Todd Frazier is officially a Met! Which means Mike Moustakas isn’t! News like this demands exclamation points late in an ellipsis kind of winter.
Yet I am delighted enough to punctuate with enthusiasm, not so much because Frazier is a name-brand free agent who’s signed for only two years (I generally fall for those, regardless of how many metrics are quoted cautioning me against ebullience) or because Frazier’s presence shifts Asdrubal Cabrera to second base (even as it sadly casts David Wright further into the shadows), but because it completely closed the door on any vague chance the Mets might have pursued Moustakas coming off his career-high 38-homer output. The odds were long they would have gone after him, but you can never be too careful.
“Boo Yankees” is a good Mets fan policy. Boo Yankees from any year, the most recent, allegedly likable one included. Boo Yankees always and forever. “It’s a part of our lifestyle,” as Jerry Seinfeld once said about other activities. Boo Frazier growing up a Yankees fan and taking to the Yankees with such ease, though he is doing a good job of putting that unpleasantness — including his commandeering for unsavory purposes the gesture Mets fan Gary Dunaier was caught making at Citi Field during the hurricane-displaced Rays’ home game in Queens versus local competition visiting from the Bronx — behind him. Boo all that, as most of us will.
But boo the 2015 Kansas Royals at this late date and the foreseeable future. I can’t stand them more than two years after they committed the crime of absconding with our third world championship. There exists no scenario in which I plan to commence standing them.
I’d rather have a 2017 Yankee join the 2018 Mets than be forced to embrace as ours a 2015 Royal. We’ve had plenty of former Yankees dress as Mets, some so convincingly that we could forget they were Yankees. Yogi Berra and Frazier’s Toms River landsman Al Leiter are classic examples, Bartolo Colon and Curtis Granderson recent ones. Casey Stengel successfully shook off his prior affiliation and invented us as only Casey Stengel could have. Frazier comes to us unclean, but we can make him ours for the short term. Gene Woodling. Ralph Terry. Jack Aker. Rick Cerone. The last benign season of second baseman Willie Randolph and the less uptight seasons of manager Willie Randolph. A few productive swings, a few smiles for the camera, we’ll judge Todd on Todd, not on that abysmal thumbs-down business which made Frazier a Yankee icon for five minutes.
I couldn’t have made Moustakas ours. Not that there was much chance the Mets were going to ante up for a third baseman who’d have likely merited a larger, longer deal (though in this market, who can tell?), but when I heard Moustakas mentioned as a Met possibility, I cringed. Same for when Lorenzo Cain’s name was bandied about as a potential outfield fit, same for when Eric Hosmer was dreamed up as the ideal first base investment.
Phooey on the lot of them. Phooey on the 2015 Kansas City Royals who beat the 2015 New York Mets. Still. Probably forever. No kidding. Keep them off my team.
Behold the postseason grudge, which, like a banner once said of Ron Swoboda, is stronger than dirt. Postseason opponents can stick in the craw long after the series in which they became foes fade into memory. As the distance between now and then expands, my personal Grudge Report offers this scoop: I still can’t stand those Royals. I don’t have it in me to forgive and I’m not prone to forget.
Postseason enmity is an intense creature, different from that forged toward a division rival (unless it’s one and the same, which has happened once in Mets history). It’s a chronologically fleeting phenomenon, but the time put into it is some of the most textured you will know as a fan. This isn’t “who are we playing tomorrow?” This is resentment compressed into a handy carrying case, large enough to tote around an instantly growing chip on your shoulder. You learn the identity of your opposition and you obsess on them ASAP. You stoke postseason enmity for the longest days of your rooting life. You are completely immersed in bile you didn’t know you could gin up. Could be a night. Could be closer to a fortnight. And then you theoretically move on.
The hell you do. Or the hell I do. The grudge can be selective, but when it elects to endure, it doesn’t shake hands and wish you all the best.
