Wasn't John Shelby in our camp one particularly misbegotten spring? I remember being upset about that. Though it wasn't as bad as Jim Leyritz, which prompted Emily's funniest-ever reaction to a Met atrocity, as well as proof that she's a baseball fan of the first order, and hold any grading on the gender curve, thank you:
Me: The Mets did something awful.
Emily: Oh no, what? Is it going to upset me?
Emily: Did they get [name of some player we hated at the time but weren't possibly going to acquire — possibly Chipper]?
Me (briefly baffled that this is what she'd think): What? No. No. Not a major move.
Me: You have to guess. I refuse to say his name.
Emily: This is stupid. I won't get it.
Me: What player would it most upset you to see in a Met uniform?
Emily (instantly): Oh my God, they did NOT get Jimmy the King.
Emily: No! I hate them!
It's funnier, of course, since JTK never made the team. In a similar vein, I enjoyed seeing him during last year's playoffs, being interviewed in his so-three-years-ago Jimmy Cagney roughneck hat and his ridiculous leather jacket covered in team logos, braying his eternal loyalty to the Vertical Swastika. I enjoyed it because the dark legions of the V.S. lost — had they won, I'd still be seething that JTK was the final harbinger of doom.
Thinking back, that '88 debacle was my first brush with personal, adult-sized disappointment at a Mets disaster. Falling short in '84 and '85 (and looking like it would happen in '86) hurt, but it was a kid's hurt, somehow — I dwelled on it, but it didn't infect everything else I did. '88 was different — watching Keith Hernandez crawling through the mud filled me with a personal dread, like I was now fated to go under the wheels of a bus myself, Shelby and Scioscia felt like not being able to breathe, and Game 7 was a long, slow slide into corrosive anger, one I watched all of only because I knew when it ended there would be no more Met games until March. That year I didn't watch a single inning of the World Series — something I've never willingly done since — and friends who knew what a baseball fan I was asked how I could possibly live with myself having missed Gibson's homer. Kirk Gibson? I wanted to see Kirk Gibson like I wanted to see a surprise midterm.
Actually, now that I think about it, the first brush with that kind of disappointment wasn't '88. It was Terry Pendleton's homer in '87. Which suggests that the change wasn't adulthood, but having won it all. Winning changes everything, I suppose, and not all of it's for the better. Oh well. If it happens again anytime soon, I'm pretty sure I'll figure out a way to endure the not-for-the-better part.
(I will now go turn around three times and spit. Sorry, man.)
The worst stomach-punch of them all, though, had to be that second meltdown against the Braves in '01. I was stuck working on the weekend, away from home because of 9/11, and after it had all come unglued (goddamn Armando, goddamn Franco) I really thought I was going to vomit. The only thing I could think of was having read that when you felt nauseous, you were supposed to put your head between your knees. So I did. For about 45 minutes.
Some actually substantive stories today about the bullpen: Looper, DeJean and Felix Heredia are seen as locks, with Bartholome Fortunato and Heath Bell leading the rest of a field that includes the likes of Grant Roberts, Scott Strickland, Todd Van Poppel and Roberto Hernandez. Having Felix Heredia be a lock for your bullpen doesn't strike me as a good thing. Meanwhile, I know the Mets, being a modern baseball team, will opt to watch the Hernandezes and Scott Stewarts of this world blow instead of trying a Fortunato or Bell. Sigh. Oh well, we'll deal with it. As long as Franco doesn't come in to face Brian Jordan.
(I really did turn around three times and spit. I'm insane.)