This was always going to be the trickiest part for the Mets, no matter how much the odd arithmetic of this baseball season wanted to insist they weren’t yet buried for good. This was always the thing the 2020 Mets were never able to do with any reasonable amount of consistency:
Win baseball games.
In the end, even in a season when so little makes sense, the Mets were eventually going to be required to put together a winning streak. They were going to have to find a stretch of schedule in which they won more than three games in a row. Only they never did. They never did catch fire — or even nudge the thermostat anywhere north of freezing.
They never won more than three games in a row. Think about that. Think about all the lousy teams you’ve seen across the years. And, sure, I’ll save you time from looking it up: the ’62 Mets, the worst team in the history of baseball, also went through a full 160-game schedule and never won more than three in a row.
But let’s face it:
Do you ever really want to be in the same sentence as the ’62 Mets? For anything?
No, in their own way the 2020 Mets have been their own calamitous monument to underachievement and underperformance, because they actually had expectations attached to this season. Were they in the same class as the Dodgers and the Braves? No. The Yankees or the Athletics? No.
But in a year when eight out of 15 National League teams would qualify for the playoffs, they absolutely should have figured out a way to make the postseason tournament. That they won’t is among the most abject failures in the team’s history, and that particular list isn’t exactly a short one.
And, yes: you can contort yourself as you have the past few weeks, insist the Mets aren’t mathematically done yet, point to all the games the Phillies have with the Rays and the Marlins have with the Yankees. It’s a free country. Dare to dream. But it comes down to the same basic point, the simplest one of all:
Eventually, the Mets have to win some baseball games.
And the 2020 Mets have simply not been good enough to win baseball games. Not enough of them. Never enough of them in a row. Wednesday night was the latest in an endless string of Mets games that left you wanting, start to finish: not enough out of the starting pitcher, Michael Wacha, not enough out of the bullpen arson team of Chasen Shreve/Jeurys Familia/Steven Matz, not enough offense.
Even the ninth inning was a cruel tease, the Rays having turned a 2-2 game after five into an 8-2 rout, the Mets cutting that to 8-5 thanks to a Robinson Cano RBI groundout and a Todd Frazier homer. Then Tampa, sniffing a clinch in the AL East, summoned Nick Anderson, he went good morning/good afternoon/good night on Andres Gimenez.
And the Mets expired a little more.
“We’ve been challenged in a lot of areas,” Mets manager Luis Rojas said. “We were playing catch-up a lot of times.”
Last Rites won’t be officially administered until sometime across the next four days in Washington but this season now, unbelievably, inexcusably, has been reduced to battling the Nationals to avoid last place in the NL East. Look, we can talk about how crazy and bizarre this 60-game season has been, and it has, but it has also been the same rules for everyone, the same schedule, the same challenges.
The Mets just never could win baseball games.
Not enough of them. Never enough of them in a row. For most of September the mantra was: get hot, get in, then take your chances. But the heat never arrived. And now the playoffs won’t either.
“The guys will be pushing again,” Rojas said. “That’s this team’s spirit.”
There were plenty of good players here. It should have been better than this. And people will answer for the fact that it wasn’t. But it isn’t better. It never was. It was never going to be. They could never win enough baseball games.