We have always been–and always will be–the underdog. As difficult as this is to admit, we will probably always be second class citizens to that other team in New York. We don’t have–and never will have–their storied history. In 1962, with Maris and Mantle coming off a historic assault on Babe Ruth’s HR record, the new team in New York, playing in the dilapidated Polo Grounds, drew almost as many fans. While the Pinstripes had ‘The M & M Boys’ along with Berra and Ford, our beloved Mets countered with ‘Little’ Al Jackson, ‘Hot’ Rod Kanehl and ‘Marvelous’ Marv Throneberry.
So again, I ask ‘Why the Mets?’
Some of the best films to come out of Hollywood play on our emotions as Americans. We find ourselves cheering for the ‘little guy.’ From sports movies like ‘Rocky’ and ‘The Bad News Bears’ and even ‘For Love of The Game’ where Billy Chapel is pitching against not only the Yankees but against time, to watching Erin Brockovich defeat corporate America, we love it every time David slays Goliath. That is at the core of America. Perhaps it goes back to our own roots when a bunch of farmers from Virginia defeated the mighty British empire. Every American loves the underdog. And perhaps, no team captures that spirit more than the New York Mets.
In 1969 we were led by Tom Seaver’s 25 wins, Jerry Koosman’s 2.28 ERA and Cleon Jones’ 340 BA. But still, opposing the powerhouse Baltimore team, the Mets made quick work of the seemingly invincible Orioles. In 86, we entered the post-season heavily favored, armed with 108 victories under our belt. But still, we had to fight back from a 2-0 deficit and a 3-2 deficit, coming from behind late in both games 6 and 7 to claim our championship.
I like to think of the 2007 and 2008 seasons as good movies that just had a bad ending. Safe to say, at the outset of the 09 season, we were hopeful–but apprehensive. Optimistic–but realistic. Coming out of Spring Training, had someone told us that on June 1, we’d be playing without Carlos Delgado, without Jose Reyes, without Ryan Church, with our #3 starter on the DL and with a less than 100% Carlos Beltran, we would have expected to be counting down to Opening Day 2010. However, here we are, 7 games over .500 and just ½ game back.
Guys are stepping to the forefront and taking the lead. Players like Livan and Gary Sheffield and Omir Santos are answering the call of duty and carrying this team. When our bats seem to take a day off, John Maine or Mike Pelfrey seem to reach back for something extra. Guys we never expected. But isn’t that what being the underdog is all about? Will they keep it up? Can we expect a different hero to emerge every day?
In spite of having the 3rd highest payroll in the majors, the Mets once again find themselves as the underdog. We are fighting an uphill battle, trying to dethrone the World Champion Phillies with a team that is nowhere close to 100%. But honestly, isn’t that the way we like it? Isn’t that what makes the Mets ‘the Mets?’
Isn’t that what Champions are made of?