NEW YORK -- Statistically, the Mets are one of the oldest teams in baseball, featuring a 38-year-old starting pitcher in Max Scherzer, a rotation composed entirely of 30-somethings and a lineup stacked with veterans. When the Mets clinched a playoff berth last month in Milwaukee, 18 of the 28 players on their roster were aged 30 or older.
Several of those veterans, however, have been around for years without ever playing in the postseason. In particular, lineup cogs Pete Alonso, Jeff McNeil and Brandon Nimmo will be appearing in their first playoff games. So will relievers Edwin Díaz, Seth Lugo and (if he makes the roster) Trevor Williams, all of whom are in their seventh Major League seasons.
“I’ve never been, so it’s always a special feeling to get that first postseason berth,” McNeil said. “I’m super excited. This team has been fantastic all year, playing great baseball. To be rewarded with a playoff spot feels great.”
When the Mets last qualified for the postseason in 2016, Nimmo and Lugo were rookies who debuted midway through the season. Neither made the team’s NL Wild Card Game roster, and the Mets ultimately lost that game to the Giants.
“Looking back, I got spoiled in the beginning,” Nimmo said, explaining how he believed the Mets would contend for postseason berths every year. “I thought, ‘Well, this is going to be how it goes. We’re going to be competitors for the rest of my career, and more years than not, we’re going to go to the playoffs.’ That’s now how it’s worked out.”
It’s created a unique situation in which the Mets are loaded with veterans but lacking in playoff experience. The longest-tenured Met, Jacob deGrom, appeared in the 2015 playoffs as a rookie but hasn’t thrown a postseason pitch since. Most of the playoff experience on the roster comes from those who signed free-agent deals with the Mets over the winter: Scherzer, Mark Canha, Starling Marte, Eduardo Escobar and Adam Ottavino. Veterans Francisco Lindor and Carlos Carrasco also boast their share of October innings.
The less experienced Mets intend to lean on those players once they reach the playoffs.
“For guys who haven’t done it before,” Nimmo said, “it’s important to learn from someone who has, how to do it and how to conduct yourself once you do.”
The first such lesson occurred on clinch night in the Mets’ clubhouse, where Scherzer unofficially choreographed the team’s celebration. Knowing they still had much work to do in their attempt to hold off the Braves in the NL East race, the Mets did not want to hold an over-the-top party upon clinching a playoff berth. But Scherzer, who has thrown more postseason innings than all but two active MLB starters, considered it important for the Mets to acknowledge their achievement in a tasteful way. He did not want their efforts to go unrecognized in the event that the Mets fell short of the division title, which is ultimately what happened on the penultimate day of the season.
The younger Mets veterans were happy to follow Scherzer’s lead, and will continue to lean on him and other veterans throughout this playoff run.
“We’ve worked so incredibly hard, and we’ve performed,” Alonso said, “and it just feels really good to be able to secure a postseason spot.”