- Faith and Fear in Flushing - http://www.faithandfearinflushing.com -

Chasing The Clouds Away

Hey partner: Do you remember the 27th night of September?
C'mon, think…six years ago. You and I witnessed what nobody has seen since then, what many of us hope to see tonight.
We saw the Mets clinch at Shea!
WOO-HOO!
OK, it wasn't that woo-hooish. But it happened. Surely one of the six most memorable clinches in Mets history took place on September 27, 2000. The details come swimming back.
There was Joe Torre rapping into a double play, Harrelson to Weis to Clendenon…that was 1969.
There was Glenn Beckert softy lining into the glove of John Milner, the Hammer stepping on first and…that was 1973.
Chico Walker grounds to Backman, who throws to Hernandez and the dream season…was 1986.
The toast of every recent rain delay is Ron Darling, en route to freezing Lance Parrish with strike three…in 1988.
And who could forget Edgardo Alfonzo nabbing a rocket off the bat of Dmitri Young…”Caught! The game is over!…The Mets have won the Wild Card in the National League!”…in 1999.
Those indelible moments are frozen in Mets lore. Thrice at Shea and twice on the road, the Mets preserved last outs of games that won them entry into the postseason tournament. Teammates rushed from the dugout and created a single ball of Mets. The ensuing clubhouse scenes were off the hook.
Off the hook, I tell ya!
Add to that the excitement of September 27, 2000, when…
When…uh…
Damn, what did happen then?
Although it's the only Mets clinching I ever attended, I had to look up that Armando Benitez struck out Keith Lockhart to secure the 2000 Wild Card, a second consecutive playoff bid for the first time in franchise history. I vaguely recalled Rick Reed's very solid eight innings and, once reminded by the boxscore, knew Fonzie had homered. Having taken a 6-1 lead into the ninth (Armando gave up a leadoff shot to Galarraga to make the final a stress-free 6-2), there was no particular suspense to the evening and, unlike 1969, 1973, 1986, 1988 and 1999, no burst of celebration on the field. Certainly no fantasies of rushing it from the stands either.
Were we blasé? Or would it have just felt stupid to have gotten very elated? A little of both, I think.
The last time we clinched a playoff spot was against the Braves. That would have made it kind of sweet except it was one night after the Braves clinched the division against us. We were still trying to win the National League East 24 hours earlier. As ever in that era, we didn't. The Braves' magic number seemed to be 2, but when you factored in tiebreakers, it was 1. Whatever it was, it was quickly 0. The Braves won their 10th consecutive divisional title on September 26, 2000 — we got to see most of that, too (we wisely abandoned Shea before the ninth). The Mets, who had entered September in first place, had to scrounge for first among N.L. seconds yet again.
But they did. Despite their traditional September shenanigans, lagging 1-7 to start the month, our Metsies outlasted a lunge from the Dodgers and Diamondbacks and clinched the Wild Card on September 27. In '99, it was a huge deal. Just clinching the tie on the last day of the season, with Melvin Mora scampering across home plate as Brad Clontz unleashed a wild pitch, was transcendent. In 2000, the process was half-embarrassing. We were clinching against the team that had just clinched the bigger prize over us.
It was something, but it was surely something lesser. The mounted patrol lined the field and the scoreboard flashed something congratulatory and, as was fast becoming custom, a question was pondered regarding who was responsible for releasing more than one canine. But given the context, blasting the Baha Men's recording of that crazy “Who Let The Dogs Out?” was about as nuts as management was willing to go. After Lockhart struck out, the player handshakes were heartier than for a win in May, but they weren't partying like it was 1999. It was 2000. This one felt like the consolation prize.
Up in the upper deck, we were not altogether unhappy, but we spent more time rolling eyes (the mounted patrol…for this?) than slapping palms. The Braves were division champs and probably had to suppress a guffaw that the Mets seemed the least bit happy that they'd finished behind them once more. They couldn't know that the Mets would be smiling a lot longer in October than they would be, but that's another story for another time.
On the 27th night of September, we couldn't see that what we were seeing wouldn't be repeated in the regular season again for at least six years. On the off chance there's something to celebrate tonight, I'm going to try to remember it a lot better.