For example, I hated the Baltimore Orioles the first time I saw them, which happened to be the 1969 World Series. We won, but I kept hating them. I hated them in the 1970 World Series and the 1971 World Series and every ALCS in which they competed through 1974. I only lightened up when I fathomed the sole alternative to Oriole success was Yankee success. After a while, the present-day Orioles, whatever the present day happened to be, didn’t necessarily move me one way or the other. Yet in 1999, thirty years removed from my initial exposure to them, when I was stunned to find myself at a baseball banquet mere feet from Frank Robinson and Brooks Robinson — absolute greats of the game, zero argument from me — my inner child threw a tantrum. Those were 1969 Baltimore Orioles. Get them out of my face.
No members of the 1969 Orioles, at least not those who played in the World Series, ever played for the Mets, though one of them managed us to the 1986 world championship. I never held 1969 Orioleness against Davey Johnson or, for that matter, GM Frank Cashen. I wasn’t thrilled at the job their pitching coach, George Bamberger, did as our manager in 1982 and 1983, but that was on merit more than background. I will probably give our new pitching coach, Dave Eiland, a pass despite his having held the same post for Kansas City during a very inconvenient week in 2015. While I was grumbling at the likes of Moustakas, Cain and Hosmer that fall, I really wasn’t focused on who was in their dugout calling their bullpen.
The very first Mets postseason opponent was the 1969 Atlanta Braves. They made no negative impression on me whatsoever, probably because we were done with them in three straight and, at six years old, I was only grasping how much ire I should entertain for a team existing only to beat us. By 1970, I held no specific animus for the team that dared to stand between us and the World Series. Besides, they had Hank Aaron. Who of a decent and sane nature could have it in for anything associated with Hank Aaron? They also had three future Mets in Bob Aspromonte, Felix Millan and George Stone, the latter two turning out to be instrumental in our 1973 pennant. I harbored no internal conflict during their Metropolitan tenure.
I had it in for the Cincinnati Reds for a few years after the heated 1973 NLCS, especially Buddy-bashing Pete Rose, but then they went and traded for Tom Seaver, which made rooting against them just because they were the Reds difficult. If I couldn’t have Seaver as a Met, I wanted Seaver to have success. I rooted for the Reds in isolated instances on Seaver’s behalf in the late ’70s, albeit without much conviction. After a while, they were just another franchise, even with the Franchise.
The 1973 Oakland A’s I could never drum up serious animus for, not in the moment, not much in retrospect. They’d knocked off the Orioles in the playoffs and the Reds in the World Series the year before, so I was conditioned to cut them slack. Plus, c’mon, they were the Oakland A’s. I couldn’t not dig on Vida and Catfish and Rudi and most of those guys, let alone those green-and-gold pullovers and caps. I despised Charlie Finley, but so did they. Admittedly, I wasn’t fond of Campy and Reggie as they were ending our hopes — and I bristled at the mention of Darold Knowles pitching in all seven games of that World Series when Brandon Morrow tied his usage record last year — but those A’s were those A’s, and our Mets took them to the brink less than two months after wallowing in last place. There wasn’t a grudge in that. Nor was there for the one and only Oakland A of 1973 to land on a later Met club, Jesus Alou. Besides, based on my exposure to baseball cards, the youngest Alou was instinctively a San Francisco Giant, then a Houston Astro. News traveled slowly when wrapped in wax and redolent of gum.
The next chances I had to develop postseason grudges, I took them and I ran with them. Or I sat on them for a few years.
We took the Houston Astros in six games in 1986, but it felt like it went the limit and then some. They left a mark, one presumably formed by scuffing horsehide with sandpaper. I never stopped begrudging Mike Scott. Ex-Met Nolan Ryan’s post-Astro canonization as a folk hero occurred without my consent. Though Charlie Kerfeld disappeared from the scene pretty quickly, I still hiss at the image of him wagging the ball in the direction of a slumping Gary Carter (oh, revenge was sweet). On the other hand, I didn’t mind when Billy Hatcher went on to enormous World Series achievements as a Red in 1990, mostly shrugged when Glenn Davis was invited to Mets Spring Training in 1994 and treated as a welcome curiosity Kevin Bass’s two-month 1992 Shea Stadium residency. Having around the guy who swung at the last of Jesse Orosco’s nothing-but-sliders was at least a reminder that there really was a 1986.
