David Wright came to the major leagues in 2004, at the age of 21. Two years later, he finished ninth in the National League MVP voting, and the Mets—by then very much on the way to being his Mets—made it to the National League Championship Series, which they lost in Game 7 to the St. Louis Cardinals. The second half of that sentence still represents the sum total of David Wright's postseason experience, although he might have watched a few games on TV at some point, too. Maybe he watched The Natural. I will get back to you on that.
The Mets won 97 regular-season games in 2006, and lost the NLCS to an 83-win Cardinals team that happened to be on the other side of the field when the Tigers puked up the World Series. That horrific play by the Tigers created the most undeserving World Series winner in baseball history, but it was also the Mets. It's always also the Mets.
The Mets first won the World Series in 1969. That team was a bunch of upstarts expected to all jump out of a clown car, spray themselves with silly string, trip over each other, get swept, jump back into the clown car, and back out through the stadium wall at a high speed. Instead, with nobody expecting anything of them, they beat one of the best Orioles team of all time.
After another fallow period, the Mets won the 1986 World Series against a Boston team everyone thought was destined to beat the famed Curse of the Bambino. The Mets didn't just win that World Series, either—they waited until every parent in New England has rushed into their kid's bedroom to wake them up to see their beloved Red Sox win the World Series for the first time in over half a century, and then they collectively suplexed each and every one of them. To be fair, through flexibility heretofore thought physiologically impossible, the Red Sox suplexed themselves, but still, it was also the Mets. It's always also the Mets.
The Mets, historically, do not do well with small gestures, which is why their sudden surge to the top of the National League East in 2015 can work. Because the Mets were done. Finished. It was March, you see, and the Nationals were already the World Series champs. Except, now that we're in the final stretch and all the kids in the Mid-Atlantic area are paying attention—good, hard, stoic attention, the kind they teach you in the military academies pictured in the back of kid's magazines—the Mets have jumped over the Nationals. By a lot, actually! Some might say the Nationals have collapsed like the choking chokers they are, and that would be both true and a little unfair, but it was also the Mets. It's always also the Mets.
The Mets could never develop young pitching, and now they have four of the best young starting pitchers in baseball. This year's Mets could never hit, especially with David Wright sidelined for most of the season by spinal stenosis, which is nearly as scary as it sounds. Then the Mets got Yoenis Cespedes at the trade deadline—and not the Red Sox version from last year, either, but a new model that clubs homer after homer and has been one of the ten best hitters in baseball. FanGraphs says Cespedes has been more valuable than Andrew McCutchen, Buster Posey, Manny Machado, Nelson Cruz, and a whole bunch of other really good players who haven't been as good.
There are all kinds of fatalistic jokes to make at this point (which my superstitious Mets fan editor would doubtless remove), but Cespedes has been great. So has Curtis Granderson, who was a joke of a signing just last season! Lucas Duda has been excellent, too, after spending much of the season in a sad-eyed funk. After the Mets scared the crap out of Wilmer Flores by pretending to trade him at the deadline, he has hit like Mike Trout! Exclamation points! OK, not Mike Trout, I got a bit carried away. Flores has hit like Alex Gordon, that is to say very well, which is a big deal when you're talking about a guy with a career .287 OBP.
Now David Wright is back, and if his health and his team hold up he might see the playoffs for the first time in eight years. This is a lot to ask, given that Wright's got problems not with his back but with his spine and he hasn't played since April and anyway, he came back on Monday night and homered in his first at-bat and the Mets hit eight homers as a team and see you already think I'm kidding. I'm not! It happened against the Phillies, but it happened.
And now the Mets are five and a half games up on those formerly indestructible Nationals. There's still time to make a mess out of it, but the Mets are showing no signs of doing that. They play a shockingly easy schedule down the stretch: only three of their remaining games are against a team with a winning record. The starting pitching is amazing and the hitting is [rubs eyes with steel wool] getting better, and adding David Wright to a lineup is never a bad thing.
So forget the National League East. Now the question is: Could the Mets really win more than the division? They'd need help, of course. Some improvement from their patchwork bullpen would help a great deal, and players like Granderson and Flores will need to keep hitting if the team is going to hang around. Every playoff team needs a little bit of luck, too—the Cardinals that broke the Mets' hearts in that last playoff go-round got to face the '06 Tigers, for instance—but the Mets sure look legitimate at the moment. What's going to happen next? History suggests, well, something weird and dramatic. That's baseball, but that's also always the Mets.