Thursday – October 19th – 2006
Top of the 9th and the score is 3 to 1 in favor of the St. Louis Cardinals. The Mets are one loss away from post-season elimination. The St. Louis Cardinals are one win away from the World Series. Cliff Floyd has struck out with runners on first and second. Jose Reyes has just lined out to Jim Edmonds in center. Hope is rapidly fading when Carlos Beltran makes his way to the plate to face Adam Wainwright in front of a standing room only crowd of 56,357 screaming Shea fans – yearning desperately for a return to the fall classic.
Wainwright scans the signs from Yadier Molina. Beltran, the 2006 Mets team leader in homeruns and RBI, focuses every ounce of the baseball knowledge he has on Wainwright. He’s prepared. This is the moment every child who’s ever taken a baseball field has dreamt of. The season, the city, everything is now in his hands. The intensity flowing from fan to players to concession stand operators becomes palpable. The drumbeat of “Lets Go Mets”, reminiscent of glory days gone by, echo through Shea’s centerfield speakers. The stands begin to shake rhythmically in anticipation. Wainwright delivers his 1st pitch. Beltran swings…driving a Wainwright curveball high down the right field line.
Time grinds to standstill as the crowd instinctively and collectively holds their breath. Beltran however is far less concerned. He flips his bat with the same exuberance of a Little Leaguer – channeling every emotion into one fluid motion. He knows. Gary Cohen begins to scream “A LOOONG HIGH FLY TO DEEEP RIGHT WILL IT STAY FAIR…IT HIT THE FOUL POLE…IT”S OUTTA HERE, IT’S OUTTA HERE, IT’S OUTTA HERE, IT’S OUTTA HERE…
Present Day – 2012
Of course that never happened, as we know all too well. No we never did get to hear Gary Cohen cement himself into Met history with THAT particular call. Instead we were subjected to Joe Buck’s monotone droning, “And the 0 and 2 pitch; strike 3. The Cardinals are going to the World Series.” Scintillating I know. But somewhere, in some universe, Carlos Beltran and Mets went to the World Series.
How do I know this happened? Simple, Walter Bishop said so. Who the hell is Walter Bishop right? Well to those of us who gather around the flat screens every Friday night at 9pm, you know that Walter Bishop is father to Peter Bishop on the FOX television series Fringe. Walter Bishop is a scientist du-jour, capable of explaining Quantum Mechanics to a 6 year old to whipping up the perfect strawberry milk shake from his genetically engineered cow, Gene, who by the way in one episode, had transferred into him, the “soul” of his friend and fellow scientist William Bell, played by Leonard Nimoy. Fascinating.
I know it sounds crazy but the show’s main premise is that there are “multiverses”; multiple universes that exist just as our very own universe exists with doubles of you and I and everyone in them, all going in there own different directions simultaneously. In the world opposite of Walter Bishop and our universe, many differences exist. Everything from President Kennedy marking his 97th birthday – safe from our timeline’s morbid fate – to the Statue of Liberty representing the Department of Defense, stand out as obvious differences. There’s even the somber notion that in the alternate universe, the White House was the main target and destroyed on 9-11, sparing the World Trade Center.
This theory of multiple universes isn’t all that Hollywood-esque. In fact Albert Einstein while formulating his Theory of Relativity postulated the existence of parallel universes as has physicist Stephen Hawking. So if those guys say it’s possible, well hot damn somewhere someone in a parallel universe is celebrating Felix Millan’s induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
So it got me thinking; what if? What if in some topsy-turvy world, the woes we have felt as Mets fans never existed? Imagine it. Darryl and Doc went on to win another World Series, avoiding their personal demons. What if the Midnight Massacre never took place? It’s such a tempting and seductive thought considering where the team and we as fans stand today. Hell, imagine no Bernie Madoff. Or perhaps imagine a Bernie Madoff that was perhaps legit?
Yes, it’s admittedly hyper-nostalgic if bordering on sad to have these “what if” type dreams. Considering that every so-called expert has the Mets barely outplaying the Chula Vista Little League champs this year, a little harmless indulgence never hurt anyone. Every now and again, we need to realize that as fans, this is just a game and hardly life or death issues. The exception of course – the desire many have to see Bernie Madoff strung up by his soap on a rope in prison. Even the Almighty would probably turn a blind eye to that.
Let us dream shall we?
