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Don’t Miss Out

An Asdrubal Cabrera [1] three-run homer in the 11th to beat the Phillies [2]? What Met fan would say no to that?

Sadly, though, Cabrera’s Saturday night shot will never be more than a faint echo of the one we’ll all remember [3]. That one, off Edubray Ramos [4], came down the stretch last September, when the Mets were fighting furiously for a spot in the play-in game. This one came off Adam Morgan [5], at the end of a meaningless slog of a game amid the embers of a dead season. Later today the Mets will play their final game and disperse. Terry Collins [6], in all likelihood, will no longer be their manager. Some number of his coaches will also become ex-Mets. And that will be it until some new incarnation of the Mets assembles in Florida in February.

Honestly, it will be a mercy after a sour, dispiriting season in which pretty much everything went wrong, often cruelly so. I’ll miss the Mets and watching Mets games, eventually. But it’s going to take a while.

Still, don’t let a horrific season — or the embarrassing spectacle of anonymous knives in departing backs [7] — keep you away from October baseball. Don’t cheat yourself.

In 1988, as a 19-year-old fan, I watched in agony as the Mets came apart against the Dodgers. I can close my eyes and still see awful images. Keith Hernandez [8] fumbling in the mud, unable to reach third base. David Cone [9] and his stupid newspaper column. Mike Scioscia [10] unloading off Dwight Gooden [11] before a stunned Shea. Darryl Strawberry [12] failing to hit a simple fly ball when it was desperately needed. Orel Hershiser [13] here, there and everywhere.

And worst of all, somehow, Gary Carter [14] grimly packing up his catching gear in the visitors’ dugout, even though the Mets had a couple of innings left in Game 7. I screamed at the TV and at him that he couldn’t do that, that the Mets weren’t dead. But I was young and Gary wasn’t. He knew they weren’t coming back against Hershiser. I knew it too but couldn’t bring myself to admit it.

I was crushed. And so I sulked. I told everyone who’d listen as well as everyone who didn’t want to that I had had my fill of Tommy Lasorda and Jay Howell [15] and Hershiser and Scioscia and Kirk Gibson [16] — oh, I had most definitely had my fill of Kirk Gibson — and didn’t need to see the Dodgers play the A’s. I’d sit this one out and watch the Mets take gleeful revenge on their tormentors in 1989.

And so I missed Gibson’s home run off Dennis Eckersley [17] — only one of the most famous homers in the history of the game. I mean sure, I’ve seen it a couple of hundred times. I know Jack Buck’s call by heart and Vin Scully’s summing up, just like you do. But I didn’t see it live, as the culmination of three hours of tension and unscripted drama. I missed that because I was mad at the Mets. And I’ve regretted it ever since.

Baseball’s the greatest artistic achievement yet devised by our species, and every October it brings us an amazing story that seems impossible until it’s written and then feels foreordained. I’ve got my bandwagon teams — I’ll happily root for the Indians, the Twins and the Astros. Or, if it comes to it, I’ll cheer passionately for those perennial October heroes, Not the Yankees. (Not the Yankees are a freaking dynasty, by the way — they’re an impressive 85-27 in World Series history. You could look it up [18].) There are matchups that make me think, “Oh wow, that would be fun,” from Astros/Dodgers to Cubs/Indians II. There’s the madness of the play-in games, and rooting against the Nationals. There’s the chance to watch Jose Altuve [19] and Clayton Kershaw [20] and Bryce Harper [21] and Kris Bryant [22] and Francisco Lindor [23] and Aaron Judge [24] in prime time. There’s the bittersweet promise of checking in with old friends Curtis Granderson [25] and Jay Bruce [26] and Bartolo Colon [27]. There will be heroes nobody sees coming, and goats who deserve far better, and bathing in beer and Champagne, and scoffing at shivering stars of soon-to-be-cancelled FOX sitcoms, and a bizarre controversy or two, and so much more besides.

I don’t know how any of it will turn out. That’s the fun of it. The Mets will be back and maybe they’ll be a little older, wiser and healthier. Until then, though, the big stage belongs to others. And that’s all right — because I still want to know how this story ends.