I like to think that I know a lot about Baseball. I know more then some, less then others. One thing I am sure of, however, is the that the season is 162 games. This is one fact that appears to have been forgotten by the 2010 Mets.
The one constant theme of the Mets has been we’ve always been the underdog. And it’s one of those traits that endears this team to us. Even before we played our first game in 1962 the Yankees sought legal action to prevent NL baseball from returning to this city. It’s always been an uphill battle. But we’ve always “believed.” And we believe in this team because of one simple fact: We’ve never given up….Until now.
In 1969, we ran down a supposedly superior Cubs team to win the pennant, out slugged a Braves team loaded with power hitters and then created a miracle by defeating an Orioles team loaded with future Hall of Famers. We never gave up. 1973 saw us upset ‘The Big Red Machine’ and then push the Oakland A’s in the midst of their dynasty to 7 games. We never gave up. In 2000, we met up against the Yankees in the midst of their dynasty. And although the Yankees prevailed, we lost 4 games by a total of 5 runs. Even in 2006, when we were heavily favored, we didn’t give up, loading the bases in the bottom of the 9th of Game 7 of the NLCS. 1986 saw us dominate the season from day one. But that season will be remembered for one thing. Trailing by 2 runs with 2 outs and the bases empty in Game 6, the Mets didn’t give up. One out away from elimination, one strike away from elimination. But we didn’t roll over.
In all fairness to this years team it’s hard to win under extenuating circumstances when everyone is living on borrowed time. Jerry Manuel makes decisions on the field while wondering how he can justify the move after the game if it doesn’t work out. Omar Minaya knows that every decision he makes will be second guessed…and third guessed…and fourth guessed. The players themselves play with one eye on the game and one eye on the clock, wondering where they may be playing next season.
But these outside actions are part of the game. The good teams, winning teams, push these distractions aside and go out and play. I don’t recall any scene in a champagne-spraying clubhouse upon winning a championship and hearing a manager or player saying, ‘Winning it all this year was really easy.’
What frustrates me about this season is the lack of heart, the lack of a fire in the belly. And the willingness to seemingly give up. The season is 162 games and anything can happen. But this years club seemingly threw in the towel long before. The fear of losing replaced the desire to win.
On August 13, 1969, the Mets were in 3rd place, 10 games out, but they didn’t quit. In 1973 we were 10 games under 500 and in 6th place with only 30 games remaining. They didn’t quit. They kept fighting for all 162 games. Did you see that kind of heart in 2010? I sure didn’t. What I see instead is someone hitting a slow roller along the 1st base line to Buckner—and standing motionless in the batters box, assuming the ball will roll foul.
On July 11, 2010, Johan tossed 7 shutout innings, K-Rod picked up his 21st save, we defeated the Braves 3-0 and moved to within 4 games of 1st place heading to the All-Star break. And now our All-Star CFer was returning. Things were looking good. While speaking with reporters, David Wright stated, ‘The road trip after the break is a great test for us, a big challenge.’
Truer words were never spoken. The Mets came out and proceeded to play .286 ball, losing 15 of the next 21. For all intents and purposes, the season was over by the 3rd week of July. Lifelessness became the norm. Lackadaisical play became the routine. Excuses started being made. And the clock kept ticking. Jerry and Omar became lame ducks. We were not out of it by any stretch of the imagination but yet, the players acted as if we were. Instead of attempting to dust ourselves off and turn it up a notch for the last 55-60 games, we rolled over and became a $125 million doormat for the rest of the league to wipe their feet on.
Thanks to the 2010 Mets I now see the difference between losing and giving up.