Baseball is a beautiful game.
But, I have to admit, it is a whole lot more beautiful when your team is winning.
You can usually delude yourself through much of a hopeless baseball season that your team can pull it together and make a run for the playoffs down the stretch -- especially now that there are two wildcard teams. Reality doesn't usually hit until sometime in August. And then, when you finally accept the inevitability of a losing season, and you are stuck watching a team play uninspiring baseball for the last month or so, when all you have to root for is for your team to spoil another team's playoff run, when your focus is on the individual achievements of your favorite player because your team is going nowhere, much of the luster and lyricism of the game is lost -- at least until the spring, when it all begins again.
But, when your team is having a good year, when you get to experience tension-filled, meaningful games in September and anticipate playoff games in October, there is nothing better.
After seven straight years with a losing record, preceded by two historic collapses, which were themselves preceded by a heartbreaking playoff loss and countless other frustrating seasons, the New York Mets have clinched a division title. They have transformed what looked to be another dismal year of mediocrity into a joyful one filled with magical, unforgettable moments. The Mets are a fun, exciting team with a great core of young players, a fascinating collection of personalities and enough star power to be a post-season force.
Baseball has never seemed more beautiful.
But, the funny thing about winning is that it feels so good you want it to continue. Winning the division -- which is so thrilling and worthy of blissful celebration in the moment -- suddenly is no longer enough.
Sure, it has been a beautiful September, but what about October?
Well, these are still the Mets. This franchise often finds ingeniously devastating ways to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Implosion always seems to be just around the corner -- and sometimes closer than that. Will Matt Harvey and his agent-imposed arbitrary innings limit doom the Mets' chances? Will newly-minted folk hero Wilmer Flores make a critical fielding gaffe? Will their often erratic relief corps pick the worst time to be erratic? Will manager Terry Collins reprise one (or more) of his baffling in-game strategic missteps?
But, maybe, just maybe, everything will fall into place. The Mets have had the feel of a championship team since the surprisingly strong return of Mr. All-Time Met David Wright from a back injury, the revelation of 22-year old Michael Conforto (making the jump to the majors from Double A in his first full year of professional ball) and, most important of all, the acquisition at the trade deadline of La Potencia -- the spectacular Yoenis Cespedes. Maybe the brilliant yet callow pitching staff can harness their unprecedented power. Maybe the back end of the bullpen can consistently shut down the opposition. Maybe other key players like Curtis Granderson, Lucas Duda, Daniel Murphy and Travis D'Arnaud will get (or stay) hot. Maybe a little more magic can be wrung from the likes of Wilmer Flores or Juan Uribe or, dare I say, Michael Cuddyer.
Is it possible that the Mets might be embarking on another miracle? The answer comes from the late, great Joaquin Andujar, who really summed up the beauty of baseball, as he put it, "in one word: you never know."