Congratulations and best of luck to the team with Tony Clark and the team with Kaz Matsui as they face off tonight for the honor of championing professional baseball's most venerable league.
How did it come to this? How did it come to the Diamondbacks and the Rockies in the NLCS? The recently insolvent and the eternally obscure? Mountain Standard vs. Mountain Daylight?
Don't take this the wrong way. Those are the two National League teams that deserve to be where they are. They won more games than anybody else, they defeated who they had to, they played the best. And now they are the best.
The Arizona Diamondbacks. The Colorado Rockies. One of them will be in the 2007 World Series. One of them will fall a little short. Neither of them is the New York Mets.
That, based on late-season returns, is to their credit. But would have you seen this coming as recently as, I don't know, three weeks ago? Wasn't this supposed to be our year? And if it wasn't, wouldn't you have thought it would be somebody else's year? Once it wasn't us, maybe it didn't matter, but at no point during the championship season was I thinking “we gotta watch out for the Diamondbacks and Rockies.”
Maybe I should have. Or somebody should have. They proved it where it counted. The Mets have scattered to their televisions, not unlike the Phillies, the Braves, the Dodgers, the Padres, the Cubs, the Brewers and the Cardinals, all of whom seemed more likely to have been in this position at some point since Spring Training convened.
Amazing how the two teams left standing refused to play this game on paper.
I'm at a bit of a loss to discuss with any authority the relative chances of the Rockies or Diamondbacks to advance to a pennant since the last time I watched either of them with total urgency was July 4. The Mets were done with both of them early this year, or should I say, they were each done with the Mets a long time ago. For the record, the Mets took four of seven from Arizona while Colorado beat the Mets four of six times. If a trend emerged from any of those series, it was that the Mets got worse the later it got.
Mets lost three of their final four versus the D'Backs, including two of three at Shea to begin June. You might remember June was the month when it all began to go to hell. Thank your Western Division champions for pushing us downhill.
Mets lost the last four they played against the Rockies, starting the day after the deceptively uplifting Endy drag bunt walkoff. The final three were astoundingly horrific beatdowns at Coors Field that came after the Mets had seemingly righted themselves versus Oakland, St. Louis and Philadelphia. Thank your Wild Card winners for sending us a message. Not their fault we didn't know what to do with it.
What I remember most of all about losing to the Diamondbacks and Rockies was how wrong it felt. It wasn't disappointing. It was unbecoming. We're the Mets! We're supposed to beat teams we hardly ever see and you hardly ever hear about! Enough of these nuisances! When do playoff tickets go on sale?
The sense of entitlement thing really doesn't work for us, does it?
My enthusiasm for the postseason usually runs in inverse proportion to our proximity to it. If we never had much of a chance (like when we were the team with Tony Clark and Kaz Matusi, albeit not quite simultaneously), then October is a delightful autumnal rebirth of baseball. If we were bounced from them or near them, I need at least one round to adjust. I watched little to almost none of the 1988, 1999 and 2006 World Series because I couldn't stand to look at what was supposed to our World Series. The divisional series last week were like that. I had no doubt we didn't deserve to go, but watching a ton of NLDS action that we were supposed to be in the thick of anyway — my Game Five tix are still atop a pile of stuff on my dresser (talk about “if necessary”) — was too much to bear. I checked in with the Diamondbacks and Cubs and the Rockies and Phillies only long enough to know what was going on.
The Mets seem a million miles away from this postseason now. They are happily irrelevant to what remains of our beloved sport in 2007. The fall festival is in full swing and I am ready to join it in progress, Chip Caray be damned. I have no overriding rooting interest in this one. I'll just be glad that National League baseball will be played and played with verve and vitality.
Note: On the off chance you're awaiting the rest of the 2007 retrospective promised on Monday, it should be up next week. Apologies for my lethargy, but it's not like last year is going anywhere soon.