Wake up Metsies — I think I got something to say to you:
It’s late September and you really should be back in ass-kicking groove.
Perhaps I’m just too nouveau at being nouveau riche, but I don’t think so. Eighteen years, shmeighteen years. It was only a half-dozen ago that we were bound for glory. I remember the 2000 Mets having their act in gear as the regular wound down and the post loomed. Same in ’88, same in ’86, same in ’69. In ’99 and ’73, there was no time to think about momentum. It took all we could muster to arrive where we needed to be.
But never mind the past, at least not the distant version. The last week, once the last bubble from the last bubbly bottle went pop!, our extended champagne wishes and caviar dreams have threatened to curdle into the realm of fantasy. I’ve stocked up on all sorts of division champs goodies (two shirts, two pins, a pennant, a button, a bumper strip, an official program enhanced by another sticker that proclaims us No. 1 in the East), but my commemorative jag is mocking me now. The thrill of being what we are is evaporating. The specter of being no more than that is frightening.
For the first time in 2006, fear is making a run at faith. Hello darkness, my old friend. I rue to talk with you again.
Yeah, yeah, yeah…A-minus lineups and everybody’s resting or recuperating and there’s nothing to play for and Willie’s gotta see what this one and that one can do. But y’know what?
Poppycock. That’s what.
I’ve been to four of the past six games, including last night’s, all losses. The Log’s ’06 chapter has taken an unconscionable hit, dragged down from a hard-earned 9-9 on Clinch Night to 9-13 for posterity. Ugliest record I’ve rolled up since, get this, 1993 (6-10). More losses in any one season except 2001 (23-15). Indicative of anything but my own failure to choose my tickets wisely? Perhaps not. Maybe I’m simply projecting my own narrow trivia onto a larger canvas of angst.
Maybe, but this I’m sure of: The Mets of April to mid-September are in remission. There’s no snap, no crackle, no pop in their play. They’ve gone soggy in milk. There’s a grinch who stole crispness at work and I beseech that monster to give it back at once. Whoville ain’t the same without it.
Quick: Where don’t we have a question mark? Short for sure, third probably. Lo Duca can grind through pain and Beltran isn’t limping. Pen is peaking, no question. But left and right fields are slumping, lumbering jumbles, Valentin shouldn’t switch-hit, Delgado has lost his zip, the bench (save for Endy) is constructed from dead and dying wood and if you see a starter who answers to his real name who makes you feel comfortable, let me know, because after El Duque, I’m El Stumped.
As we speak, the Mets are sore, stiff and stale. They have lacked verve and panache since the first game of the last Dodger series. Since then, they are 6-11. They had a 6-11 ebb in late June, shook it off and returned to being bright and bouncy. Maybe they can do it again, but I’m not prepared to fall back on previous givens like we’re way better than everybody in the National League and look at this lineup and they’ll be ready when the bell rings. I’ve seen almost no sign of any of that.
I love being the 2006 National League East champs. I always will. But goodness gracious, this year is supposed to be about more than that. I decreed it be so 144 games ago. I don’t want to trudge out of Shea Stadium nine nights from now facing a sudden end to what was, for so long, so awesome.
Obviously the Mets need to get well. Fortunately they’re going to their personal health spa, Turner Field, where they have traditionally played themselves into shape, mentally and physically (tradtion est. 2006). Then it’s a few more exhibitions with the Nationals. Then it’s for real.
It was presented with little pomp in the light of the circumstances, but last night’s game was the last home contest of the regular season. It was my 12th consecutive appearance at Shea to commemorate the closing curtain, a custom intended to drench me in closure even if it occasionally soaks me in Offerman. Of course this year, as in ’99 and ’00, there is an encore in the offing, so they didn’t bother with any serious tribute video and certainly nobody tossed a cap into the crowd. They’re gonna need those things.
I showed up earlier than I have most nights, partly to grab one of the available 25,000 Fandinis (no, I have no idea what purpose they serve), partly to stroll the field level concourse with impunity (did you miss me, Daruma of Great Neck sushi stand?), mostly to take in Shea Stadium before it is overrun by the Octoberati. The other six o’clock arrivers did my heart good. I don’t know how they’re fixed for playoff tickets, but I hope they had luck. There was a WIGGINTON 9 and a VAUGHN 42 and a GILKEY 23 and, sitting together so they wouldn’t get their signals crossed, a HUNDLEY 9 and an ISRINGHAUSEN 44, forever for me a battery on the cusp of leading the Mets to greatness on the final Sunday of 1995.
These are fans who aren’t fashionable now and weren’t fashionable then. This is a ballpark that very suddenly has only two seasons left. This was a night to soak in how Joseishly time motors from first to home, how Reyes used to be Rey O, how Valentin used to be Valentine, how one overindulged, over-the-hill J. Franco used to be another overindulged, over-the-hill J. Franco.
Instead, as the Nationals continued to make Metsmeat out of the Mets, I sat and fretted about next week. It’s the best possible thing to fret over and, in a sense, I wouldn’t have it any other way, except possibly to exude confidence and, let’s face it, I wouldn’t be doing a lot of that anyway. I haven’t spent nearly four decades at this without embracing humility by the ton. Praise Omar and his disciples for providing us a next week, even if the last week has gone down like death on a cracker.
When the final home out of the 2006 regular season was recorded, the A/V squad didn’t play one of its morbid faves to usher us out. Instead it went with BTO. Not the standard, triumphant “Takin’ Care of Business,” but the promising, hopefully foreshadowing “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet”. Nice sentiment, though I would point out that we saw plenty for 5-1/2 months…just not a lot lately.