Another season is in the books and for the 6th year in a row, the New York Mets will be watching October with the rest of us.
2012 was a disappointing season for The Amazin's. Although there were far from lofty expectations from the media and the fanbase at the start of the year, the Mets raced out to a quick start, giving them a 46-40 record and sitting them only 4.5 games behind the first place Washington Nationals.
The Mets in the first half were trademarked by a few things: they were young, they had a "never say die" attitude that tortured bullpens and they were exciting.
But, as is sadly often the case lately with the Mets, the wheels came off the bandwagon in the 2nd half of the season.
Plagued by injuries and a leaky bullpen, the Mets stumbled through the first two weeks after the All Star Break, and by the end of July, they were virtually out of it.
In the end, the Mets finished 74-88 and in 4th place in the National League East. Clearly it was a rough season, but through it all, there were still some gems over the 162 game marathon. Let's look back at the 2012 season for the New York Mets.
What a historic year for the 37 year old knuckleballer.
Back in 2010, R.A. Dickey was the first man cut from the New York Mets spring training. A mere two years later, he was not only the clear cut ace of the staff for the Mets, but he is a serious Cy Young contender.
What didn't Dickey do this year? For the first time in his career R.A. Dickey won 20 games, which is no small feat on a team that only won 74 games all season. Dickey's 2.78 ERA and 1.05 WHIP were good for second in the NL and his 230 strikeouts led the National League.
Those numbers are of course impressive on their own, but factor in that he is 37 and throws a knuckleball and they are almost unfathomable.
Dickey also had one of the most dominant stretches of starting pitching this season that we've seen in years. From May 27th through June 18th, Dickey won all five games he started, allowed no earned runs, tossed three complete games and became the first National League pitcher since Jim Tobin in 1944 to throw back to back one-hitters.
As for the Mets specifically, no player was more valuable than R.A. Dickey. Wins aside, Dickey provided leadership and consistency throughout the season, both when the team was winning, and more importantly, when the team was falling apart.
Oh, and just in case you weren't amazed by Dickey's season enough already, it turns out that he tore an abdominal muscle in his 2nd start of the season and toughed it out for 29 more starts en route to his incredible year. His surgery is set for October 18th. If that's not toughness, I don't know what is.
In my humble opinion, if R.A. Dickey doesn't win the Cy Young Award this season, then the Baseball Writers Association of America got it wrong.
David Wright: Was the hottest hitter in baseball for a time back in May and overall was the only consistent offensive presence on the Mets, despite his average coming back down to Earth and settling at .306.
Ike Davis: For a guy who went into hibernation for the first two months of the season, his final stats weren't half bad, including leading the team with 32 home runs.
Jonathon Niese: After inking a big offseason contract, he won 13 games and blossomed into a more mature, legitimate major league pitcher.
It seems like every year the Mets revamp their bullpen and yet every year it continues to end in disaster.
This year, the Mets had a 20 game winner/potential Cy Young award winner. They had a man who hit over 30 home runs. They had their best player hanging around the top five in batting average almost all season.
And yet despite all of this, the Mets still couldn't find a way to finish about .500, and the biggest reason why was the bullpen.
This year, Mets starters posted 100 quality starts, 6+ innings and three or fewer earned runs, which led all of baseball this season. For me, that means that the starters did what they had to do to win 100 games this season.
On the flip side, the bullpen posted a 4.67 ERA, good for dead last in Major League Baseball.
The Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde act really started to rear its ugly head in the second half. The most frustrating part of it all was that you started to get the feeling that you could trust no one in that bullpen.
Acquisitions Frank Francisco and Ramon Ramirez fell flat all season, while Jon Rauch had a two month period of subpar performances. Manny Acosta was sent down to the minors in May with an 11.35 ERA and was actually called back to help the pen in July. Pedro Beato imploded time and time again in extra innings.
The list goes on and on. Now, there were some bright moments from the bullpen this year. Tim Byrdak had a great first two months and Bobby Parnell started to show some consistency the last month of the year, but these positives were few and far between.
Bottom line is, between blowing leads and letting close leads become insurmountable, the bullpen did not allow the Mets to succeed this year, and for that, they collectively have to be the Least Valuable Players.
Jason Bay: Another year, another disappointment. Bay made two DL trips, hit eight home runs, drove in only 20 runs and posted a dreadful .165 average. His shortcomings finally led him to becoming a $66 million platoon player.
Josh Thole: He never seemed to recover from the concussion that sidelined him for most of May. His biggest fault was his lack of production with men on base, finishing with only 21 RBIs. His lack of offensive production and defensive lapses may have cost him a roster spot next season.
Andres Torres: Another offseason acquisition that didn't quite pan out. Torres was supposed to be an influx of speed and only posted 13 stolen bases surrounded by countless baserunning mistakes, some of which cost the Mets.
Mets fans were dealt a serious blow over the offseason, when longtime fan favorite Jose Reyes decided to depart with the only franchise he's ever been with, in favor of the revamped Miami Marlins. This left a gaping hole offensively and defensively that many Mets fans thought could not possibly be filled.
Enter Ruben Tejada.
The 22 year old shortstop was told the moment Reyes left that shortstop would be his spot this year, and he rose to the occasion all season. Not only did Tejada fill the void left at shortstop, but he even proved himself to be a more than capable leadoff man—something most critics said that he couldn't do.
