Jeff McNeil has led the New York Mets to a top-four seed and home-field advantage in the “MLB The Show” players league.
Monday was the final day of the MLB The Show Players League regular season for Jeff McNeil and the New York Mets. The playoff race had been heating up and McNeil was looking to lock himself into a top seed.
That ultimately should’ve driven the viewer count, but it didn’t. McNeil hovered around 1,600 viewers, which has become the norm for him. That’s a shocker considering how tight the playoff race had become and how much McNeil had improved at streaming. Not to mention, McNeil was doing a fan giveaway during the event.
It simply feels like fans aren’t as interested in the league as the players and MLB had hoped. Even the largest player streams rarely top 4,000 viewers. That’s large for a Twitch stream, but it’s an incredibly small fraction of baseball fans.
With the playoffs set to start on May 1, the hope has to be that streaming the games on ESPN, ESPN2, and Fox Sports 1 will increase viewership. That might be true, but even doubling the viewership would lead to just 8,000 sets of eyes.
It’ll be interesting to see if the MLB The Show Players League is a ratings nightmare or a roaring success. Sports fans are starved for entertainment. The NFL Draft hit a record-high 55 million viewers. Will this league be able to challenge that despite its lack of success on Twitch?
Having a major market star like McNeil in the playoffs would certainly help drive the ratings, but will he even have that chance?
McNeil opened his night with a huge game against Gavin Lux and the Los Angeles Dodgers. McNeil came into the game at 18-7 with Lux sporting a record of 19-7. This matchup, simply speaking, played a huge role in the postseason race.
McNeil seemed to take the game lightly to start by sending Steven Matz to the mound, but that turned out to be an amazing decision. Matz threw a shutout first inning and gave the Mets the opportunity to jump out to an early lead.
Matz came back to the mound for a second inning and continued to dominate. He threw a second shutout inning, an achievement that put McNeil on the brink of a huge victory.
McNeil was shut out in the second inning though and had to pitch to win. Dellin Betances thus entered to close things out against the bottom of the Dodgers order. Then, unfortunately, everything fell apart.
Lux earned his first two hits of the game before narrowly escaping a game-ending double play. With two outs and two on, Cody Bellinger stepped to the plate.
McNeil brought in Edwin Diaz to face him and it went about as well as one would expect. Bellinger hit a three-run home run to take a late 3-2 lead. Diaz got Justin Turner out to end the inning, but the damage was done.
Things looked bleak for McNeil when his first two batters were set down in the bottom of the third. On his final out, Alonso ripped a base hit to keep things going, which then brought up Robinson Cano.
Cano did what he’s done all season, and that’s earn clutch hits. He ripped a doubled down the line to bring in Alonso for the tying run. The inning ended when Cano was gunned down trying to extend his double into a triple.
Justin Wilson pitched a shutout top of the fourth and McNeil received his opening. Jeff put the first two batters of the inning on base, but an Amed Rosario pop up left the game up to Jake Marisnick. You never know who the hero’s going to be, and this time, it was the newly acquired Mets outfielder launching a walk-off three-run homer over the left-field fence to give McNeil his first win of the night.
McNeil’s second game was much less tense. He took on one of the worst players in the league in Cole Tucker and the Pittsburgh Pirates.
McNeil and Tucker were scoreless through two innings. Things turned in the top of the third though when McNeil and the Mets offense surged for five runs to take a commanding 5-0 lead.
Seth Lugo was tasked with closing out the game and did so with ease. This was the second no-hitter on the season for McNeil.
The third game of the night came against David Dahl and the Colorado Rockies, who’s also part of the league’s bottom tier of players. Nonetheless, this game was actually a little more competitive.
Jeff sent Michael Wacha to the mound at Coors Field. Dahl took advantage, scoring an early lead on an RBI base hit down the line by Charlie Blackmon.
McNeil answered back with power. Yoenis Cespedes cracked a solo-shot off the foul pole to tie things up in the top of the second. Three batters later, Marisnick did it again, this time with a solo shot to give the Mets a 2-1 lead.
Just like in real life, no lead is safe at Coors Field. Dahl hit a rocket over the right-field wall with Ryan McMahon off Brad Brach to tie the game.
The power returned for McNeil in the top of the third. Conforto and Alonso went back-to-back to give the Mets a 4-2 lead.
Diaz was brought in to close out the game again. This time, he was able to complete the job, but not before allowing two batters to get on base.
The win moved McNeil to 3-0 on the day with just one game left on the season.
McNeil finally faced off against Blake Snell and the Tampa Bay Rays in a matchup that meant little outside of seeding. McNeil was in a battle to secure the third seed while Snell was a win away from earning the top seed.
The Mets were shut out in the top of the first by Charlie Morton, but McNeil countered with Noah Syndergaard. The result wasn’t pretty, as Snell started a hit parade that led to three runs before the inning’s merciful conclusion.
A Marisnick sacrifice fly was able to scratch a run back in the top of the second, but that was all McNeil could muster. A Willy Adames home run put the nail in the coffin for Jeff. Down 4-1 heading into the final inning, all seemed lost.
McNeil attempted to mount a comeback with a two-out double, but it wasn’t enough. A J.D. Davis fly out ended the game, as the defeat dropped McNeil to 3-1 on the day.
The Mets finished the season with a 21-8 record, which places McNeil in a tie for third place with Bo Bichette and the Toronto Blue Jays. Nevertheless, McNeil falls to fourth place in the standings due to the runs-scored tiebreaker.
McNeil scored just 104 runs compared to Bichette’s 127. That means McNeil will play the fifth-place finisher in the playoffs. Jeff will maintain home-field advantage in the first round of the postseason as a result.
McNeil and the Mets are set for playoff action on Friday, May 1. The three-game set will air on either ESPN, ESPN2, or Fox Sports 1. McNeil will face off against Dwight Smith Jr. and the Baltimore Orioles. Jeff won the lone regular-season game between him and Smith by a score of 2-1.