NEW YORK (Reuters) - The New York Mets exceeded expectations with their advance to the World Series this season and now hope to emulate their Kansas City conquerors by going one step better next year.
“When I walked in that clubhouse the other night after Game Five and saw the disappointment on their faces I don’t think there’s any question (they would relish the) challenge next year to return,” manager Terry Collins said on Wednesday.
“And to use that feeling, that ‘hey look, we don’t want to experience this again’ as a motivational factor when we get to (spring training) camp.”
Collins spoke at a Citi Field news conference alongside general manager Sandy Alderson at which the club formally announced a two-year contract extension for the 66-year-old manager, three days after the end of the series.
“Terry did an extraordinary job this year,” said Alderson. “We expected to have a good season, but you never expect to be in the World Series. I think we have as an organization a lot to be proud of with regard to this year.”
The Royals won the best-of-seven for Major League Baseball’s championship by 4-1, one year after falling in the Fall Classic in seven games to the San Francisco Giants.
That is no commonplace feat, however, as Kansas City was the first team in 26 years to win the World Series a season after losing in one.
“I think we all realize how difficult it is to get to the World Series,” Alderson said. “I give the Royals a tremendous amount of credit for being able to do it.
“When you do get to the World Series, get that close, I think it hurts a little more. Twenty-nine teams go home unhappy and in some ways, the 29th team goes home the unhappiest of all.”
Alderson, freed from budgetary restrictions of recent years to add offense and bullpen help at the trade deadline, brought in slugger Yoenis Cespedes and reliever Tyler Clippard among others, and Collins steered them home.
Now Cespedes and Clippard are both free agents, as is the postseason’s home run-happy Daniel Murphy, who is a defensive liability, and Alderson knows there is much work to be done this offseason.
“We’re starting from a higher level of expectation,” acknowledged Alderson.
“Our starting pitching is second to none. We have the quality and we have the depth,” he said about their coveted young starters Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard, and Steven Matz and Zach Wheeler awaiting their turn to shine.
But other areas definitely need improvement.
“Our offense needs to be addressed, either by retaining some of the players that may be free agents, or signing other players,” the general manager said.
“Our bullpen needs a little bit of help,” he said, adding that the Mets’ defense, with six errors in the series, also needed to be better.
Twice the Mets led in the ninth inning and once in the eighth in three of their World Series losses, and they were outscored 15-1 after the seventh inning in the series, which included extra inning games that lasted 14 and 12 innings.
Mets closer Jeurys Familia was charged with three blown saves but was put into ticklish situations in his last two save opportunities.
“If you look at the World Series, we didn’t really hit,” Alderson said. “That put pressure on the pitching and the defense.
“We can’t only rely on the pitchers. We have to figure out ways to score more runs, and at same time to be a little better defensively.”
Said Collins: “We all want to win the World Series. We didn’t, but that doesn’t take away from what we accomplished ... and that was tremendous excitement at Citi Field and a team that we think in the future has a great chance to win.”
Editing by Andrew Both