Maybe it was my seat location, only the slightest of strolls from Upper Deck Box 746B. I could see it from Upper Reserved, Section 12, Row C. And I could see all over again what I saw when I sat in 746B on September 30 last.
I saw the end of 2007 — the end that won’t conclude. It’s not Groundhog Day with these Mets. Groundhog Day was funny. This is a team that plays a week late and many dollars short. This is a team that makes me sad.
Remind me all you want that it’s only six games. I can count. I own several calendars and earned an A in logic when I was a college freshman. It’s not logic that draws me magnetically back to Shea Stadium season after season, April after September, ticket price hike after breathtakingly epic decline. It’s not the chance that the Mets might make up a net deficit of one game in the standings and then go on to achieve what they haven’t achieved for more than 21 years. After the first decade without, you stop setting your expectations by world championship possibilities.
Six games deep, a fine, fine season is still possible for 2008. A long winning streak could begin to unspool as soon as Wednesday night, and Tuesday afternoon would go into the books as an unpleasant stumbling block that had all the staying power of Matt Wise. Three or four consecutive Mets batters could each collect a hit; a series of Mets relief pitchers could record scoreless innings in rapid succession; simple ground balls could be transported without incident from the first baseman to whoever’s covering second. A festival of competence and even enthusiasm could break out among the players. The manager’s imagination might possibly stir.
It’s baseball. Anything could happen. Doesn’t mean it will. After the first Home Opener in ten attended that had me returning on my shield instead of with it, I’m not in a mode to see where anything outstanding will happen except for Johan Santana starting every five or six days.
Sorry. Can’t shake September 2007. Can’t watch the 2008 Mets play listless, ineffectual ball and not see much the same cast I saw from a couple of sections over six-some months ago. They were limp then. They’ve failed to stiffen since.
What a downer. What a downer after hours of uppers. It was such a good day there for a while, from the efficiency of the new and surprisingly improved transportation hub to my first-ever experience feeding off somebody else’s meticulously executed tailgate bash to sittings with and sightings of old and great Mets friends to five innings of warmth before the sun ducked toward Corona to the shockingly classy tribute to Bill Shea, the Shea family and everything Shea. They honored the bejeesus out of the man, the clan and the stadium, that sweet Final Season logo plastered on everything from the popcorn boxes to the copiously consumed Bud and Bud Light bottles (there was even a countdown component — life imitates blog?). I wasn’t fazed by the fights, the boos, the annual stilled escalator or the I dunnos from those who couldn’t tell you a blessed thing about the potential replenishment of their merchandise supply. I didn’t even mind the looming presence of that glassy space invader over the outfield fence whose mission it is to plow under for parking everything I’ve held dear across 36 springs, summers and falls. For now, I think of wind-curdling Citi Field as Shea Stadium’s generally benign answer to the B&O Warehouse. As they eerily coexist, I can even imagine the understudied two-ballpark plan regaining traction because, really, if you put aside what’s wrong with Shea, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with Shea.
But the hollow Mets brought me and anybody who didn’t wear a red cap down right quick on what’s supposed to be and usually is one of the happiest days of the year. Losing would figure to do that, but there’s losing and then there’s playing, acting and being utterly defeated. It wasn’t a brand new season full of hope we saw take shape on Tuesday. It was September 31, 2007. And it was damn depressing to watch.