Our NLCS conquest of the Astros cleared the dishes for the World Series main course, the 1986 American League champion Boston Red Sox. That could have been a whole lot weirder had savvy veteran starter Tom Seaver been active for them, but Tom Terrific was injured and confined to a windbreaker. It also could have been weirder had 1986 followed more closely on the heels of 1978, when I spent the summer in something of a fan-exchange program. I concentrated heavily on the Red Sox in ’78, perhaps at the expense of my usual devotion to the Mets (though I doubt any Boston adolescents returned the favor). I’d always at least kind of liked the Sox. I sometimes practically loved the Sox. Beginning October 18, 1986, I unconditionally loathed the Sox. I didn’t care that I had ached like a New Englander over Bucky Bleeping Dent. I didn’t care who was tendering paychecks to Seaver. I hadn’t waited since 1973 to get to 1986 to experience an ounce of mixed emotion.
And I didn’t. If stomping out the Red Sox was baked into winning the World Series, they were ipso facto my enemy. I despised Roger Clemens long before I REALLY despised Roger Clemens. I treated Bruce Hurst like he was Mike Scott’s lefthanded brother. Oil Can Boyd? Crush that Can! Same for Hall of Fame material Wade Boggs and Jim Rice, same for late-season pickups Dave Henderson and Spike Owen. Same for their stupid lyric little bandbox of a ballpark and the fans who crammed its dopey confines. When a certain first baseman didn’t pick up a certain ground ball that rolled right up to the space between his legs before rolling merrily through, I of course exulted. When given weeks and months and years to contemplate that Bill Buckner’s burden was cruelly heavy for one man to bear, I still exulted, though I allowed myself a scintilla of empathy when I realized it really would have sucked had that fate befallen Keith Hernandez.
But boy am I glad it happened to Buckner, that the Mets won and — because they had to — that the Red Sox lost. I made my first visit to Boston the following spring. Wore my Mets jacket. Absorbed some less than good-natured razzing. Loved why it was happening. When I deign to revisit October 1986, I switch into that same Bring It On mode. I watched the chapter of Ken Burns’s Baseball recently that included Doris Kearns Goodwin rhapsodizing about what it meant to be a Red Sox fan in those days. Heard myself hurling expletives at Doris Kearns Goodwin. So, no, I’ve never really let go of my grudge at the October 1986 version of the Red Sox for presenting themselves as an obstacle to the October 1986 version of the Mets. But after a couple of years, they were just another American League team to me, to be encouraged in their attempts to beat the Yankees, to be congratulated heartily in 2004, maybe a little less so in 2007 and 2013. The only 1986 Red Sock to wear a Mets uniform after 1986, besides Tom Seaver in the midst of not quite coming back in 1987, was Don Baylor, hitting coach under Art Howe. I don’t think it once occurred to me during those two years to link Baylor to 1986. Maybe if John McNamara had found a way to use him to ill effect in the games at Shea…but he didn’t.
Two years later, we lost to our only 1988 postseason opponent, the Los Angeles Dodgers, and every time Kirk Gibson’s home run off Dennis Eckersley is lauded as one of baseball’s greatest moments, I remind my wife, my cat and any furniture that might be listening that it was Game One; that there were plenty more dramatic home runs that deserve to be lauded more; and oh, by the way, fuck the 1988 Dodgers. I think you can gauge from there the state of that grudge. Funny, though. We adopted the 2002 Angels as our postseason surrogates to such an extent that Stephanie and I planted in our living room not one but four rally monkeys, and it never once occurred to me to reckon that I was rooting for a team managed by human Met inflection point Mike Scioscia. When Mike Marshall and Alejandro Peña washed up on the shores of the 1990 Mets, I didn’t dislike them because they were dreaded 1988 Dodgers. I disliked them because they were dreadful 1990 Mets. Strangest of all, I rather dug Orel Hershiser, 1999 Met, eleven years after I shot visual darts out my eyes at Orel Hershiser, 1988 Dodger. Eleven years away from the postseason will soften your view toward anybody who helps ensure your drought won’t extend to twelve years.
