Mets the World Series favorites? That's not so crazy after all

CHICAGO — The baseball community will have a few days to digest what the Mets did to the Cubs in the NL Championship Series, and what it means for their chances in the World Series. Let's not kid ourselves — no one saw this coming. We're all a little woozy.The Mets didn't just sweep the Cubs, they embarrassed them, and practically knocked down the door to their first pennant in 15 years. After the 8-3 victory in Game 4, finishing off the sweep, none other than Pedro Martinez was tweeting the Mets can win it all. NLCS 2015: Top NLCS photos | Mets use familiar formula to finish Cubs | Cespedes soreCrazy? Hardly. That's how unstoppable the Mets looked taking a 4-0 lead in the first inning, as Lucas Duda and Travis d'Arnaud hit back-to-back homers. And when Duda drove in two more runs in the second, widening the lead to 6-0, the rest of the night turned into calisthenics for the Fall Classic.Joe Maddon wasn't exaggerating when he said, "(the Mets) did not let us up for air at any point." They never trailed in any of the four games, the first National League team to do so in a best-of-seven series since the 1995 Braves.No wonder the Mets turned Wrigley Field into their private Animal House after the last out. They mobbed each other on the field, thundering back slaps and primal whoops that could be heard all over the ballpark. That's because Cubs fans were too stunned to make any noise. Even at the outset, they seemed more curious than enthusiastic, like they'd come to see a public flogging.By midnight, the only commotion came from behind the visitors' dugout, where several hundred Mets fans thundered a chant of "Let's Go Mets" and belted out the "Meet The Mets" jingle for more than an hour.It was hard to blame them for the miniature riot. It's been 15 years since the Mets won their last pennant, a drought that turned into a cry for help over the past six seasons of sub.-500 ball. The Mets were supposed to wallow in another summer of mediocrity in 2015 — and might have, had GM Sandy Alderson not bestowed the lineup with a makeover: Yoenis Cespedes and Juan Uribe and Kelly Johnson arrived. Finally, the Mets had decided to go for it.Even so, no one knew the Mets' offense would become the NL's best after August 1. No one was counting on David Wright coming back from a devastating diagnosis of spinal stenosis.The changes turned the Mets into a nearly unrecognizable force in the National League. They were better than the Nationals. They exposed the Dodgers as a flawed team that couldn't flourish in October with only two starting pitchers. And the Mets were tougher than the Cubs, who never recovered after Jon Lester and Jake Arrieta were beaten in Games 1 and 2 at Citi Field.And there's one other factor that should worry the eventual American League champion: no one's been able to solve Daniel Murphy. He hit another HR on Wednesday, his seventh of the postseason, finishing a brilliant night, going 4-for-5, and an unconscious NLCS. The second baseman batted .529 (9-of-17) and drew comparisons to Barry Bonds.And that didn't sound crazy, either."I've not seen anything like this, I don't think, ever,"

Maddon said. "I saw Bonds in the 2002 World Series where you did not want to throw a baseball to him as a pitcher. Right now it's just incredible, line drive to left, homer to right or homer to center. (Murphy) looks like he's going to hit the ball hard on every pitch."Murphy has no idea where his power has come from, but everyone agrees it's more than a fluke. He posted a .553 slugging percentage after Aug. 1, having worked with hitting instructor Kevin Long to pull the ball and affect an uppercut in his swing.Still, this isn't to say the Mets emerged unscathed. Cespedes had to leave Wednesday's game after two at-bats because of a sore shoulder. Team officials don't think the injury is serious enough to keep him out of the lineup when the World Series opens Tuesday, but he'll be watched closely as the club works out over the weekend.The Mets will monitor Jacob deGrom, as well. He didn't have his elite fastball over the past two starts — Game 3 against the Cubs and, before that, Game 5 of the NLDS against the Dodgers. DeGrom, at a career-high 220 innings, 80 more than last season, looks tired and could use a week off. Lucky for the Mets that Matt Harvey didn't have to pitch a second time against the Cubs, which means he'll be on the mound for Game 1 on Tuesday.There's one more coefficient to plug into this equation and that's Collins himself. His boundless energy and can-do attitude has rubbed off on the Mets, who, because of their manager believe they're invincible. After beating Zack Greinke in that decisive Game 5 in LA, the Mets walked away convinced a world championship was in their grasp.They might be right. If so, no one would be more appreciative than Collins, who took a moment to appreciate the arc of his career. In 10 previous seasons of managing, Collins had never made it to the postseason, let alone won a pennant. Finally, he's broken through, smiling a smile that was a grown man's substitute for tears."I'm sitting there (in the dugout) thinking, 'Holy crap, now you're in it after all these years,'" Collins said. "It was worth the wait. It was worth all the work."Bob Klapisch covers baseball for The Record of Woodland Park, N.J.