As we endeavor to complete our 62nd two-game winning streak — and execute our 104th one-game winning streak — of 2006, I think I’ve finally figured out the deal with this team, specifically why every win has us staking out prime viewing spots on Lower Broadway and every loss has us dissecting traffic patterns on the Whitestone Bridge (should I jump or just lie down in the center lane?).
When these Mets win, they look so damn unbeatable that you can’t imagine they’ll ever lose. And when these Mets lose, they look so hopeless, you can’t fathom that they’ll ever win.
For eight innings of Game Six, it seemed impossible that our lovable juggernaut of pitching, defense, timely hitting, crafty baserunning and leadoff homers could technically still be playing its final ball of the year. Of course we were going to win this sixth game. Of course there was going to be a seventh game. I stopped my of courses there out of respect for protocol, but I could connect the dots.
In the top of the ninth, I realized the season could very well be over in a matter of seconds — and no wonder.
We can’t get anybody out!
Why didn’t we score more runs?
Why did we sign this guy for…how many MORE years are we STUCK with him?
COME ON BILLY!!!
I never stood eight innings at Shea Stadium only to end the ninth slumped in my seat as a Met win was secured. I couldn’t stand and I couldn’t cheer. After spending the preceding 24 hours doing my Metsian best to Believe, I couldn’t believe we actually won.
A hundred fifty dollars for that?
Prorated for each Cardinal out and Met run, each of our tickets cost $4.84 per definitively happy element, a bargain at any price if you consider only the contextual thrill of victory and ignore the agony of debit. I’m trying to overlook that earlier in this decade, I paid five bucks to sit in the very same upper deck for an entire game, but it’s hard to argue that that version of Met baseball and this version Met baseball are anything but distant relations.
Closer in resemblance across the pages of our family album are these Mets and my favorite Mets, those of 1999. I thought of them at Woodside around midnight as I awaited the Babylon train. The ’99 team took a more circuitous route to the postseason than this one but it got exactly as far entering last night. They fought their way to a Game Six of an NLCS, still the most incredible baseball game I ever watched, representing both the climax and denouement of the most intense month I’ve ever been a part of as a baseball fan. It took me more than five years to stop thinking about that season’s horrifyingly wonderful stretch drive and that postseason’s dips, climbs and ultimate drop, especially that Game Six, in a continually recurring loop. My life felt defined by the 1999 Mets until Omar and Willie gave me a present which to fully concern myself.
I never got over not so much Kenny Rogers and Ball Four to Andruw Jones, but the lack of a Game Seven in 1999 and what that would have wrought. Rick Reed was going to best Tom Glavine, and the Mets were going to stick it to the Yankees immediately thereafter…I can’t prove it but I know it. 2000 was finer and dandier in terms of bottom-line success, but it never eased the justmissiveness of ’99. Every grim Met thing that followed 2000 served to enlarge the shadow cast by the Game Seven that was never played.
Last night we won Game Six. It wasn’t an epic out of 1999. There was no comeback from 0-5 or 3-7 or a stunning laser to right-center by one future Hall of Famer off another future Hall of Famer (though I’m beginning to like Jose’s chances). This duel did not require a tenth or eleventh inning and it steered blessedly clear of Turner Field. It wasn’t nearly as awesome an NLCS Game Six as the last NLCS Game Six we were in. But oh boy was it better.
Seven years after we missed Game Seven, I came home after we finally made it there. The most recent message in my e-mail queue (filled otherwise with Wagnerian groans) was an invitation from an online wine seller to purchase a new release: Freemark Abbey Bosche Cabernet Sauvignon. I sent one friend one tiny bottle of champagne one time (to replace the one he had confiscated somewhere one month ago) and now I’m on their list. I delete these e-mails as a matter of course, but this time I did a double take.
The vintage they were selling was 1999.
Well, I’m not buying the wine (at $150 a playoff pop, I’m barely buying diet cola), but this morning I figuratively toast my Boys of another September and October, in many ways my Boys of Forever — my Fonzie, my Oly, my Mike, my Robin, my Melvin, my Benny, my Reeder, my stubbornly swinging Shawon, my unstoppable Tank, all of my 1999 Mets up to if not quite encompassing Mr. Rogers since I don’t want to get too cozy with him just in case we meet again in the very, very near future. I’m remembering the thrills you gave me and the Game Seven you tried so hard to include in that package but couldn’t.
We’ve got that Game Seven now. Exactly seven year later, I can finally move on. As can these Mets any hour now. And they can.
Here’s to us then. Here’s to us tonight.
As ever in Flushing, our Faith endures.