply doesn’t happen very often. Even more difficult is winning the thing as the previous season’s loser. In fact, this season’s Royals were the first team to do it since the 1977 New York Yankees. That’s almost 40 years in between World Series losers winning the championship the next season. Therefore, the task seems daunting for the Mets.
History won’t be on the Mets’ side in 2016. However, talent will be. Remember, this team beat two very good teams in the postseason before being ousted by Kansas City. First, the Mets took care of a Los Angeles Dodgers team with a powerful pitching duo. Then they dominated a Chicago Cubs team that is on the rise. New York did all that with a relatively young and inexperienced roster. If the team’s mentality is right, this season’s experience should only benefit the club going forward.
On paper, the Mets have enough to contend for the next several seasons. Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, and Noah Syndergaard make up the best trio of arms in the game. Jeurys Familia, despite his World Series struggles, turned into a great closer in the bullpen in 2015. Then on offense, you have young talent in players like Michael Conforto and veteran presences in David Wright and Daniel Murphy (among others). The team needs to do whatever it takes to keep this core group of players together. If that happens, there is no reason why New York shouldn’t be in contention once again in 2016.
While the talent is certainly there in New York, you have to wonder just how the loss in the World Series this season will effect the psyche of this club. It’s not the fact that they lost; that’s difficult enough to deal with. Really, it’s how the Mets lost. In four of the five games in the World Series (save Game 2), they had the lead late in the game, only to see Kansas City rally and rip victory from their clutches. New York made so many critical errors in each of those losses, be it on the field, at the plate, on the mound, or in the dugout. Watching themselves flounder under pressure time and time again against the Royals had to make them sick. Sometimes, that’s the type of illness that takes a long time to heal from.
It’s almost like a curse, the way the Mets lost the championship. When bad luck continues to come your way, you get it stuck in your head that bad luck is going to continue to happen. That could really hurt New York in 2016. Maybe not early in the season, but if the team gets back to the postseason, that is something that could easily come into play.
When it comes down to it, losing a World Series or any big game or match is a test of character. So for the Mets, if they are well coached and have good personalities on their roster (which they seem to have), they can recover from this defeat and allow it to fuel them instead of eat them alive. However, this is also a young team (experience-wise, especially), so it is tough to say how they will react.
That will be the challenge for the 2016 Mets. For the 2015 version of the team though, they must realize the immense success they had this season and know to build on it in the future. For a team that had struggled for as long as the Mets did prior to 2015, that scenario probably sounds just fine.