Here we are once again in a painfully all too familiar scenario. For the second consecutive year we are spending September looking over our shoulder. Yet again as October approaches, the Mets can not seem to do anything right. The hot breath we feel on the back of our neck is that of the Phillies. The team 90 miles to the south is threatening to thwart our post-season dreams for a second straight year.
The last several days have been filled with reminders of the infamous ‘Collapse of 2007.’ 7 game lead with 17 left. 7 game lead with 17 left. Yea, I know. I’m sick of hearing it! But I am starting to wonder about this so-called ‘Collapse of 2007.’ As I reflect on this team, I wonder if the seeds were planted a year earlier. Could 2008 be a continuation of the ‘Collapse of 2006.’?
The 2006 season bore an uncanny resemblance to our last championship year. Twenty years had passed, but the 06 season had the look, the feel and the sound of 1986. The similarities were hauntingly familiar. Just like 86, the 06 Mets seemed pre-destined to win it all. It was not a matter of ‘IF’ but a matter of ‘HOW.’
The 2006 club had that swagger, that confidence. And yes, some arrogance as well. Like 86, this team knew they were the best in baseball. Our catchers were colorful and passionate. (Gary Carter and Paul Lo Duca) Our first basemen, Keith Hernandez and Carlos Delgado, played with flare and heart. Our third basemen, Knight and Wright, were the guts of the team, the fire in the belly. Our staff had a crafty veteran LHP, slightly beyond his prime, but yet always seemed ready for the big game. (Tom Glavine and Bobby Ojeda.) Reserve outfielders Kevin Mitchell and Endy Chavez appeared to always be at the right place at the right time. (It was Mitchell who started the rally in the bottom of the 10th in game 6. It was Endy who made ‘The Catch.’) For those conspiracy fans, was it just coincidence that Jesse Orosco and Billy Wagner, both left handed closers, have 11 letters in their name?
Like 86, the 06 Mets crushed the competition and rode roughshod over the National League. No one could stop us. And when the 06 post-season was upon us, the injuries to Pedro and El Duque seemed like nothing more than a minor hurdle.
The post-season began and immediately the word ‘amazin‘ came to mind. Early in the first game of the LDS against the Dodgers, not one but TWO base runners were thrown out at the plate on the same play. If that doesn’t give someone reason to ‘believe,’ nothing will.
After sweeping the seemingly inferior Dodgers, we met STL. Again, this was just a formality. The World Series was ours for the taking.
In spite of the Cardinals having the absolute nerve to battle us for 7 games, we were still confident. The swagger was still present. And David Wright’s single in the bottom of the 1st of Game 7 put us one step closer. But then, a funny thing happened on the way to us claiming what was rightfully ours. The Cardinals refused to bow down. And the Mets refused to deliver the final blow. Our bats went quiet. Jeff Suppan, of all people, seemingly became possessed by the spirit of Walter Johnson. The innings ticked by and the night grew deeper over Flushing. We went to the 9th inning tied at 1. Still, we remained confident.
As Yadier Molina delivered an Aaron Heilman delivery over the wall, Shea became engulfed in a tomblike quiet. But still, the Mets refused to go quietly. After all, this was the New York Mets we’re talking about. We do know a thing or two about great post-season comebacks with our backs to the wall.
We went to the bottom of the 9th, hoping for a miracle. And when Jose Valentin and Endy Chavez singled to lead off the 9th, the ghosts of Octobers past could be heard. Down 3-1, an injured Cliff Floyd hobbled to the plate. (Kirk Gibson anyone?).
But it was not to be. Floyd struck out. Reyes lined out. Then Paul LoDuca managed to walk to first and Carlos Beltran, who had 7 post-season home runs against STL, walked to the plate with the bases loaded. But moments later, Beltran walked back to the dugout and the Cardinals were heading to Detroit.
Not since Bobby Thomson’s Home Run over five decades earlier had there been a bigger HR hit in the history of National League baseball in NY. Since that heartbreaking moment, the Mets have been a ‘different team.’ With a few exceptions here and there, the Mets have been sleepwalking through the last 2 seasons. And it appears the Phillies may again wake us from this nightmare.
The Mets have failed to learn the lesson of 2006. Although we may feel that we ‘deserve’ a championship, twenty nine other teams would disagree. The 1986 Mets believed they were the best team in baseball. And when they confidently strode onto the field, they were prepared to back it up-All opponents be damned. The 2007/2008 Mets believe they are the best team also. But I have yet to see them back it up.
It has become evident the Mets are not only battling Philadelphia. We are also battling ourselves. With less than 2 weeks left, I am worried about the Phillies. But I am more worried about us.