NEW YORK -- I said it, you said it, everybody who wrote or talked about this Series said it: 1986. Up until the top of the eighth inning of this Game 4 of the World Series, the parallels between the 1986 World Series and the 2015 World Series were undeniable and irresistible.
Heading into Saturday night, there was this:
1986 Game 1: Mets lose by 1. Game 2: Mets lose by 6. Game 3: Mets win by 6. 2015 G1: Mets lose by 1 G2: Mets lose by 6 G3: Mets lead 9-3- Jared Diamond (@jareddiamond) October 31, 2015
And then there was the Strat-o-Matic thing. The official simulation had the Mets losing the first two games and winning Game Three. Their big hit in Game Four was, in simulation land, a home run by Michael Conforto. Then, Saturday, Conforto did this:
.@StratOMatic predicted Gordon would HR in a G1 KC win, that KC would win G2, NY wins G3 with Wright HR and wins G4 with Conforto HR.- Jared Diamond (@jareddiamond) November 1, 2015
That was his second homer, making him the second Met to hit two homers in a World Series game. The first? Gary Carter, in 1986! In Game 4! Another parallel!
It is a perfect Mets thing -- a franchise that is constantly shuffling through its past for parallels and historical connections and coincidences, trying to make some sort of sense of the madness it is watching, particularly if it can somehow conjure up that most beloved, entertaining Mets team of all time -- to turn its first World Series in 15 years in a retelling of one 29 years ago. To see what is happening now not as a terrific Series between two of the best teams in baseball scratching and clawing and hissing and expending every bit of energy they have left after seven months of baseball to win a World Series title … but instead as the culmination of a decades-long saga in which their team is the star player and the rest of the universe, particularly the Royals, merely sidenotes. The primary charm of the Mets fan base is its grasp of history, its insistence on remembering every morsel and bit player it met along the journey, from the Kranepools to the Teufels to the Jefferies to the Bonillas to the Agbayanis to the Alfonzos to the Milledges. But this obsession with detail can provide the illusion that the Mets are the only story going on: That the only tale we're all telling is theirs.
Thus: Daniel Murphy's crushing, inexplicable-but-not-really, turn-everything-everyone-thought-to-dust error in the top of the eighth inning will be known forever in Mets lore, a sudden switch from NLCS hero to Buckner-esque goat, just another Mets Mets-ing. It's what we do: The Mets are our perpetual drama. They Mets, therefore we drink.
But maybe we've had it wrong all along: Maybe this has always been a Royals story.
Remember, while the Mets were going through all the pain of the last 29 years, the troubled careers of Darryl Strawberry and Dwight Gooden, the 2000 Series, the Adam Wainwright pitch, the collapses of 2007 and 2008, the Royals were losing too. The Royals were losing worse, and for longer. The Mets have been a wild epic soap opera tragedy with constant twists and turns that we can't stop watching, but the Royals have been far more depressing: They've just been quiet, modest, sullen failures, the sort of barren, depressing novel that never makes the bestseller list and ends up going out of print. They've been going through the same pain Mets fans have, maybe even worse pain. This is their story too. And this is looking like their breakthrough.
After all, if you can take your eyes off Murphy's error for a moment, let's take a look at what happened next. With the score tied 3-3 in the eighth inning of Game 4 after Murphy's bungle, the Royals promptly stepped up and smacked two base hits off Jeurys Familia, the Mets closer who, coming into tonight, had given up only three hits in 12 total postseason innings. No worries for the Royals! A Mike Moustakas single plated one run; a Salvador Perez single plated another one. When Murphy made the error, it was tied, with runners on first and third. Two batters later, the Royals had the lead, which they handed to Wade Davis, and just like that, it was over. (If you'll indulge the briskness of this paragraph's structure and just go along with Yoenis Céspedes' brain freeze to get doubled off as the game ended being classified as "just like that.")
Obviously, that Murphy play was a big error.
And Mets manager Terry Collins wasn't much help either. But again: This isn't the Mets' story. It's the Royals' story. And the Royals' story isn't about Daniel Murphy. It's what it has been about all postseason: The Royals hitting crazy fast fastballs. When you make a mistake, the Royals make you pay for it, again and again and again. For the past two nights, until that eighth inning, we had not seen that patented Royals relentlessness in Queens. But one mistake by Murphy, and here they come. This is what the Royals do: They score runs late, and they break your heart.
The Royals have outscored the Mets 14-2 from the sixth inning on this series. In the ALCS? They outscored the Blue Jays 22-5. In the ALDS? They outscored the Astros 14-6. Do you realize how exciting it must be to cheer for a team that does that? It is an eternal highlight video every night. The Mets think they have a copyright on drama? Look at that!
That's the story of this World Series, and of this season, and of a fan base that has been waiting so, so long for this breakthrough moment. Royals teams in the past have been passive, or quiet, or inept or just pointless. This K.C. team is the open rebuke to all the Royals have been for 30 years. They are brash. They are loud. They like to showboat a little, and mess with their opponents' heads. But more than anything else: They are relentless. It's their signature trait.
The Mets have come a long way to this World Series. But the Royals might have come further. This is the story. This is the team. And it won't be much further to go now. The Royals -- the Kansas City Royals -- are one victory away from winning the World Series. That might not be the conclusion we thought we were getting. But we might have been reading the wrong story all along.