“Heaven? Whatever gave you the idea that you were in heaven, Mr. Valentine? This IS the OTHER PLACE!”
—”A Nice Place to Visit,” The Twilight Zone
The Mets play the Dodgers Monday night at 6:30 on SNY. They will win. They take on the Yankees Tuesday afternoon at 2:00 on SNY. They will win. Thursday night at 7:30, the Cardinals are the opponents…and the victims. The Mets will win.
They always win, as long as the game has already been played.
By my count, SNY has aired 41 Mets Classics or UltiMET Classics since taking to the air on March 16, 2006. This means the network has been broadcasting, including today, for 1,054 days and has found room on its busy schedule for 41 of what it considers classic Mets games.
Of course much of its programming has been taken up by new Mets games, three seasons' worth, give or take a dozen or so per annum that went to Fox or ESPN (SNY produces Channel 11's telecasts). And often those games are repeated the next day or, if it's an afternoon game, that very night. Almost every game is condensed into Mets Fast Forward as well. Throw in SNY's commitments to Mets studio and entertainment programming along with its other sports news and debate shows, to say nothing of myriad college basketball games and Heartland Poker Tour, and you can't reasonably expect a classic Mets game to be rebroadcast at the drop of a hat.
But we can expect more than 41 across three years. Even if 41 is a most pleasing Met number.
That total is a little misleading, actually. At least sixteen of them appear to be completely out of SNY circulation. Those would be the 1986 postseason wins, that season's division-clincher, the 1969 World Series victories and the complete 2006 NLDS. The September/October '86 deluxe set seemed to be our welcome gift in SNY's first year. The '69ers were dug out of an attic somewhere in '07 and presented in a similar fashion, as if to say “look what we've got!” There is less mystique to the Dodger series, but that was also a limited-run proposition.
So if we're not seeing those sweet sixteen, it leaves us with 25 Mets games in something approaching regular rotation, some more regular than others. From as best as I've been able to absorb from my monitoring of the situation, here are what we get to see as Mets Classics every now and again (and again and again) from the pre-SNY era:
1986 (1): @ San Diego, the 8-2-5 double play
1988 (1): vs. Philadelphia, the division clincher
1991 (2): vs. Los Angeles, Darryl Strawberry's homecoming; @ Philadelphia, David Cone's 19-strikeout performance
1997 (1): @ New York (A), Dave Mlicki's shutout
1998 (1): vs. Milwaukee, Mike Piazza's first Mets game
1999 (3): vs. Milwaukee, Robin Ventura's first grand slam of doubleheader in which he stroked two salamis; vs. New York (A), Matt Franco game-winning pinch-single; @ Cincinnati, Al Leiter wins one-game playoff (this 10/4/99 Classic seems to have gone the way of the '86 postseason)
2000 (2): @ Tokyo, Benny Agbayani grand slam beats Cubs; vs. Atlanta, ten-run eighth inning
2001 (1): vs. Atlanta, Mike Piazza's homer caps first home game following September 11
2005 (2): vs. New York (A), Dae-Sung Koo doubles off Randy Johnson; vs. Los Angeles of Anaheim, Marlon Anderson's inside-the-park home run
The following are from the SportsNet New York era, all but one of them labeled an UltiMET Classic:
2006 (6): vs. Atlanta, Pedro Martinez's 200th win; @ San Francisco, Mets overcome Barry Bonds' ninth-inning homer; vs. New York (A), David Wright's walkoff single; vs. Philadelphia, Carlos Beltran wins 16-inning marathon; vs. St. Louis, Carlos Delgado and Carlos Beltran power Mets to walkoff win; vs. Florida, Mets clinch division (this is labeled a Mets Classic)
2007 (3): vs. Colorado, Endy Chavez's drag bunt wins extra-inning affair; vs. Chicago, five-run ninth inning bests Cubs; vs. Giants, Carlos Delgado blasts homer after Armando Benitez balks Jose Reyes around the bases
2008 (2): vs. Florida, Fernando Tatis walkoff double; vs. Florida, Johan Santana twirls three-hit masterpiece on short rest in final Shea win
How do I say this without being unappreciative for being brought approximately two-dozen rousing Mets victories? Like this, I suppose:
I am sick of them. I have seen almost every one of them as much as I need to for now.
Show me something else. Show me other Mets wins. Show me a compelling Mets loss — that carries historical significance or serves as prelude to an ultimately happier ending — if you have to. Show me more Mets games is what I'm really getting at.
We're 41-0 in Mets Classics. We're at least 20-0 in the games that I've ascertained are more or less still among us. The Leiter game seems off the table. I'm not sure if I'm imagining the sixteen-inning one was UltiMETted; I think it was shown in truncated fashion, but I know I haven't seen it lately. The Phone Company Park game, wherein Brian Bannister pulls up lame, may have been retired after, like Brian himself, being run into the ground.
They've almost all been run into the ground. Don't get me wrong. I'm grateful for a Mets win any time. But do they have to be the same Mets wins? As much as I can while away the hours floating on a cloud of timely hits and clutch outs in my mind, turning on SNY and knowing, by heart, the outcome kind of dulls the thrill. Easley's always gonna homer and Endy's always gonna put down that bunt against the Rockies. Jose is always gonna rattle Armando. Tatis…why is that a classic? I mean, yeah, a win in the twelfth, but the Late Randolph era? Really? And Pedro's 200th win? I love Pedro, I love that we got off to an incredible start in 2006, but we can be done caring about that one now.
