There is doubt. There is no benefit. You lost the benefit of the doubt when you blew a large first-place lead one September and a large enough first-place lead the next September while neither time leaving yourselves any slack to salvage a Wild Card. If you couldn't generate your own slack, we don't need to cut you any.
A long season lies ahead of us. All these seasons are long. Fifteen games prove nothing, but they can indicate plenty, even though we get that those indications can be misleading. If these last few days, particularly Thursday afternoon, was part of an effort in that direction, fine. Mislead us, Mets. Mislead us into thinking this listless brand of baseball you've all but patented is the rule and not the exception. Then surprise the hell out of us with timely hitting and competent pitching. We'll be delightfully surprised. We'll line up at the Taqueria not for fancy tacos but for the mea culpa to go. Every one of us will bring you the “we're sorry we underestimated you” special, each platter as hot, spicy and satisfying as being wrong about you can be.
We want to be wrong about you. Yet we have absolutely no reason to think we are.
You have lined up on your behalf an ocean of fans drenched in passion and dripping with care, as one of your executives noted. Oh boy, do we care. We filled out 18,000 of your bricks in support of what you and your predecessors mean to us. Every one of those bricks damn near screams support for your cause. Your cause is our cause. We have made you our cause across the course of our individual and collective lifetimes. We are passionate. We do care.
Do you? We don't see it. We don't detect any real evidence that being pushed all over the field by the other team really pisses you off anywhere near as much as it pisses us off. We watch and listen to what you do these nights and afternoons and we want to see genuine concern from you. Not that you're trying, but that you're trying your best. Not that it bothers you to lose, but that it bothers you no end. We invest our hope in you and our trust in you. We are savvy enough to know you cannot offer a guaranteed return on our hope. But can we ask you to make good on our trust? That we can trust that you will bust every inch of yourselves when you're out on those fields this season? We didn't see it from St. Louis. We haven't seen it much anywhere. Like I said, we're pretty savvy. We can tell when you're going hellbent and when you're going through the motions.
You've been going through the motions this season. You've been going through the motions for several seasons. You seem to have mistaken motions for emotions, talent for triumph, showing up for coming through.
Do you care what those four letters on your uniform mean to us? You've been wearing “Mets” on the road this week, in case you didn't notice, the first time you guys have worn the team name on your road jersey since 1998, the first year when it said “Mets” on a black top and the black tops were worn occasionally in what we semi-seriously refer to as enemy territory. That's neither here nor there, except I wished you had looked closely at those four letters. Do you feel them at all? Do you understand how many people stand behind you? Do you know that the last time the Mets wore “Mets” on the road as a matter of course was 1986? Do you know anything at all about those hallowed predecessors of yours?
The 1986 Mets lost 54 times in their regular season. But they were never beaten. Do you hear what I'm saying? They competed every day. Sometimes they didn't win. But they never let themselves get beat the way you've been getting beat. Some of their losses, quite frankly, were more inspiring than some of your wins.
It may be ancient history to you, but it's never far from our thoughts. Let me tell you a quick story from this morning. There's a garage where I've been bringing my car forever. Until recently, the guy who owns the shop didn't know I was a Mets fan or maybe I didn't know he was a Mets fan. In any case, after more than two decades of cordially conducting business with each other, we had our first Mets conversation. After trading a few thoughts on how awful you looked the two previous nights, he said, “They have nobody like Dykstra and Backman.”
Dysktra and Backman. Those names still come up every time the Mets are down. I'd suggest you do a little research as to who those guys were, particularly Backman. I contend the Mets have never adequately replaced Wally Backman. Wally Backman would not have allowed this wretched series in St. Louis to transpire as it did. It's not that he was the Albert Pujols of his day — he wasn't. But the Mets being run over with ease as was done by the Cardinals this week? Not on Wally's watch. Or that of most of his teammates.
I could bring up other Mets teams who worked through adversity. It didn't necessarily win them as much as we would have liked, but it always made us feel…made us know being the Mets mattered to them as much being Mets fans matters to us.
Does being the Mets mean anything to you guys? Anything at all?
What it means to be a Mets fan: Faith and Fear in Flushing: An Intense Personal History of the New York Mets, available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble or a bookstore near you. Keep in touch and join the discussion on Facebook.