ESPN ranked the top 25 goats in World Series history this fall, ranking Bill Buckner No. 1 (hard to argue) and Mariano Rivera No. 2 (callous considering he lost on a 150-foot blooper and others on 400-foot home runs).
You’d have a World Series caliber team of those 25 — Ted Williams, Babe Ruth, Gil Hodges, Curt Flood, Rivera, Dennis Eckersley — if the list was one. And one arbiter (Don Denkinger) if you needed him.
The revised list might include a 2015 Met or two. The Royals are beating the Mets three games to one with their speed, defense, balance, bullpen and resilience, but the Mets are abetting them with their miscues.
From Daniel Murphy’s error which cost Game 4 Saturday to David Wright’s which cost Game 1, to Jeurys Familia’s home run ball in in the ninth inning of Game 1 to Yoenis Cespedes transforming a flyball into one in the first inning, to Cespedes getting doubled off for the final out Saturday, the Mets have mostly blundered at critical moments. Only Michael Conforto, who homered twice Saturday, and Noah Syndergaard, who won Game 3, are exempt.
Mets fans were quick to point out the similarities to the 1986 Series after their Game 3 win: the Mets lost both Game 1s by a run, both Game 2s by 6 runs and won both Game 3s by 6. They didn’t realize the comparison would then switch sides, and Murphy would assume the role of Buckner.
Murphy is probably the Met most responsible for them being here, having homered in six straight games and seven times in the postseason, though he’s just 2-for-13 in the Series, both singles. He’s also now committed the most memorable error in Met history. Given that the latter includes Marv Throneberry, that’s saying something.
A New York Times headline Sunday morning had it just right: Murphy hit them high and far, but couldn’t reach down low.
Murphy acknowledged his miscue and the Mets’ deficit after Game 4, but said the Mets have been in every game.
Too bad the World Series trophy isn’t handed out for participation.
All the talk of Mets’ mistakes, though, detracts from what the Royals are about to accomplish.
They were six outs from being eliminated in Game 4 of the ALDS before rallying to win, nine outs in Game 2 from being tied in the ALCS before rallying to win, two outs from being down 1-0 in Game 1 of the Series before being rallying to win and five outs from being tied in Game 4 of the Series before, yes, rallying to win.
It doesn’t take Columbo to ascertain a pattern.
The Royals benefited from opponents’ errors in all of the above examples: Carlos Correa’s misplay of a ground ball, the Blue Jays mangling of a fly ball, Wright’s and Murphy’s errors in the Series.
But the Royals also haven’t committed those kinds of errors. Or walked two men on base five outs from victory, as the Mets’ Tyler Clippard did, an even more egregious error than Murphy’s.
As a team the Royals don’t often walk — they were 29th during the regular season, behind even the 99-loss Phillies and ahead of just the Marlins, but they did so twice Saturday.
Of all the midseason pickups by contenders, none has been more vital than Ben Zobrist to the Royals. He walks better than any of his new teammates, he hits far better and more powerfully than Omar Infante, whom he replaced, and he switch-hits. Zobrist was the first to walk in the fateful eighth Saturday. It’s safe to assume Infante, who walked nine times in 455 plate appearances and had a .234 on-base percentage before being mercifully benched, would have been swinging at ball four.
Maybe it was a policy error for Mets manager Terry Collins not to go right to Familia, as Ned Yost did to Wade Davis, but it was Familia who gave up the two hits that followed Murphy’s error. And Gordon’s Game 1 home run. Davis hasn’t allowed a run in 9.2 postseason innings this year or his last 19.2 going back to last year’s postseason, or his last 13.2 this year going back to Sept. 24. His postseason ERA is 0.86, or even lower than his 0.94 this year or his 0.97 over the last two.
That sort of encapsulates the Mets’ predicament: 3-1 leads can be overcome, but they have to worry if every error, every base on balls, every gaffe will lead to a Royals’ 3-run rally. And then Davis behind it to prevent one by the Mets.