Someone once joked “Marriage is about finding that one special person to annoy you the rest of your life.” The same could be said of Baseball fans. In our case, we’ve found the Mets.
On Thursday, April 3rd, the Mets lost to Washington, 8-2 and dropped to 0-3. We’d given up 22 runs in 3 days. It was the first time in history we lost the first 3 games of the season at home. And worst of all, we had another 159 yet to go. That night I did what most Mets fans wanted to do: Drink heavily. I went to the kitchen and much to my chagrin, there was no bottle of Jack Daniels. I did the next best thing and began working on a blog for MMO. Angry, frustrated and yes, pissed off, I banged on the keyboard of my computer like I was Metallica’s Lars Ulrich. I went off on Fred and Jeff Coupon, M. Donald Alderson, the human windmill Ike Davis, Bartolo’s belly and the ‘Yankee in right field.’ I suggested that even Chico Escuela would be an improvement.
Don’t go looking in the archives for the blog cause it ain’t there. After winning 2 of the next 3 from Cincinnati, I deleted the blog before it was posted.
Why was I so annoyed? Because I love this team. I care about this team deeply. Kinda like a marriage. How long have you been with your current husband/wife/boyfriend/girlfriend? Now, how long you’ve cared about the Mets? More than 2 of every 3 marriages fail. Spouses come and go. The Mets are forever. The Mets are the one team that will annoy us for the rest of our life.
A little over a week later, the Mets were leaving Anaheim after getting crushed 14-2. Colon gave up 9 ER in 5 IP. We’d lost 2 of 3 that weekend, lucky to win the one game we did after blowing a lead in the 9th. We were 5-7. Frustrated, exasperated and yes, pissed off yet again, I took out my frustration on my poor, defenseless keyboard. Could I endure another 150 games of this torture? Sandy Alderson says this team will win 90 games??? Is he delusional, suffering dementia or just that out of touch? I posted the blog right around the time the Mets touched down in Phoenix for 3 games against the D-Backs.
Don’t go looking in the archives cause this one because it ain’t there either. (To let you all in on a little secret, with the exception of breaking news or game recaps, most posts pend for 24-48 hours. And thank goodness for that.) After sweeping the D-Backs, outscoring them 21-5, suddenly, somehow, someway, the Mets were amazingly over .500.
And suddenly, somehow, someway, we were playing some pretty good baseball. My own statements began to change. I went from:
SARCASM: Wow, the Mets actually won a game today
GUARDED OPTIMISM: Hey, the Mets won today.
BELIEVING: The Mets won again. Ohhh, boy…
CONFIDENCE: Let’s kick some ass tonight, guys!
Suddenly, somehow, someway, we were playing solid defense (second fewest errors in the league), anemic but timely hitting and pitchers were becoming stingy. Pitching and defense…just like 1969.
We went through 3 closers in 3 weeks. Ike Davis hit a Grand Slam…for Pittsburgh. Matt Harvey appeared flipping the bird: Plenty of fodder to complain about and air my frustrations. But this time, I held back. We were playing well and winning has a tendency to decrease the relevance of such trivial things.
When MLB Network shows their Premier Plays, I still get impressed with good defense. Watching an outfielder stick their glove over the wall and robbing someone of a HR never gets old. Nice! Watching a third baseman snag a line drive destined for the corner, plant his feet and fire across the diamond to nail the batter by half a step always elicits a Wow. And though I shouldn’t admit this, after all these years I still like seeing Derek Jeter do that thing where he leaps, turns in mid-air and fires to first base. Awesome. But when it’s one of our guys, when it’s Daniel Murphy turning a seemingly un-turnable 6-4-3 double play or when Travis d’Arnaud nails the potential tying run at the plate, I don’t say Wow, Nice! or Awesome. I just smile proudly. Those are MY GUYS, MY TEAM, MY METS.
In late 1973, Tug McGraw coined ‘Ya Gotta Believe.’ No one will ever know if Tug really believed it. The fact remains, however, that the Mets went from 5th place on August 31 to within one hit of winning the World Series six weeks later.
And since that unlikely pennant, we fans have repeated Tug’s mantra over and over and over and over. Almost blindly, robotically regurgitating a tired worn-out cliché that originated back during the Nixon administration. Even when the Mets had no legitimate chance, no matter how bleak and how awful our team was, we spewed Ya Gotta Believe. Maybe if we said it often enough there’d be another miracle.
From Seaver to Santana, from Darryl and Dykstra to Dessens and Duda, from Knight to Wright, from Pacella to Pedro to Parnell, from Mazz to Kaz, from Doctor K to Generation K to K-Rod, from Bobby V to Dillon Gee, from John Franco to Matt Franco to Julio Franco, we’ve repeated Tug’s war cry until we ourselves get tired of hearing it.
But is there legitimacy this time? Since starting out 0-3, the Mets have played .652 ball, going 15-8. Granted we’re only 1/6 through the season. But just weeks ago we asked ourselves, ‘Can I take six more months of this torture?’ Perhaps the coming months wont be as hopeless as we anticipated. Who amongst us isn’t—even in a small, tiny, microscopic way—starting to ‘believe?’
Will our pitching hold-up? Can we expect 41-year old Colon to keep it up all year? Will NL batters learn to hit Wheeler? Can our young untested pitchers compete in the heat of a pennant race if we get to the summer and are still playing solid? Maybe, maybe not. But did anyone think we had a chance in 1969?