Hershiser’s Mets had to get through the Reds in a one-game playoff which wasn’t technically a playoff, so the 1999 Reds don’t qualify for a grudge any more than they qualified for the postseason. The 1999 Arizona Diamondbacks do, even if they didn’t gain one. For the duration, sure. I revved up my distaste for dry heat, I decided Randy Johnson was that week’s worst person in the world and I’d have bet a dozen bagels on the NLDS outcome against whatever they eat in Phoenix. Minutes after Todd Pratt whacked the Snakes, however, I was done targeting Arizona and on to taking aim at Atlanta. Jay Bell and the second comings of Lenny Harris and Kelly Stinnett would all be Mets in the 2000s. Their ride through the desert on a horse with a briefly objectionable name didn’t faze me. By November of 2001, when the Diamondbacks liberated baseball fans everywhere from Yankee hegemony, gratitude reigned.
Oh, but those 1999 Braves. A different story from all other postseason grudges, for unlike every postseason grudge before them, they were our everyday enemy all year long. Does enemy sound a little heavy for a baseball team vying with a baseball team for a division title? It didn’t in 1999, when we battled the Braves, we succumbed to the Braves and we overcame our September losses to the Braves (three of three at Turner Field, two of three at Shea Stadium) only to meet the Braves once more in the NLCS.
We wouldn’t have had it any other way in terms of matchup. We couldn’t have had it any other way. But we couldn’t beat them in Atlanta, which decided the fate of that series. Came close, pushed them hard, didn’t do it. The only part of that season that wasn’t wonderful involved the conclusion of every crucial game at the Ted, which rhymed with dead and still does. Turner Field is now a college football stadium. The grudge of ’99 has outlasted it, so there’s that.
Over time, I developed a grudging respect for that era’s Braves. More grudge than respect. You couldn’t not give it up for Maddux and Smoltz. You had to sort of/kind of get a kick out of Larry Jones’s son being christened Shea. You had your irredeemable heels, like Rocker, but you also had your undeniable pros. Being on the same level with the umpteen-time divisional champs for a couple of years was a badge of honor, I suppose.
That didn’t mean I wanted one of their Big Three starting pitchers on the Mets when he joined in 2003 and it didn’t mean I wasn’t delighted when he went away in 2007. In between, I could cultivate selective amnesia as needed, but what Mets fan had T#m Gl@v!ne on his or her must-have list? The presence of the Manchurian Brave in Flushing warped the grudge. The fleeting presence of Gerald Williams, who trotted home with the winning run on Game Six’s Eleventh Inning’s Final Fourth Ball, didn’t much impact it. (Nor did that of the aforementioned Baylor, who coached for Bobby Cox; that guy sure got around.)
We never did get even with the Braves in 2000. We didn’t take the division from them and we didn’t take the pennant directly from them. But we did take the pennant, stirring up temporary hostilities against a new foe and a familiar foe along the way. The San Francisco Giants, their New York pedigree notwithstanding, basically minded their own business in our story from 1962 forward, but for a few days in October, they had to be the hated Giants. That’s how postseason works. It worked very well for us, as we lost one blah game at Pac Bell, then wrestled away a nailbiter on each coast to grab a two-one lead. Game Four was a one-hit wonder for Bobby Jones, the latter innings of it devoted out in LF Mezz (I can personally attest) informing Barry Bonds he sucked. It was also agreed that ex-Met Jeff Kent, he of the one hit off Jones, did the same. We finished off San Fran, we shared a good laugh at their expense and we moved on. Giant refugees Shawn Estes and Livàn Hernandez were welcomed with apathetic arms when they became Mets.
The NLDS victim Giants scooted out of view and along came the good ol’ St. Louis Cardinals for the NLCS. To paraphrase from Peanuts, “good ol’ St. Louis Cardinals, how we hate them!” Hate? Hated? Present tense, past tense…from 1985 forward, they received no benefit of the doubt. Amid five games in October 2000, they received no mercy. The grudge that had been shoved to the backburner with three-division realignment shifted into boil mode when it was suddenly Us and Them as in days of yore. It was easy to begrudge the Cardinals again. It was easy to instantly forget them as the 2000 World Series appeared on the horizon. It was easy to forget Fernando Tatis had been a 2000 Cardinal once he became a 2008 Met. It was impossible to forget from whence we retained our signature image of Rick Ankiel, but he was no longer a wild Cardinal pitcher in 2013. He was a last-chance outfielder here for a cup of the coldest coffee imaginable.
