I heard Pedro after the game talk about the mistakes he threw. If he's big enough to own up to his, I'll own up to mine.
1) I wore MARTINEZ 45 to Shea. It was the third time I've worn it this season. The Mets are 0-3 when I've done that. In retrospect, I figure I was asking for it the first two times because Pedro wasn't pitching then. But tonight? Geez. Sorry. Yo, shirt: Back into the drawer until winter. (Give my regards to VAUGHN 42 while you're there.)
2) When Pedro was briefly rolling, retiring the primary Philadelphia banes of our existence, I turned to my companion and remarked what a pleasure it was to have a pitcher who has no problem handling Abreu and Burrell. Ryan Howard hit the next pitch over the left field wall and nothing was ever the same. I hope I mean that in the short-term sense. I will never again say nice things about a future Hall of Famer unless he's up by eight runs after six.
3) With the Cardinals up 2-0 on the Marlins and us up 2-0 and the Braves having beaten the Nats in their first game (though I declared their doubleheader a gimme because there was nobody to root for between them) and the Reds not yet having taken on the Astros, visions of a September 1 that included us at the top of the Wild Card standings began to dance off first base in my head. Thirty-seven seasons of hypercaution gave way to glints of optimism. My sincere apologies for not being more of a wet blanket.
So I'm owning up to my mistakes and I'm willing to suffer the consequences. I'm willing to have Glavine take care of the Phillies Thursday afternoon, willing to have the Mets take two of three and willing to have me absorb the one loss there was to be absorbed in person. Three hours of my life that I'll never get back is a small price to pay to get back to within a half-game of the WC.
Besides, it's not about where we are on September 1. It's about coming home on the afternoon of October 2 and figuring out what time our first-round game is.
WHOA! Who's getting optimistic now? Well, there's wet-blanketing and there's the reason we do this. The reason we do this — be fans beyond all the stuff about how we like to “suffer” for our teams — is to have a September and use it to get to October. As I fought my way through the uninvited, unwanted, unnecessary U.S. Open beautiful-people hordes exiting the 7 (oh Muffy, it's raining…this Flushing place is awful!), I had an extra bounce in my step. Man, I thought, I haven't felt this way since 2000. September's starting and we're good and we're close and we're not done. Has it really taken us this long?
After the Phillies ruined a perfectly good storyline (oh Chase, it's raining…this Flushing place is awful!), I was left to contemplate what September can be like in Metsopotamia.
It's not pretty.
Our most mythic month has had its moments. September '69 and Goodbye Leo, we hate to see ya go! and September '73 and Tug slapping glove to thigh and September '86 when the Mets were so bold that they painted A SEPTEMBER TO REMEMBER at the base of the leftfield wall and handed out pennants every night lest anybody get the idea we wouldn't have one in October. September '88 was at the heart of a 29-8 finishing thrust that kicked sand all over the East and frightened the Dodgers into submission (I fell asleep toward the end that year — what happened in the playoffs?).
Thing is, September hasn't been much of a Met month since 1988, a mere 17 years ago. When the Mets had nothing to play for, it didn't matter what they did. And when they did have something to play for, well, hoo-boy. I suppose it's all kind of irrelevant given that hardly anybody on this team had anything to do with anything that happened more than a couple of years ago, but the Mets have not cashed in on any opportunities presented by any September since Gregg Jefferies was hatched from his pod.
• The Mets couldn't catch the Cubs in September 1989. The Cubs!
• Every pitcher except Doc, especially Frank Viola and John Franco, made a ptui! noise of some sort when confronted with the bit in their mouth in September 1990.
• Bobby Jones' right hand was either too sweaty or too dry, I forget which, in September 1997 during a crucial game at Turner Field. He didn't get out of the first. (What, you thought Al invented that?)
• September 1998, lost last five games, don't wanna talk about it.
• The melodrama of 1999 was exacerbated thirty times over by the Mets' near-fatal collapse that September. It's more fun to relive than it was to live.
• Five years ago tonight, as September 2000 dawned, I was beside myself — it's true, there were actually two of me — with joy because the Mets had pulled ahead of the Braves. No Wild Card pikers us. We were going to capture the actual division title that was rightfully ours (we won the first one, therefore it belongs to us). About five minutes later, the Mets went to St. Louis and lost three straight one-run games, all of them in walkoff fashion. A few days later, following a series of crushing losses that featured a grand slam by Benito Santiago off Benitez in Cincinnati that turned an 8-7 eighth-inning lead into an 11-8 loss, the Mets were thoroughly ensconced in second behind Atlanta. The Wild Card looked dicey for a bit but was preserved. Still…
• September 2001, not a good month in New York to begin with. In his own nefarious way, Brian Jordan made baseball matter here every bit as much as Piazza did. I never thought I'd hurt over baseball again, but only a dozen days passed after 9/11 when Brian Jordan wrecked our miracle comeback, already in progress. Six days later, he wrecked it again. Honestly, as beautiful as Mike's 9/21 shot was, it was Jordan torching our bullpen over (9/23) and over (9/29) that refocused my attention on the Mets. I suppose I owe Brian Jordan some small debt for helping me return to normality and care about a silly game. (Now that's what you call some serious rationalization.)
Well, better that September has the capacity to disappoint than not matter at all. I'll take my chances with whatever lies ahead versus talk of spoilers and callups and hunting and fishing. September has arrived. We're part of the welcoming committee. And we don't necessarily have to wave goodbye when it's over.
The first pitch of the rest of our season is scheduled for 1:10 PM.