They all felt something
But I felt nothing
Except the feeling
That this bullshit was absurd
—Diana Morales, A Chorus Line
There’s your team sucking and there’s your team when they suck. It’s admittedly a fine line, but the Mets have decisively crossed it. The Mets are no longer a team sucking. They’re a team that sucks.
They played badly often in 2007, but we knew they were better than that. They played badly often in 2008, but we knew they were better than that. There was even a suspicion for nearly two-thirds of 2009 that their prevailing bad play was a temporary condition, a brief malfunction of the we are experiencing operating difficulties — please stand by nature.
The picture’s no longer fuzzy. It’s as crystal clear as it is unfortunate to our cause. The Mets have ceased to exist as we knew them for the past not quite five seasons. The Mets are no longer a basically good club wandering waywardly until they straighten up and fly right. That path has reached its end point. The Mets are a bad club…a bad club with a third of a season left to kill.
It’s hard to believe some of us were monitoring Wild Card standings as recently as the beginning of this week. I sure was. I saw a faint wisp of hope when we won five in a row against “other” Wild Card contenders. I thought we could inch forward and stay plausible long enough to take on San Francisco when they came to Citi Field in mid-August and maybe inch up a little from there. I didn’t really think we were good enough to compete at that level, but I just wanted the illusion to endure as long as possible.
Then came Tuesday night and Albert Pujols in the role of Dr. Kevorkian, mercifully assisting our team’s suicide with his tenth-inning grand slam. I must confess that as Sean Green faced Pujols, I wasn’t just confident he would give up a death blow; I was not altogether rooting against it. I’d felt like a tool for taking these Mets so seriously so late in their decline, at least a month after they revealed themselves incapable of keeping up with the Phillies let alone the Giants. C’mon Albert, I thought after Green hit DeRosa with the bases loaded to make it 8-7. Just pull the plug on us already, you bastard. Just put us out of our misery.
When he did, it was more of a relief than I expected. My team that played badly long enough to undermine the stretches when they played well in 2007 and 2008 (ultimately leading to two toxic Closing Days that have preyed upon my sanity every damn day since) was not going to sap any more goodwill from my being in 2009 with their endless rounds of Tease & Torment. Once Pujols put them behind 12-7, they were certifiable noncontenders for the duration, not even eligible for “stranger things have happened” miracle contingency. I knew beyond a shadow of plausible doubt they wouldn’t be contending for anything more this year than the challenge of placing nine healthy men on the field — never mind that they weren’t doing so hot there either.
Thus, I could go Wednesday afternoon unburdened by any trace of expectation, free to stop deluding myself that a single Mets game meant anything in the grand scheme of baseball things. Let others eyeball an out-of-town scoreboard or perform “if we can win 27 of the 34 we have left with San Fran, Colorado, Atlanta, Florida, Chicago and Houston…” mental gymnastics as prelude to inevitable letdown. That wasn’t our civic duty anymore.
Wednesday afternoon, despite the senseless indignities visited upon loyal patrons in the name of tone-deaf almighty Policy, was fun. Of course it was fun. I was with my pal, the pulled pork was exquisite and it was a summer weekday afternoon at the ballpark. Plus the Mets won. Did they gain a game on anybody? Keep pace? How the hell would I know? I stopped checking.
Thursday night, however, shorn of Dave Murray, Blue Smoke and seasonable humidity, it really sunk in how there’s nothing left to what’s left. The 2009 Mets were now a contemporary version of any number of their hopeless predecessors whose shortcomings we still know by heart and gut if we got here before 2005. They were, as in days of dismal yore, the Mets who couldn’t patch together a useful Dog Days lineup with a Singer sewing machine. Their starter was one of those heretofore valiant veterans whose tank was empty but was taking the ball nonetheless because there was nobody else to do his job. Their opponent, no matter how feeble on paper, was simply better equipped to play than we were, a commonplace occurrence about to get distressingly more common. Thursday’s rather routine loss went quickly yet seemed to drag on for hours. That it began at 10:05 Eastern made it that much worse. You waited all day for this? Surely there’s something better to watch.
There won’t be much good on SNY between now and October 4. There will be more of this: this void, this emptiness, this whole lotta nothin’. This is what rooting for a bad team is like. This is what it will be like for the next 54 games. Every last one of them, even the wins, will be something like this. There will be no larger point to it except that it’s what you’ve always done, it’s what you always do, it’s what you’ll someday say you always did when it’s not like this — when you persevered as a Mets fan no matter how bad things got in August of 2009.
That day of well-earned hindsight can’t get here soon enough.