Cold water was about to be splashed in our face as the champagne dried from the celebration that drenched Shea the night we won the National League flag. That was a Monday. On Tuesday, we learned who would we would play in the World Series. By Saturday’s Game One, we were in full froth. Actually, the froth related to the Mets playing the Yankees was always ready to spew. Spring Training, Mayor’s Trophy, casual conversation…the grudge existed without a ballgame. Imagine four to seven of them about to be contested for the championship of the world.
Imagine it had gone better. It’s easy if you try. Unfortunately, it didn’t. The only thing I can say to make it feel better more than seventeen years later is the world didn’t end when we lost in five. The grudge from 2000 is almost incidental to the grudge that was already in progress for 38 years and continues to this day, the day we get reasonably excited that a recent Yankee is going to be the Mets’ third baseman. We gave the Yankees enough Mets to enable their dynasty, so what the hell? Two 2000 Yankees would join the Mets: Mike Stanton in 2003 (which I didn’t care for) and Orlando Hernandez in 2006 (which I didn’t mind at all). Three 2000 Yankees coaches also dropped by down the road: Chris Chambliss as unmemorable Mets hitting coach; Willie Randolph as star-crossed Mets manager; and, if you want to count him, Lee Mazzilli, as SNY studio analyst. But Mazz was always a Met, even when he was screwing us on horsespit interference calls while coaching first base under turncoat Joe Torre.
Our return to the postseason six years hence brought us back into contact with our 1988 bête noire, the L.A. Dodgers. Except the 2006 version had no juice to it, so this Jeff Kent team barely angried up the blood, at least not when compared to the encounter from the late eighties. It helped that we swept the NLDS in three straight and Paul Lo Duca tagged two Dodgers out on the same play at the plate. More fun than angst, so not much grudge. Marlon Anderson was a former Met who became a future Met. Ramon Martinez (the infielder) and James Loney would be Mets eventually. To the best of my knowledge, nothing from 2006 was held against them.
We continue to hold everything against the 2006 St. Louis Cardinals, particularly their flagship battery of Adam Wainwright and Yadier Molina, each of whom are still St. Louis Cardinals, still intermittently making us miserable, never making us as miserable as they did in the ninth inning of Game Seven because that would be beyond even their immense capabilities. The 2000 NLCS is practically a footnote relative to the eternal grudgeworthiness of the 2006 meeting. Maybe when one or both of those bleeping Birds retires, the overriding Cardinal grudge will contract. No 2006 Cardinal ever became a Met after the fact. They knew better.
Slow-forward nine years and it was the Mets and Dodgers once more. Nineteen Eighty-Eight loomed large in the Mets fan consciousness. Two Thousand Six didn’t. Hence, there was still a residual desire to avenge Scioscia, forgetting we already did that. A good grudge means you remember mostly what keeps you fuming. By the end of the 2015 NLDS, we knew two things:
1) We won in five mostly tight contests, knocking off two top starting pitchers in Kershaw and Greinke once apiece;
2) We hated a Phillie in Dodger clothing to an extent unfelt through Metsopotamia since erstwhile Red Sock Clemens revealed himself a worm as a Yankee.
As long as Chase Utley remained a Dodger, the grudge against the Dodgers would remain in effect. We could rationalize around lovable Justin Turner and admirable Clayton Kershaw and transitory Curtis Granderson, but fuck Utley and therefore fuck the Dodgers. Utley may not be a Dodger in 2018, but his leg-breaking slide into Ruben Tejada happened too recently to let the Chavez Ravineans off the hook. The hell with Randy Newman. We hate L.A. (But we don’t necessarily mind Adrian Gonzalez.)
