Mets playing the waiting game during playoff layoff
The way the New York Mets were playing, the last thing they needed was five days off.
No choice, though. That’s exactly what they got. .
After completing a four-game sweep of the Chicago Cubs in the NL Championship Series on Wednesday night, Daniel Murphy and the Mets must wait until next Tuesday to start the World Series in Kansas City. And recent history suggests such a long layoff in October can really be detrimental.
"I don’t know if every team’s the same. You know, we’re going to ride that pitching. And by the way, our pitching right now could use a blow because we’re pushing them pretty hard," manager Terry Collins said Friday. "I’m glad our starters are going to get an extra day."
Nonetheless, baseball is about repetition and timing. So it’s a fair question: Will the National League champs look rested or rusty in the upcoming Series?
"The pros are you can sit back and dig yourself for a couple of days, and that’s always fun to know, right?" Royals manager Ned Yost said this week. "And the cons are, you just get anxious to go. You’ve got to throw maybe some simulated games in batting practice to keep guys sharp."
After winning the ALCS on Friday night, the Royals get three days off themselves before hosting New York. And the Mets might be glad Kansas City, which has won consecutive AL pennants, finished off Toronto in six games.
The last four times a team coming off an LCS sweep faced a team that went the distance to reach the Fall Classic, the club with the extended layoff got wiped out in the World Series.
In fact, the squads with all the extra time off went a combined 2-16 in those World Series games. The last two such Series were sweeps: Boston over Colorado in 2007, and San Francisco over Detroit in 2012.
Those Tigers were managed by Jim Leyland, a longtime mentor to Collins. Leyland also piloted the 2006 Tigers, who swept Oakland in the ALCS but lost the World Series 4-1 to a St. Louis team that went seven games with the Mets in the NLCS.
That performance was particularly sloppy, with Detroit pitchers struggling over and over to make accurate throws to the bases.
"I think he had the better team at that time, but the team that’s playing the best is the team that wins and we’ve got to get ourselves ready to play," Collins said. "That’s why I asked him about all the preparation and stuff and he said, `Listen, play the best players, don’t ever take anything for granted, and by the way there’s nothing you can do between now and when that game starts that’s going to get them ready — except themselves. You can’t simulate a game, you can’t simulate 46,000 people in here, the flag waving, the pressure of 3-2 with the bases loaded.’ So he said, `Go about your job and make sure that guys are prepared and that’s all you can do.’"
Leyland even brought players to Detroit from the Florida instructional league to scrimmage the Tigers, Collins recalled.
"Didn’t help," he said.
General manager Sandy Alderson, however, thought it was indeed a benefit to his 1989 Oakland Athletics when they played their instructional league team in Phoenix during the earthquake-interrupted World Series against San Francisco, Collins said.
"But they had crowds," the manager explained. "So he said he thought it really helped them out."
New York need look no further than the Cubs team it just vanquished to see the potential drawbacks of a layoff. Chicago had three days off after eliminating the rival St. Louis Cardinals in their Division Series and had won 12 of 13 overall before its young sluggers were stopped cold in the NLCS.
The tired Mets, meanwhile, had only one day to relax following a tense, five-game series against the Dodgers that required four cross-country flights in a 10-day span.
"The extra rest we’re going to get right now is going to benefit us more than hurt us," Collins said.
Looking to stay sharp this week, the Mets held a voluntary workout Friday at Citi Field. Collins and his players proudly wore sweats and caps with World Series logos, and it appeared a little more than half the team attended.
Beginning on Saturday, the intensity will increase.
"Tomorrow it’ll be a full-blown thing," Collins said. "We’re going to get some live pitching and some live hitting and some other things. I gave some guys the day off today. You know, we’ve got a couple guys that got a little banged up in Chicago, so I told them, `Listen, let’s use an extra day just to make sure, to give you some extra rest so that when Saturday comes and we start the live pitching, everybody’s ready.’"
Murphy, the NLCS MVP, must be eager to get back in the batter’s box. He’s homered in a record six straight postseason games and had seven overall in the playoffs.
But the time off could do Yoenis Cespedes some good. After exiting the NLCS finale, the slugger received a cortisone injection in his sore left shoulder Thursday and was told not to participate in baseball activities for 24 hours, Mets spokesman Jay Horwitz said.
Cespedes is expected to be ready for the World Series.
In the meantime the Mets were enjoying the break, with several players scheduled to appear Friday night on "Jimmy Kimmel Live."
"We’re fortunate to have taken care of our business quick," reserve infielder Kelly Johnson said. "To be honest with you, it helps guys who are banged up. It helps the rotation. I think we just take the positives and look at those."