In the interest of Eastern Division solidarity, it's high time we rouse ourselves from our stupor and extend our heartiest congratulations to the Philadelphia Phillies and wish them all the luck in the world as they pursue a world championship. Go get 'em in the NLDS, guys!
Wait a sec…I'm just being handed a bulletin…I see…really?…three straight?…you sure?…no, it's fine…it's more than fine…this is AWESOME!
Um, just to clarify the above remarks, we extend our heartiest congratulations to the Colorado Rockies and wish them all the luck in the world as they pursue a world championship. Go get 'em in the NLCS, guys!
All right, so I haven't had my head that far down in the sand not to have noticed the Rockies made quick work of our nemeses this week. And I'm not so numb that I didn't enjoy the three blinks of an eye it took to complete the division series round in the National League — and not just because it means fewer Frank TV ads. I wouldn't have completely minded the Cubs getting the monkey house off their backs already yet after 99 years, but I can never quite bring myself to root for them even in benign circumstances (probably because they as a people are still sniveling over 1969), so nice job, Diamondbacks. The Rockies' conquest of the Phillies, however, required no sorting of the mixed emotions.
The Phillies are dead! Grab a seat next to us, fellas.
You can't be a Mets fan and not have been drawn to the one intimately familiar presence in those neat-o Martian jerseys the Colorados wear. I've actually read a little grumbling here and there that of all the Rockies to blow the P straight off those red caps, why did it have to be our former shortstop and second baseman Kaz Matsui who led the charge? We liked that somebody was batting .417 and driving in six runs versus Philadelphia…but did it have to be Kaz?
Damn right it had to be Kaz! I for one couldn't be happier that it was our wayward leadoff batter, the world's most misunderstood international superstar during his 2-1/2 years in New York.
Don't take this as revisionist history. I was relieved (relieved more than glad) when Omar Minaya sent him to Denver for Eli Marrero. It was just time to say goodbye to a bad fit and give a player who was given some poor guidance to start over. Kaz's contract was up after '06 and I thought he'd hightail it back to Japan, deciding the grass and dirt infields of America just weren't his kind of playing fields.
But he stayed and he became part of the feelgoodiest story in baseball in 2007. It's not like he put up Rickey Henderson numbers in the leadoff spot for the Rockies, yet he seemed to have truly found himself two-thirds of a continent away. He wasn't Kaz Matsui global savior at Coors Field. He was just Kaz Matsui, baseball player. On a team that never marketed the spit out of him, that was plenty. When he began slicing and dicing the Phillies' pitching staff, it brought a Mr. Met-size smile to my face. True, any Rockie doing that would have generated such grinsome behavior, but it was just nice to see it from Kaz.
There shouldn't be any “well, the Mets let another one get away” misgivings to mull here. We saw it wasn't going to happen here. We saw he wasn't comfortable in Queens. We saw that all his effort was mostly for naught despite flashes between 2004 and 2006 of the kind of offense he delivered in Game Two at Citizens Bank Park. So we shouldn't rue Marrero-for-Matsui nor spite a speck of his success in Colorado.
But we ought to ask ourselves a question: what's wrong with us anyway? As quickly as I would categorize Kaz Matsui among the almost indisputable “he needed a change of scenery” types who have left Shea to blossom elsewhere, I have to wonder why there are so many of those types and if we have a disproportionate share.
Kaz Matsui had to leave the Mets to blossom.
Jason Isringhausen had to leave the Mets to blossom.
Jeff Kent had to leave the Mets to blossom.
Kevin Mitchell had to leave the Mets to blossom.
Mike Scott had to leave the Mets to blossom.
Nolan Ryan had to leave the Mets to blossom.
With everybody leaving and blossoming, how does our garden grow?
Kaz was treated shabbily by the vocal contingent in the stands, no doubt. Kent didn't exactly win over the fans who weren't in the mood to be won over by a drugstore cowboy. But the other fellows in question weren't targets for the boobirds. Maybe country boy Ryan just needed to get regular work. Maybe Scott needed to learn to scuff the ball. Maybe Mitchell wouldn't have been held above suspicion long enough to get the at-bats to become an MVP. Maybe Izzy needed to get his head together and embrace a new role. Maybe none of them were “New York guys”.
But what does it say of New York? What does it say of the Mets and Mets fans? I suppose we've gotten a few in return, guys who came here and were uniquely suited to New York after finding only failure elsewhere, but it's hard to think of too many players who meet the equivalent test. Who was run or driven out of another town only to come here and explode like Matsui has of late or the others did in the course of their careers?
The Hernandezes and Carters and Piazzas weren't in this mode. They were already superstars when they came to New York. And I'm not thinking of an unknown kid like Jerry Grote or a surprising pickup like Rico Brogna or a disregarded journeyman like Rick Reed or a discarded veteran like John Olerud. I'm thinking of somebody else's washout, somebody else's pariah, somebody else's outcast.
I'm still thinking.