It was the most important game of the year. If the Mets wanted to make the post-season they needed to win. There was no tomorrow. I prepared myself: A Coke, a handful of pretzels, a fresh pack of cigarettes, my Mets cap, my lucky Mets shirt. And before I even got comfortable, it was over.
A lead-off walk, a single, another single, a double, yet another single, another walk, still another base hit, a hit batsmen just for the hell of it and one more double. Tom Glavine lasted just 1/3 of an inning, the shortest outing of his career. The Marlins sent 12 men to the plate, scored 7 times and sealed the Mets fate on the final day of the season.
Man that was fun! No, the game surely wasn’t. It was heartbreaking to watch my team unravel before my eyes. The entire year shot to hell in 20 agonizing minutes. But yet it was enjoyable. 2007 was like a good movie that had a bad ending—just like 2006. The fact that in game No. 162 the Mets had the post-season within reach was exciting.
When we hear “Mets” and “1980’s” in the same sentence, we can’t help but smile. We immediately conjure up images of Doc and Darryl, Keith and Gary, Darling and Knight. Although things never materialized the way we envisioned, it was a fun and exciting time to be a Mets fan. From 1984 through 1990, our Amazins’ averaged 95 wins, never finishing below 2nd. However, in those seven years, we managed just one Championship and one division title. Not exactly a dynasty.
We older fans have fond memories of the Seaver/Koosman/Matlack days. From 1969 through 1976, our club averaged a respectable 84 wins. Yet during this eight year span, we won just two pennants and one World Series. Good, but not great.
So, why do we regard the eighties and early seventies so highly when we didn’t really dominate? The reason is because at least we were relevant. Each year the Mets had a legitimate shot to make the playoffs. Each year we played meaningful games through September.
This is a big change from the current sad state of our club. Since Alderson has become GM, not only have the Mets not won, but we haven’t even been competitive. We have yet to play an important game after the All-Star Break. Whereas most teams play 162 games, the Mets’ season is, for all intents and purposes, wrapped up after 90. The last 2 ½ months are spent going through the motions of finishing out the schedule.
Mets fans are an interesting bunch. We’re not Yankee fans who deem anything less than a Championship as failure. We’re not Braves fans or Cardinals fans who battle and then always find a way to play into October. Regrettably, we’re turning into Cubs fans where sub-500 finishes and tolerating less than mediocrity is now the acceptable norm.
Alderson is missing one simple fact and it shows how out of touch he is with the fan base. We’re not looking for a dynasty. We’re not looking for a string of championships. We’d be happy with simply being relevant, respectable. Sure, a World Series would be nice, but we’d be content even contending, with fighting for the pennant. Ask yourself, would you rather go through the heartache of a late season collapse or hardly look at the standings after August 1?
Sadly, baseball IS a business. However, it also smacks of politics. Alderson supporters blame “the other guy.” Look at what Alderson inherited they claim. He can only do so much. It’s not his fault. Are we talking about George W. Bush or Omar Minaya? To a man who is unemployed, a single mom who now has to work two part-time jobs to support herself and her children or a family struggling to make ends meet on reduced income, they don’t care whose fault it is; they just want things better. The same can be said for Mets fans. I don’t care whose fault it is. I just want to win. Or at least be relevant.
Those in the Alderson camp are quick to argue that once big contracts come off the books, he’ll have more money to spend. However, many of these are the same fans who condemned Minaya for his big contracts. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.
Some compare what Alderson inherited to what Frank Cashen saw when he came in in 1980. However, Cashen had a harder road ahead of him. Back in the eighties and seventies, making the post-season was harder than it is now. Only 2 out of 12 teams got in — 1 out of 6. You had to earn it. Now, 5 of 15 teams make the playoffs. 1 of every 3, not 1 of every 6. Yet, in spite of the easier path, the Mets have yet to even come close under the Alderson regime.
If the same format that is in place today existed back in the 1980’s, the Cashen-led Mets would have made the post-season every year from 1984 through 1990. Seven straight years of seeing our Mets in October.
Can anyone picture this happening as long as Alderson is in charge?
Another example of how losing has become accepted is Terry Collins. Whatever you think of Collins, the simple fact remains he has not won. Just yesterday, Alderson stated of his manager, “He’s done an excellent job.” (Bartender, I’ll have what he’s drinking.)
Through September 22, Collins has a .463 winning percentage since becoming skipper, only slightly better than Dallas Green and the one and only Jeff Torborg, lower than even the gangsta, Jerry Manuel. Yet, Alderson will most likely be rewarding Collins’ losing ways by bringing him back for more. (Note: the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.) And as Collins and his losing ways will return, Wally Backman–a proven winner both as manager and player—will not even be given a passing thought.
Many of us continue to buy what Alderson is selling….
Yes, The Plan… But yet, the losses pile up as we accept failure.
Five years ago today, Johan Santana won his 15th game, allowing two runs while striking out 10 in a 6-2 win over the Cubs. The Mets pulled to within a game and half of the first place Phillies with five games left. Now, under Alderson, fans are ecstatic that we moved into a tie with the Phillies for third place. Oh, how the mighty have fallen.
The Matt Harvey situation further proves how Alderson has lulled fans into a culture of accepting failure. Harvey is still a question mark for 2014 and yet many are already saying that without our ace next year, we’ll have to bide our time until 2015. HUH??? WHAT??? The 2013 season isn’t even finished yet and already we’re throwing in the towel on 2014???
But that’s what happens when you have a GM who keeps talking about the future, the future, the future…
In 1988, Gary Carter hit just 11 home runs, Keith Hernandez missed two months of the season with injuries, and Bobby Ojeda had a losing record. In spite of this, the Mets still captured the division with 100 victories. Yet, nowadays we lose one pitcher and immediately lose hope.
By comparison, look at the Bronx. The Yankees played the bulk of this year without Derek Jeter and A-Rod, two of their most potent bats and future Hall of Famers (well, at least Jeter.) They also have a 43-year old closer. Yet, in spite of this, the Yankees find themselves in contention for the wildcard. Meanwhile, in Flushing the AlderMets are doing what they do best: Reduced to playing spoiler—again.
Just for the sake of argument, let’s say Harvey is healthy in 2014. Let’s assume he shows no lingering effects and is 100%. Let’s say he picks up where he left off. He dominates the NL again in 2014…and 2015….and 2016. What if he REALLY is another Tom Seaver? Wouldn’t that be great?
However, if he is, then you’re looking at Harvey wanting a salary commensurate with Verlander or Kershaw. Perhaps, even more since he has a taste for the finer things in life. Can anyone picture the frugal Alderson and thrifty Wilpons handing over $23 million a year for 5-6 years? R.A. Dickey won a Cy Young award and he was allowed to walk over $8 million. Jose Reyes, one of the most beloved Mets in the last 20 years, became the first Met to win a batting title and he was discarded like an old rosin bag. Why will things be any different with Harvey?
In a few days, ten different teams will find themselves in the post-season while the Mets clear out their lockers and head home for another winter. Meanwhile, fans from Los Angeles to Boston, and from Oakland to Atlanta, will be cheering for their clubs to bring home a championship. And what will we be doing? We’ll be looking forward to 2014…unless Harvey isn’t healthy which means we’ll be looking forward to 2015…unless Wheeler gets hurt and then we’ll be hopeful about 2016…unless David Wright gets hurt. And so on and so on.
While most baseball fans cling to the age-old hope of “Wait Till Next Year.” Thanks to Alderson, we can cling to the hope of waiting for…the future. It will get here…eventually.