Adam Wainwright struck out Carlos Beltran in October 2006 to end the last post-season game at Shea Stadium. The next year, the Mets roared out to a big lead in the National League East, but the team felt soft pretty much all year long. Even with a 7 1/2 game lead with 17 games left, it didn’t feel like things were settled. And they weren’t. The Mets lost their entire lead in the last three weeks of the season and lost their playoff spot to the Phillies. Then they collapsed in 2008. Then ownership got sucked into the Madoff thing. Then the dark years came, where winning was something other teams cared about.
Everyone else got to have fun in October, it seemed, except the Mets. In fact, 26 of the 29 other teams have been to the postseason since the last time the Mets were there. And this year looked like more the of same.
As an aside, this year has sucked on a personal level. Health issues, work issues, car issues… The dog wigged out during a storm and gouged a hole in the washer hose that I didn’t see and it flooded the kitchen and my daughter’s room. A former work colleague died.
And there were the Mets. They flew out of the gate at the beginning of the season and gradually got worse and worse and worse until it was just like last year and the year before and the year before. There were injuries and pretty soon they had a guy who 29 other teams passed on, a guy hitting .164, batting cleanup.
On top of all the other crap, this team that I loved since childhood, was once again slouching toward irrelevance.
At the trading deadline, they were on the fringe of the race–better than they’d been in a while, but certainly not good. And they weren’t playing great ball. They blew a huge lead to a bad team (the Padres) at home and that seemed to be it. Then ownership and management did an amazing thing…
They invested in the team. They decided to try to win and made some moves that showed they cared.
Trading deadline moves aren’t always successful. In fact, they made a trade for a guy name Carlos Gomez, then backed out of it. Gomez eventually got traded to the Astros, where he’s been terrible. The Mets made another move to Yeonis Cespedes and caught fire. August was magic. September not quite as magic, but still great.
And then, yesterday, 2007 died. Nine years of frustration died.
I still have some challenging things to deal with, but yesterday, for a day, things were amazing. I don’t have the baseball package this year, so I had to follow a pitch-by-pitch simulation on MLB.com until the ninth inning, when the MLB Network carried updates. Jeurys Familia–the guy who stepped in when the previous closer was suspended for performance-enhancing drugs–struck out Jay Bruce–a guy the Mets almost traded for instead of Cespedes–and nine years and two chokes vanished.
It was 7-2 in the top of the ninth when David Wright came up with two runners on. Wright is the only guy left who was on that 2006 team. His career was in jeopardy earlier this year because of a back injury. His potential career end seemed to be indicative of the Mets’ futility. His home run, the one that the put the game out of reach, was the moment when what happened became real.
This year has been awful. And it’s foolish that 25 guys playing a game 1100 miles away, guys who don’t know me and wouldn’t think of me twice if they did–it’s foolish that their ability to play a child’s game means something to me. And yet it does. It made my day. It showed that change happens and that amazing things are possible.
Why go through all that crap? Why put yourself through all that angst over a stupid baseball team?
This is why.
This morning, I’ll get out the overpriced blue shirt with orange script on the front and I’ll wear it proudly.
Tomorrow may suck, but for today, no matter what, I’ll walk with a bit of spring in my step.