Morning Rewind, 10/22: Murphy mashes Mets into World Series
By JOHN DORN
On June 25, the New York Mets were a game under .500 at 36-37. On October 22, they're headed to the World Series after taking home their first National League pennant in 15 years.
In their first postseason appearance since 2006, the Mets entered as underdogs against an expensive Los Angeles Dodgers team with two potential Cy Young winners on the staff. After sending that team home early -- and ending Don Mattingly's tenure as manager -- they faced an NLCS matchup that was anything but fortuitous.
Playing the Chicago Cubs seven times and losing every time, the Mets had a hill to climb in order to reach the Fall Classic. Going up against the team that knocked off the 100-win St. Louis Cardinals, Chicago seemingly had all the momentum. With Jake Arrieta in their arsenal -- another potential Cy Young winner -- to go along with a lineup packed with young stars, 2015 was looking to be the Cubbies' best chance at reaching their first World Series in 70 years.
Until it wasn't.
The Mets come out firing at home in Game 1 with Matt Harvey on the mound, followed by Noah Syndergaard in the second game -- with both young aces making the Chicago lineup look like the Mets' circa June 2015. By the time Jacob deGrom stunned them once more at Wrigley Field to take a 3-0 lead in the series, it was over. But one last game had to be played.
Rookie Steven Matz failed to go five full innings, but pitched well and Bartolo Colon served once again as a trusty insurance policy out of the pen. But despite raging success and popularity, Colon -- or any other pitcher -- hasn't even been the top-billed Met this October.
That title belongs to NLCS MVP Daniel Murphy, the hottest baseball player on planet earth.
Murphy belted yet another homer in the clincher -- his sixth consecutive game with a home run and his seventh overall this postseason. Backed by back-to-back homers from Lucas Duda and Travis d'Arnaud early, New York mashed their way into the World Series with an 8-3 victory in front of tens of thousands of white "W" flags waving relentlessly.
While it's easy to get lost in Murphymania, somewhat lost in the conversation is David Wright -- the team's 12-year vet who wasn't even sure he'd ever be able to put a Mets uniform on again this past summer. The longest tenured Met missed more than 100 games with a scary case of spinal stenosis, but eventually did return in time for the season's end. After reaching the postseason in 2006 as a 23-year-old budding star, there was a time where Wright admits he took the playoffs for granted.
Unlike the 2006 team -- with a roster was predominantly signed via free agency or traded for -- the 2015 Mets grew from within, finally resulting in a reward for a half-decade in baseball purgatory post-Omar Minaya. Also different from the 97-win team of a near-decade ago: This postseason success wasn't guaranteed for a second. The 2006 Mets could very well have been the best team in the Majors, and dominated their slate from April on through September. This crew didn't appear playoff bound for certain until the season's final month.
After nine emotionally and physically painful years, Wright is not only back in the playoffs, but four wins away from putting a World Series ring on his finger to match the likes of Tom Seaver and Gary Carter.
If Wright serves as the team's emotional backbone, its lifeblood is Terry Collins -- the oldest manager in baseball who has corralled a team of inexperienced promise into National League champions. Brought on board before the 2011 season along with general manager Sandy Alderson, Collins' arrival symbolized a new era, but also a rebuild, and at times seemed like he was merely the placeholder for a more qualified candidate to take over once the building process was complete. Having failed in previous managerial stints in Houston and Anaheim in the 1990s, his hire four years ago was very much an experiment.
But with the Mets, Collins has re-written his managerial legacy, from boisterous hothead to thoughtful general. And while his time is almost up, he's opened the door for the possibility of achieving a tangible prize for his transformation -- in the form of a World Series ring.
As for their American League competition? They'll need to wait to find out, with Game 6 of the ALCS coming Friday and the Toronto Blue Jays a game away from elimination.
But right now, it doesn't matter who will be lining up along the opposite baseline before Game 1 on Tuesday night. After nearly a decade filled with collapses in the standings and in confidence, the Mets are baseball's hottest topic. And not because of innings limits or sobbing shortstops, but because they're playing in the World Series.
Mets 8, Cubs 3
More from AOL.com:
Murphy homers again, Mets sweep Cubs to reach World Series
Former NFL player Chris Kluwe tears into Houston Texans owner Bob McNair over anti-LGBT donation
How every NBA team can be tied to a Taylor Swift song