February 22nd 2007 – Port St. Lucie, Florida
Pedro Martinez arrived at Thomas J. White stadium slim, trim and poised to return to form. After the Mets lost the 2006 World Series to the Detroit Tigers in seven games, Martinez whose season was cut short due to a calf strain and a minor rotator cuff pull walked into manager Willie Randolph’s office with a clean bill of health. He was determined to reclaim his status as staff ace. General Manager Omar Minaya, emboldened by his teams’ World Series appearance and his brand new 3 year $15 million dollar extension, making him the highest paid GM in all of baseball, was given more than just wider latitude by team owner Fred Wilpon. He was also given an additional $40 million in payroll, topping out at a league high $141 million. Minaya spent $15 million of that on Alfonso Soriano who will take his potent bat, but suspect glove to second base at Shea. Also coming into the fold will be 6 time All-Star Kenny Lofton. The 40 year old will shift over to left field to accommodate Beltran and according to Minaya will provide speed at the top of the lineup along with Reyes.
Joining them would be former Houston Astro and Yankee Andy Pettite, who signed a 2-year contract with the Mets. Minaya was quoted by ESPN’s Peter Gammons saying, ‘We needed to add depth and protection to our rotation. Not having Pedro for us during the World Series was definitely a liability. Adding a player like Andy Pettite addresses our needs both during and post season. So with that said, signing Andy was necessary.” The well-seasoned trio of Martinez, Glavine and Pettite proved father time wrong in 2007 as all three went on to pitch over 200 innings each and winning 46 games.
Another anachronism to the aging process was Shawn Green, who was acquired late last year from Arizona. Nary a fan in his right mind expected Shawn Green to revert to his borderline superstar self yet in 2007, Green did just that. Leading the team in RBI with 110, Green along with Wright, Beltran and Delgado, provided more than enough punch as the team scored an unprecedented 980 runs.
July 4th 2007 – 6 days until the All-Star game in San Francisco
As the 2007 season moved along the team announced that the naming rights negotiations to the new stadium being constructed directly across from Shea Stadium had been finalized. The final decision on naming rights came down to offers given by Citigroup and Apple Incorporated, with Apple winning the rights with an offer to pay the team $40 million per year for the next 20 years. Apple co-founder and CEO Steve Jobs along with New York Mets owner and CEO Fred Wilpon and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg spoke to members of the press in front of the partially constructed stadium which is being dubbed “The Big Apple”. Construction should be completed by 2010.
By the All-Star break the Mets were comfortably 12 games ahead of the drifting Atlanta Braves. The Braves having lost 3rd baseman Chipper Jones for the remainder of the season with a torn hamstring found themselves the main topic of more than just Baseball news. Braves team owner Ted Turner, along with thousands of others, were found to be victims of a vast Ponzi scheme orchestrated by Wall Street financier Bernard Madoff, who bilked hundreds of millions from his unsuspecting clients.
The misfortune of the Braves along with the success of the Mets, helped to bring about a 2 year extension for manager Willie Randolph, through to the 2010 season. And by seasons end, the Mets were sitting once again on top of the NL East, winning 99 games, 17 games ahead of the Atlanta Braves.
October 15th 2007 – The 2007 Postseason begins
Having run rough shot through the Colorado Rockies and the Arizona Diamondbacks, sweeping both teams in the Divisional and National League Championship series, the Mets were led by the starting pitching of Martinez, Glavine and Pettite. The three combined for 5 of the 7 wins with Martinez and Pettite winning 2 games each.
“What was even more impressive was their focus under pressure and their ability to give us strong innings. The fact that they (Martinez, Glavine and Pettite) all went deep into the games (each averaged 7 innings per start) was huge, absolutely huge. Well beyond what any of us expected or hoped especially from Pedro.” said a champagne soaked Mets pitching coach Ron Darling as he made room for Commissioner Selig who presented Martinez with the NLCS MVP. Martinez pitched 14 innings allowing only 1 run in his two winning starts.
Leading the team offensively came from two truly unlikely sources. 40 year old veteran Kenny Lofton hit .428 with 2 homeruns and 2 stolen bases, both coming in game 4 of the NLCS and Jose Reyes, who hit .447 with an NLCS record 10 stolen bases. On the downside, Reyes pulled his right hamstring in game 4 after recording his 10th stolen base and had to be carried off the field with the help of manager Willie Randolph and David Wright. The Shea crowd, swelled in the energy of a World Series birth, sat stunned as their catalyst’s season and World Series was now in jeopardy. But would that include the 2007 Amazin’s?
To be continued…