For Vanquished Mets, Missed Opportunities Will Forever Define 2015 World Series

Zachary D. Rymer@zachrymerMLB Lead WriterNovember 2, 2015

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 01:  Matt Harvey #33 of the New York Mets is relieved in the ninth inning against the Kansas City Royals during Game Five of the 2015 World Series at Citi Field on November 1, 2015 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Elsa/Getty Images

When Game 5 of the 2015 World Series went to the ninth inning, FanGraphs gave the New York Mets almost a 95 percent chance of defeating the Kansas City Royals and cutting their 3-1 series lead to a 3-2 series lead.

That the Mets ended up losing the lead and, ultimately, the game and the series pretty much says it all. History will say they lost a lopsided series, but what the Mets will take to the grave is the notion the 2015 World Series was one they let slip through their grasp.

Just like in Games 1 and 4, the Mets seemed to have the Royals right where they wanted them late in Game 5. Matt Harvey had shut them out through the first eight innings, and the Mets offense had scratched across two runs. All that was needed was three more outs.

And those, they could not get.

A leadoff walk by Lorenzo Cain and an RBI double by Eric Hosmer chased Harvey, and then Hosmer came home with the tying run on a one-out RBI groundout by Salvador Perez after Jeurys Familia had taken over. Later, in the top of the 12th, a five-run Royals rally gave uber-closer Wade Davis a lead he had little trouble protecting for a series-clinching 7-2 win.


Mighty KC! @Royals rise in 9th, rule the world: https://t.co/y9nVGjIV9t #WorldSeries https://t.co/LufOfOZFQB

Looking back, it's not especially heartbreaking that the Mets actually had a lead in all four of the games they lost. What's more heartbreaking is the reality that they had late leads in three of the four losses.

When that happens, the masses will reach for their "blamethrowers." And as far as many a Mets fan must be concerned, nobody deserves to be in the cross hairs like Terry Collins.

Matt Slocum/Associated Press

It was Collins, after all, who made arguably the most fatal decision of Game 5: choosing to let Harvey go back out for the ninth inning rather than turn the ball over Familia.

Fox's cameras caught Harvey telling Collins "No way, I'm going back out there" beforehand. Rather than overrule his young ace—which, based on the reality that Harvey's pitch count was over 100 and he was due to face the heart of Kansas City's order for the fourth time, would have been a wise decision—Collins took his word for it and went ahead with a risky decision.

That it blew up like it did seemed inevitable. And in the aftermath, Collins admitted that he got carried away, per Sports Illustrated's Phil Taylor:

Phil Taylor @byPhilTaylor

Collins says he planned to take Harvey out after 8th but Harvey talked him out of it. "I let my heart get in the way of my gut."

When looking at Collins' decision, it's hard not to think of when Grady Little got too trusty with Pedro Martinez back in Game 7 of the 2003 American League Championship Series. That cost the Boston Red Sox a shot at the World Series, and eventually it cost Little his job. With Collins not under contract for 2016, you wonder if a similar fate awaits him.

And that's without even considering, of course, the other blunders Collins made in the World Series.

The call Collins made with Harvey in Game 5 wasn't his only head-scratching pitching decision. There was also his decision to use Familia in the ninth inning of the Mets' 9-3 blowout win in Game 3, a decision that had huge implications in Game 4. Rather than call on Familia for a six-out save to protect a 3-2 lead, Collins let Tyler Clippard create a mess before he called on Familia. Alas, he was unable to turn the tide.

Julie Jacobson/Associated Press

Collins also made at least one highly questionable offensive decision. The big one came after after Yoenis Cespedes fouled a ball off his left knee with the bases loaded and nobody out in the sixth inning of Game 5. Collins chose to leave him in to continue his at-bat even though Cespedes could barely stand. He popped out, which helped result in that bases-loaded, no-out situation turning into just a single run.

It is indeed generally unfair to blame a team's manager for its failings. But in a setting like the World Series, every single managerial decision is put under the microscope for a reason: They are very, very important decisions. Poor decisions can be crippling. And when it comes to Collins, there's no overlooking that he made his share of those.

