Since the Mets swept the Cubs last Wednesday night to reach the World Series, the vibe on talk radio and social media has been about their lack of World Series experience. That can’t be denied. Only two Mets, Curtis Granderson and Juan Uribe have ever played in the World Series. Granderson hit .095 for the 2006 Tigers who lost to the Cardinals, and Uribe was only added to the roster after the first edition of this column came out. Surprisingly, Bartolo Colon at 42 does not have a World Series on his considerable baseball dossier, though he pitched for the 1997 Cleveland Indians who went to the Series. David Wright came as close as any Met. He was on the 2006 team that lost the NLCS to the Cardinals who went on to beat the Tigers in that year’s fall classic. In 2000, Howie Rose was a Mets’ TV broadcaster. Since Fox had the TV rights he couldn’t cover that one-sided World Series where the Yankees beat the Mets in five games. Now is his time, and now is the time for 25 men in orange and blue.
On the other side of the coin you have the Royals. As General Dwight D. Eisenhower said on D-Day, “Your enemy is well-trained, well-equipped and battle-hardened. He will fight savagely.” This can be truly said of the foe as the World Series begins tonight. Almost to a man, this is the Royals’ team that went 7 games before losing to the Giants a year ago. Repeatedly during this postseason they have been behind and rallied to win. Both the Astros in the NLDS and the Bluejays in the ALCS found that out the hard way. Their least experienced man is Raul Mondesi JR., a AA player added to the roster at Noon Eastern Time today. If he plays he will be the first man to make his MLB debut in the World Series. It could have been the Mets’ Matt Reynolds but he was left off the roster once it became clear Uribe could play.
One vital piece of the Royals’ puzzle is injured-closer Greg Holland. Since August 2014 he has pitched with a painful elbow and last month he finally submitted to an MRI and was told the worst. He has a torn ligament that could shut him down until 2017. But two new men joined the Royals this season to hopefully make them a more difficult opponent. They picked up outfielder Ben Zobrist from the Tampa Bay Rays and pitcher Johnny Cueto from the Reds. Cueto’s best performance was the game that won the NLDS for the Royals over the Astros.
But how much does the Royals’ experience from last year matter? In 1969 when the Mets faced the Orioles in the World Series, they were as lacking in experience as they are now. They had a staff of young pitchers, Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman and relief pitcher Nolan Ryan. The Orioles had won the World Series 3 years earlier sweeping past the Dodgers of Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale. And unlike today, most of the ’66 Orioles were still there 3 years later. The Mets lost game 1 but took the next 4 in a row for their first of two world championships. Now, if anything they have a deeper staff of young starting pitching than they did in 1969. Matt Harvey goes tonight. No Met, and maybe no pitcher anywhere has generated more buzz-both good and bad-than the Mystic, CT. native. Yesterday he was named National League Comeback Player of the Year following Tommy John surgery that cost him part of 2013 and all of 2014. In early September he left Mets’ fans scratching their heads when he said he wanted to throw less innings down the stretch. Following Harvey the Mets send out Jacob DeGrom in game 2. He was last year’s Rookie of the Year and struck out 13 Dodgers as the Mets beat Clayton Kershaw in game 1 of this year’s NLDS. The native of Deland, Florida struck out the side in the All-Star game on 10 pitches. Game 3 will see Noah Syndergaard, and he’s in line for game 7 if there is one. I’ve said this privately and now I’ll say it on the record. I think Syndergaard is going to do something special this World Series. I can’t say what special thing he’ll do but fans will be talking about him for years to come. Steven Matz, the Mets’ one lefty starter goes in game 4. He’s only lost once as a major leaguer, to Clayton Kershaw in game 4 of the NLDS. The Royals will start 3 pitchers from the Doiminican Republic in the first 3 games: Edinson Volquez, Yordano Ventura and Cueto, followed by Chris Young. None have the name recognition of the Mets’ hurlers. None are even as famous as the pitchers the Mets shunted aside on their way to the Series: Zack Greinke, Clayton Kershaw, Jake Arrieta. However, this isn’t 1969 when starters were expected to go the distance. Taking that into consideration I have to mention the Royals’ bull pen which is their one clear advantage over the Mets. While the Mets have a terrific closer in Jeurys Familia, some of their most difficult losses were games where the starters dominated and left with a lead but the other relievers couldn’t hold it for Familia to lock it down. Tyler Clippard was excellent early on but has struggled in September and October. Addison Reed, who the Mets got from Arizona for a bucket of curve balls has inherited the 7th inning job. Hansel Robles, Eric Goeddel, Sean Gilmartin and starters Bartolo Colon and Jonathan Niese have seen duty out of the bull pen for the Mets this postseason. Meantime with Holland undermined by his injury, Wade Davis has stepped in as Royals closer and done brilliantly. Luke Hochevar and Kelvin Herrera cover the 7th and 8th, and one of them may come in as early as the sixth if the situation calls for it.
In summation, I figure the Mets will win this World Series but it won’t be as easy as a lot of their fans seem to think. The late addition of Uribe will buttress their bench and make it possible for him or Michael Conforto to play DH in Kansas City. Hopefully Yoenis Cespedes and Lucas Duda will regain the momentum they had earlier in the year. It’s almost too much to hope Daniel Murphy can hit two more home runs that would break the all time postseason record, but Met fans are hoping. I see the Mets winning the Series in 6 or 7 games.0