The Mets, once again, are must-see TV. And as entertaining as the pre-September push had been, with the electricity of Jose Reyes or Yoenis Cespedes’ dramatic power, we’re not referring to the standard-issue, on-field suspense.
No, the real cliffhangers take place after the final score, when Terry Collins steps to the mike. That’s when the Mets deliver the juicy plot twists that leave you awake all night, tossing and turning, wondering what’s next.
Take Wednesday night, when everybody should have been giddy over Kelly Johnson’s tie-breaking, three-run double in the eighth inning, which delivered a 5-2 win over the Marlins. That made it three straight over fading Miami, and nine of 11 for the Mets, who closed to within 1 1/2 games of the Cardinals for the second wild-card spot.
Great stuff, right? Maybe catch a few highlights afterward, brush your teeth, and call it a night? Not so fast.
During this warped summer, the day doesn’t officially end for the Mets — or their increasingly paranoid fan base — until Collins finishes talking. And boy, has he dropped some doozies on us, including Wednesday’s latest, his off-the-cuff announcement that Neil Walker is opting for season-ending surgery to repair a herniated disc in his back.
So after roughly five minutes of extolling the virtues of his never-say-die Mets, from the unflappable Bartolo Colon to the now righty-bashing Wilmer Flores to the veteran savvy of Johnson, Collins paused — maybe for dramatic effect? — before giving us this.
“I do want to get into one thing,” Collins began.
We’ll give the manager this much credit. He doesn’t wait for PR guru Jay Horowitz, aka the Puppy Dog, to prod him anymore, as he famously did at the end of the Noah Syndergaard-may-be-broken news conference earlier this season. Collins just holds off until the last possible moment, right about when we’re reaching for the stop button on our digital recorders, and then — whammo!
Collins may be turning these postgame wrap-ups into ratings gold for SNY, but it’s fraying the nerves of everyone else, who can’t switch the channel until they see the manager stand up and head for the exit. We can hear the conversations at home in the living room. Great win, right dad? Now can I please stay up long enough to hear whether or not my favorite player has contracted malaria while shagging fly balls during BP?
Seriously, the Mets are twisting us into knots, and this Walker news is a beaut, even for them. Earlier in the day, Sandy Alderson told a few reporters that Walker was in fact dealing with a disc problem, but reports of its seriousness were overblown, and there was a good chance that he could finish the season, with regular maintenance. That was important, because Walker had been one of the Mets’ best hitters lately, batting .440 (40-for-91) with seven homers and 15 RBIs in his last 23 games dating to July 27.
A few hours later, still before the game, Collins sounded more worried, and pushed the possibility Walker was going to need surgery, but hopefully not until the season was over. Fine. No need to go to DefCon 1 just yet. We’d all just hold our breaths for Walker to speak about the subject Thursday. Not great, but there still was hope.
And then came Collins’ postgame turn at the podium, when the manager dropped the big one: Walker was indeed through, and he’ll fill you guys in tomorrow. Just like that, the switch-hitting second baseman, the guy with 23 homers, was kaput.
“After all the evidence he’s gathered, that’s where he’s headed,” Collins said. On top of that, the manager seemed just as stunned as we all were — along with the TV audience.
“We’re certainly very disappointed it came to this,” Collins added. “He’s had a tremendous year for us, but it’s his decision.”
That was the kicker. Walker is a pending free agent, and the sooner he gets the surgery, the better chance he’ll be back at full strength for the start of next season, thereby greatly helping his market value this winter. But he’ll have the chance to explain all that Thursday, as Collins let us know.