But before anyone rushes to place all the blame at Collins' feet, here's some advice: don't. 

Because while Collins hurt the Mets' chances of winning it all, every manager is only as good as his players. And in this World Series, Collins' players just weren't as good as they needed to be.

NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 31:  Daniel Murphy #28 of the New York Mets fails to make a play on a ball hit by Eric Hosmer #35 of the Kansas City Royals in the eight inning of Game Four of the 2015 World Series at Citi Field on October 31, 2015 in the Flushing
Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

When looking at the leads the Mets let slip away in Games 1, 4 and 5, the easy thing to do is go straight to what went wrong with the pitching. In Game 1, it was Familia serving up a ninth-inning long ball to Alex Gordon. In Games 4 and 5, it was, well, you know.

What should not be overlooked, though, is that bad defense also helped turn those would-be W's into L's. As you might recall:

  • Game 1: David Wright's error with nobody out in the bottom of the 14th inning put the eventual winning run on base.
  • Game 4: Daniel Murphy's error with one out in the eighth inning allowed the tying run to score.
  • Game 5: Lucas Duda's poor throw home with two outs in the ninth inning allowed Hosmer to score the tying run.

You could look at these three plays alone and conclude the Mets played a brutal defensive series. But even beyond these plays, you can get into the ball that clanked off Cespedes' leg and turned into an inside-the-park home run in Game 1, and another boot by Murphy (sorry, no video) that helped open the floodgates in the 12th inning of Game 5.

Plays like these served to highlight how badly overmatched the Mets defense was in the face of the Royals defense, as it was giving away free outs that the Royals defense was not going to reciprocate. And as Howard Megdal of USA Today pointed out in the middle of Game 4, that put a lot of pressure on the offense to pick up the slack:

Howard Megdal @howardmegdal

Thing is, average defensive team and we're at two outs, nobody on. Mets offense needs to outhit the defense.

The Mets offense outhitting the club's defense, of course, didn't happen.

Beyond being outscored 27-19, the Mets offense hit just .193 to Kansas City's .239 and OPS'd just .552 to Kansas City's .625. But in keeping with our theme of missed opportunities, nothing stands out quite like how the Mets and Royals hit with runners in scoring position.

Per Baseball Savant:

  • Royals: .333 AVG, .410 SLUG
  • Mets: .185 AVG, .185 SLUG

The one thing the Mets did on offense was outpace the Royals in the power department, hitting six home runs to the Royals' two.

But with only one of those six home runs being of the multi-run variety, the Mets needed to cash in with runners in scoring position. That they largely failed to do so gave the club's pitching and defense small margins for error. Obviously, we know how that turned out.

David J. Phillip/Associated Press

Mind you, it certainly behooves one to give credit where credit is due. The Royals are an extraordinary baseball team that seemed to play extra-extraordinary baseball when they most needed to. On the flip side of the Mets' assorted failings are the Royals' many successes. The overwhelming majority will say they deserved to win. The overwhelming majority will be right.

And yet, that won't stop the Mets from coming away from this World Series asking the same question that so many other World Series losers have asked throughout history: what if?

What if the Mets defense hadn't had so many leaks? What if the Mets offense had cashed in on a few more scoring opportunities? What if Collins had played things differently with those key pitching decisions? How would things have changed?

If we can indulge ourselves with an answer, it's easy to think the 2015 World Series might at least still be going. Or maybe, it could even be celebrating a different victor. Instead of the Royals, perhaps it would be the Mets celebrating their first World Series title in three decades.

But we'll never know. Not unless somebody shows up with a DeLorean and a flux capacitor, anyway, and that seems unlikely. The events the Mets just experienced are the events they're stuck with.

Looking back on them is going to hurt. A lot. And for some, there will be no shot at redemption.

For everyone else, however...well, let's just say they need only to think of their most recent opponent to be reminded that redemption is never too far away.

Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs unless otherwise noted/linked.

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