I want a world without gravity
It could be just what I need
I'd watch the stars move close
I'd watch the earth recede
– Jim Carroll (R.I.P.)
This may come as shocking news, so please sit down.
The 2009 New York Mets are not going to the playoffs.
The inevitable became the actual with tonight's 1-0 loss to the soon-to-be-N.L.-East-champion Phillies. And of course, in this season of pain and regret, the choice of executioner was ironic. Wielding the ax was none other than Pedro Martinez.
He was marvelous, he really was. He looked like the Pedro we always thought we were getting, the one we saw all too rarely. His fastball hit 91, his change-up was deadly and he showed the curve just enough to make the other two pitches evil incarnate. And his location — his undoing in too many injury-plagued starts the last two years — was pinpoint. Watching him I thought of his breathtaking duel against Roger Clemens on 2000's Memorial Day. Then, trying for a better ending, I thought of June 3, 1997. He was an Expo then, at the height of his powers, yet found himself hooked up with Bobby Jones as a surprisingly tough opponent. With the score 0-0 in the eighth, the Expos nicked Jones for a run on a Rondell White double. Matt Franco led off the bottom of the eighth, pinch-hitting for an apparently luckless Jones, and rifled a ball over the right-field fence to tie the score. Pedro stayed in, long enough to witness Carlos Baerga double in Edgardo Alfonzo. John Franco got the save (he did sometimes, you could look it up) and after the game the cameras caught Pedro sitting alone in the dugout in despair. He was still there when the lights literally went out.
It wasn't personal, it really wasn't. I was pleased to see the old master out there summoning some more magic from that arm. I wish him well, and bear neither him nor the fickle baseball gods ill will for the fact that he's finally pitching the way he kept claiming he could if given yet another chance. What happened? You got me. Maybe his body just needed time to heal. Maybe he learned something during his convalescence that let him take the final steps in his transformation. Maybe he's just riding a statistical streak. Maybe our karma's just that crummy. Whatever the case, I'm happy for him, and I don't blame the Mets for refusing to roll the dice yet again.
I wish Pedro well, but my team's my team, and he was wearing the wrong uniform. Sure, it was stirring to see him campaigning for close pitches before a packed house trying to carry him across the finish line with cheers and applause. Yes, it was disconcerting to be repeatedly reminded that he was doing it for them, for Rollins & Co. and their hideous fans. Absolutely, it was great drama anyway. (A silver lining: Charlie Manuel's insane decision to put 130 pitches on that fragile arm wasn't my problem.)
But I was more interested in marveling at how well the generally scorned Tim Redding pitched, and pinching myself to verify that Sean Green had somehow not melted down, and applauding Pedro Feliciano for his final defusing of the Philadelphia lineup. And hoping that someone might channel Franco and Baerga, and turn out the lights at Citizens Bank Park.
It wasn't to be: Daniel Murphy made a dumb decision with Pedro running on what had to be vapors of vapors, getting thrown out at third and ensuring Pedro wouldn't have to throw a 1-1 pitch to Jeremy Reed for his 131st pitch. Ryan Madson looked shaky as usual in the ninth, but Jeff Francoeur turned in an amazingly terrible at-bat and Angel Pagan (who also made the final out of the matinee) rocketed a low liner right into Pedro Feliz's glove.
And with that, the 2009 season was mathematically over.
I wanna drift above the borders against my will
I wanna sleep where the angels don't pass
But now my lips are blue
Gravity does it to you
It's like they're pressed against a mirrored glass
We're dead, but the pennant races of better years still live in the pages of Faith and Fear in Flushing: An Intense Personal History of the New York Mets . Get it from Amazon or Barnes & Noble or pick it up at a fine area bookstore. The discussion continues on Facebook.
Come on down to Two Boots Tavern on the Lower East Side for our final AMAZIN' TUESDAY of the season — September 15 at 7:00 PM. Greg (and hopefully I) will be joined by his co-host Jon Springer of Mets By The Numbers as we welcome special guests The Bad Guys Won author Jeff Pearlman and Metstradamus mastermind John Coppinger. And if THAT'S not enough, there will be great pizza, cold beer (the first of which is free if you bring Two Boots owner Phil Hartman a Mets baseball card) and more Met bonhomie than you thought could possibly be scraped together at the end of a year like this. The Mets-Braves game will be on, too, even though it doesn't matter. Seriously, we've had three of these events and every one of them has been a blast, so come on down and have a great Mets time with us.