This is tricky terrain to complain about. Before SNY, there wasn't much of any old Mets shown. MSG did a little good-faith stuff, like the Todd Pratt game with Murph & Cohen's radio call dubbed in, plus a few vintage highlight films, but MSG was never really in the Mets business. A million years ago, in 1986 for the 25th anniversary season, SportsChannel showed every yearly highlight film (including the ones that celebrated 50-112 campaigns). But nobody was superserving us.
Now nobody is superserving us correctly.
I appreciate that SNY has sort of, kind of tried to do right by us. The first time every one of the aforementioned Classics aired, it came off as anywhere from a moderate thrill to an immense thrill. It's just that there's a real law of diminishing returns at work here. David Wright tags Mariano Rivera in the ninth? On May 19, 2006, it was stupendous. By February 1, 2009, I'm stupefied to the point of having my senses dulled by it.
Half of these games feel exactly the same after a while. We win in our last at-bat or we beat the Yankees, perhaps in our last at-bat. It's the other half or the repertoire that make Mets Classics classic viewing. It's the curios. The Darryl returns to Shea game, which is on Monday night, is an exquisite example. There's a real End of the Empire feel to it, with '80s heroes and '90s nonentities meshing for one final lunge at contention (ultimately aborted, as becomes abundantly clear in the David Cone game). Piazza arriving feels like an accidentally uncovered gem that way. Yes, it has a hook, but we're dropping in on an otherwise inconspicuous game from a band of Mets that never won anything. It's a sneaky classic. It works despite Fran Healy.
Surely there are other games from 1998 or 1991 or any of the seasons that have yet to be deemed containing anything Classic. And surely there are more recent Snighworthy games that didn't air on Snigh. I love the ten-run inning, of course (though I love it a lot more with Gary Cohen than Gary Thorne; same for radio over TV where Marlon Anderson and Cliff Floyd against the Angels are concerned), but how about the Sunday night eleven-run inning from 2006, the one with two grand slams? That would be worth a few viewings. Or instead of the barrage of Pedro beating the Braves in early 2006, what about the Saturday game at Turner Field in midsummer when the Mets pounded the curse to dust once and for all, liberating us from the hell we always felt in Atlanta?
Those were, respectively, ESPN and Fox games. Might SNY have to pay extra to show them? Would it mean there'd be less inherent promotion of the SNY brand? I don't know if those are the problems, but those problems, if those are the problems, aren't my problem. The Mets network should be showing more Mets Classics, not less. They should be combing the archives and doing whatever it takes to fill their schedule with an abundance of Mets broadcasts from through the years, whether it's a great 2006 or 1986 year or a subpar 1996 or 1976 year. If they can't find full games, find footage. It's there. We've seen it on DiamondVision. We've seen it parceled out on Mets Weekly.
We all have a wish list, some of which is probably out of range. We're never going to see all nine innings of the Jimmy Qualls game. We're never going to see every one of Tom Seaver's 19 strikeouts against the Padres as they appeared on Channel 9. We're out of luck if we want games from 1962. But so much more could be shown. So much more can enrapture us and make us hungrier for the next new Mets game and so much more loyal to SNY not because we have to watch it but because we want to watch it.
I don't watch much MSG, but they do one thing brilliantly: MSG Vault. Al Trautwig hosts, usually with a guest, and shows parts of vintage games or promotional films from the Garden archives. Don't have a full 1968 Knicks game? They give us part of it and Trautwig explains it. Why can't the Mets do that? It's a great idea that demands to be ripped off at once. Show some 1965 highlights, bring in Jack Fisher, bookend it with something from some other season, pay Gary or Howie or Ron a few bucks…bam, you've got a show that makes Mets fans happy. Filleting Mariano Rivera isn't the only thing that gives us reason to smile.
SNY has, in many ways, been a boon to Mets fans. Their Web site has plenty of relevant video and mini-shows. They shine a deserving light on MetsBlog, which is more than any “mainstream” outlet would have done with any blog three years ago. I may be biased because I've written for and appeared on Mets Weekly, but I find that an entertaining show. I like Kids Clubhouse even more most of the time, and I'm a kid only at heart. The game telecasts themselves are top-notch. You can't go wrong with Gary, Keith, Ron and Kevin.
But what a waste this network is when it comes to deepening the well of Mets history. Showing the same 41 or 25 or however many games over and over is a start, not a finish.
Keep 'em coming, for crissake. And next Super Bowl Sunday, don't show another Beer Money marathon. A Mets fan always welcomes counterprogramming.
A Faith and Fear salute to the hardy souls who paid one more round of respects to the home of the Super Bowl III champions yesterday. Hundreds of Shea lovers did as promised and toured the demolition site/burial ground Saturday, no matter how cold, no matter how potentially dispiriting. It sounds and looks like it was a great time.
To read more about it, check out the report from our friend Kingman at Loge 13, along with perspectives from pal Zoe at Pick Me Up Some Mets and DyHrdMET at the appropriately named Remembering Shea. Newspaper coverage can be gleaned from Newsday, the the News and the Times (twice), with video via Channel 2 and NY1.
Way to go, Baseball-Feverites.