Watched the Mets finally beat, well, some of the St. Louis Cardinals today, and remembered how cruel baseball can be. No, it wasn't knowing that the season's done, we're cooked, etc., though that stank. It was the matter-of-fact way the calendar had turned to 2006. There were the Cardinals, resting up for October. There was the shocking sight of football, played for keeps when it's still 80 degrees out. (And a few innings after my initial outrage, I was hitting RECALL to see how the Saints were doing.) But mostly, there were the verb tenses. Like O'Brien and Seaver discussing Carlos Beltran hitting another home run for Pedro, and how that had been an early storyline of the season. Tom pointed out that's not such a bad deal, since it would work out to 35 or 36 home runs for the year. Dave acknowledged that but noted that it's not going to happen.
Hey, I thought, whaddya mean it's not gonna happen? Carlos just hit No. 15, so…oh, yeah. He's right. Shit.
'Twas the day of past tenses. Didn't make the playoffs. Failed to catch the Braves. Didn't justify his big contract. All suddenly inarguable, leaving us with nothing more than agate-type goals to arrive at, or to miss. Can Jose Reyes break the single-season mark for steals? Can David Wright beat Gilkey's doubles record? Can he drive in 100? Can Braden Looper retire a lefty in 2005? Can Piazza somehow hit 400 in our uniform? With the exception of the last question, which does hurt (particularly since the answer is “no”), the only sane response is: Who the hell cares?
Well, I care. And so do you. And so do 100,000 or so other souls, to varying degrees. But we all care in such a small-'c' way, compared with what we had to care about less than two weeks ago.
Remember? Ramon Castro smashed an Ugie Urbina slider over the fence for a 6-4 win  and we were half a game out of the wild-card lead? Win the next day and we'd enter September as an if-the-season-ended-today playoff team? Yeah, that was August 30th. August 30, 2005, not 2002 or 1996 or 1971 or 1840, though it sure feels like one of those dates now. August 30th. Christ, that's a paycheck ago. It's still getting over a bad flu or a case of shin splints. It's the same fricking haircut.
What the hell happened to us? Look at the schedule and you might say doom actually arrived a bit earlier, when we got on a plane out of Phoenix and apparently left the bats behind. But still, the offensive slumbers of the San Francisco series would have been forgiven if we'd beaten the Phillies on August 31. We didn't, of course. We lost that game and have lost all but two of the ones since. How many games out of the wild card are we now? I don't know. How the hell can I not know when less than two weeks ago I could do the honors for the top five teams in the hunt?
It's not unfair — baseball's grimly and totally fair — but it sure is cruel. Twelve days ticked off the calendar and it's garbage time. Hell, we can't even have little victories: No sooner do we get Piazza back to continue his last hurrah, even if it's just for sentimental reasons now, then he gets knocked out of the lineup by a deranged reliever.
Twelve days. Twelve fucking days turned summer into winter. What the hell happened to us?