Impressively, Tejada's stats managed to stay neck and neck with Reyes all season. Despite playing 46 less games due to injury, Tejada hit 25 doubles with a .333 OBP and a .289 average. Compare that to Reyes who had 37 doubles, .347 OBP, and a .287 average, and it's safe to say that Tejada filled in admirably for his expensive counterpart.
What impressed me the most about Tejada, though, was his defense. Reyes was known for his incredible range and cannon arm, yet Tejada throughout the season made spectacular plays and actually finished the season with six less errors than Reyes.
Obviously, the triples and stolen bases weren't there compared to Reyes, but they never were expected to be.
Overall, Tejada was put in a situation where he was supposed to replace the reigning NL batting champ. He was supposed to fail, but instead, he shined, and I believe that Tejada's success in making Mets fans not lament the loss of Jose Reyes was the biggest surprise of 2012.
Daniel Murphy: We all knew Murphy would hit, finishing with a .291 average, but his transformation into a bona fide second baseman was a pleasant, and frankly, unexpected surprise for most Mets fans.
Scott Hairston: He played the way we all expected Jason Bay to play for three years now. Who penciled in Scott Hairston for 20 home runs? Anyone? No? I thought so.
Kirk Nieuwenhuis: He started to fall off at the end before being injured in the minors, but for a good chunk of the season, Captain Kirk was a starting outfielder, showing great range in the field and a solid bat at the dish.
All season, the Mets had trouble with the upstart Nationals, and in the end, their struggles against Washington led to their undoing.
Going into their July 17th matchup with the Nationals, the Mets were already going in the wrong direction. They had opened the second half of the season with three straight losses to the Atlanta Braves and the season already felt on the verge of spiraling out of control.
The Nats had taken a 2-0 lead into the 9th inning and it seemed as if the Mets were getting ready to drop yet another game, putting them a solid seven games behind Washington.
Bobby Parnell came in to try and nail down the potential season saving victory, but with two outs in the 9th, he allowed a Danny Espinosa single to tie the game. The Mets again took the lead in the 10th off a Josh Thole double, but the madness was just beginning.
The normally reliable Tim Byrdak was roughed up, allowing rookie sensation Bryce Harper to tie the game with an RBI triple and loaded up the bases with only one out. Byrdak got Adam LaRoche to hit into a fielder's choice at the plate before he was pulled for Pedro Beato.
Beato proceeded to lose the game, not on a base hit, but a wild pitch.
This game hurt the Mets on a whole host of levels and it was the punch that the Amazin's never seemed to recover from for the rest of the season. Yes, the game put them in a deep hole if they wanted to win the division, but it did much more than that.
It showed the weaknesses of the bullpen. It showed that even when the Mets put on some of their late game magic, it still wouldn't be enough. It showed that the Mets may be headed for yet another second half collapse.
Worst of all, blowing two leads in two innings to a division rival, especially losing on a wild pitch, was just downright demoralizing and was really the final nail in the coffin for any optimism people had about the Mets in 2012.
June 5th: Another game with the Nationals, another three leads blown, another extra inning loss. This time, the festivities featured an error filled 10th inning and another two out game winner from Bryce Harper.
What more can I say about this game that I haven't already said?
After 8,019 regular season games, on June 1st, 2012, Johan Santana threw the first no-hitter in New York Mets history.
The game had everything that you could want in a no hitter.
It had controversy. Carlos Beltran lined a ball that looked like it hit chalk for a sixth inning double, but it was ruled a foul ball.
It had a fantastic play. Mike Baxter joined Endy Chavez and Ron Swoboda in Mets lore as he crashed into the wall in the seventh to rob Yadier Molina of a sure hit, breaking his ribs in the process.
It had karma. The losing pitcher was Adam Wainwright, who ended Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS by striking out Carlos Beltran, who was the victim of an umpire's call to preserve the no-no. Yadier Molina, who broke New York's heart with the game winning home run in that same NLCS, was the victim of Mike Baxter's legendary moment.
Most of all, it had drama. Terry Collins battled with his emotions all night due to Johan Santana's insane pitch count in his first season coming off major shoulder surgery, but left him out there to chase history. Santana finished with 134 pitches.
I think I speak for most Mets fans when I say that I never thought a no-hitter was going to happen. After so many great pitchers came and went and after so many close calls, it just felt like the Mets were doomed to never post a zero in the opponent's hit column. But when it did finally happen, it felt surreal.
Being born in 1990, I've only seen the Mets in one World Series, and I've never seen them win a championship, but I have to imagine that if the Amazin's do ever win one in my lifetime, it will feel a lot like how this game felt.
For Mets fans, watching Johan Santana throw a no hitter was absolute euphoria and it is the undisputed best moment of the 2012 New York Mets season.
May 7th: The first game of what would be the first Mets sweep of Philadelphia in Philly since 2006 was highlighted by Jordany Valdespin's first big league hit: a go-ahead, three run home run in the top of the 9th against Jonathon Papelbon.
June 18th: The Orioles fell victim to R.A. Dickey's second one hitter in a row, featuring 13 strikeouts from the knuckleballer. This game put Dickey in rarefied air in terms of consecutive one hitters and also skyrocketed him into the forefront of the Cy Young race.
September 27th: R.A. Dickey became the first Met since Frank Viola in 1990 to win 20 games and the first knuckleballer to accomplish the feat since Phil Niekro in 1980. This game featured a major milestone of Dickey, as well as one of the only real reasons for Mets fans to celebrate throughout the entire second half.