Mets-Cubs, for the 2015 pennant, was in many ways a lifetime in the making. The Cubs were the Mets’ first serious rivals, in 1969, for which I held them in Oriolesque contempt as a child, teen, young adult and older adult. We’d knocked them out, yet I couldn’t forgive their general air of unsavoriness in the ’69 narrative. Then came four games in October when we steamrolled them, and I no longer felt the fuss. I don’t know that it’s even a little grudgy in the Mets-Cubs universe any longer. I do know we were going to our fifth World Series as a result of sweeping them and that we have yet to reconfigure a 2015 Cubs as a post-2015 Met.
[UPDATE: On July 27, 2018, Austin Jackson, who pinch-hit in Game Four of the 2015 NLCS for the Cubs versus the Mets, joined the Mets.]
The postseason grudge that has yet to subside was up next, but it isn’t the most recent one. That honor goes to the 2016 San Francisco, our opponent for nine innings in the Wild Card Game, a 3-0 loss mostly attributable to the characteristic brilliance of Madison Bumgarner and the fluky power of Conor Gillaspie. I always liked Bumgarner. I stopped doing that after he shut us out and sent us home, but I haven’t retroactively disavowed whatever nice thoughts I thought about him between 2010 and 2014. As for Gillaspie, Utley can slide into him at will. I was very happy the Giants were one of the few teams worse than the Mets in 2017. Serves them right. I doubt I’ll carry that grudge forward much in 2018 and beyond.
Now back to the grudge of grudges, the one that somehow grows rather than recedes. The 2015 Kansas City Royals…brrrr…and grrrr.
The Mets lost the 2015 World Series to those Royals in five games. The Mets held leads in each of their four losses, three of them late in regulation. Two were taken to extra innings, including the decisive fifth game. Yet it’s the one Mets win that really got my dander up in the Royals’ direction.
Third game. First pitch. Noah Syndergaard comes up and in on Alcides Escobar. Not Clemens vs. Piazza up and in, but hey, you who swings at every first pitch…not this one, pal. Baseball. Hardball. The Royals had been praised as “relentless” throughout that postseason. Syndergaard was determined to make them relent. Fortysome-thousand of my closest personal friends and I roared with approval at Citi Field. Escobar, who had gone down, stood up and struck out. The Mets went on to win Game Three and get themselves back into the Series.
The Royals, leading two games to one, whined. Moustakas whined. Hosmer whined. The whole bunch of them whined. Syndergaard responded with his glorious “they can meet me sixty feet, six inches away” quote. Thor would be awaiting them as the Game Seven starter. Too bad there was no Game Seven.
The Game Three fallout was the instigating moment of the Royal Grudge, but it was more than the whining. I don’t think I ever properly processed the 2015 World Series, so I never — even in the context of a fan holding grudges — got over it. To get over it, one has to get his arms around it in the first place (if you don’t mind a couple of clichés), and I don’t think I did that, either.
I watched that World Series. I wrote about that World Series. I was engaged by that World Series. I was absorbed into the World Series, given that my team was participating in it for the championship of the world, something they hadn’t had in their grasp in fifteen years, something they hadn’t grasped as their own in twenty-nine. Yet there was the slightest of force fields between me and it for at least two of the games, One and Five, each of which went overly long, each of which I experienced alongside my father in the nursing facility where he was spending what turned out to be the final months of his life. A thin but impenetrable layer of distraction hung over the proceedings. (That was also the week my car decided it needed to be in the shop, making the to-and-fro element a Thor-sized pain in the rear.) My dad, physically compromised, was mentally in and out of the action, which meant I was not exactly on top of every pitch. As happy as I was to share the World Series with my father, especially because there was so little for him to look forward to otherwise by the fall of 2015, I wished we could have done it under sunnier circumstances…and I don’t refer to the final scores. So although I saw every miserable momentum shift that cost the Mets the first game and the last game, I somehow don’t feel I was fully present for the whole of it.
Which may be all right, considering those games went all wrong. Game Four, too. OMG, Game Four. I was at that one, which was fun for seven innings and torture for the last two. If I didn’t truly process Games One and Five, I overly processed Game Four. Clippard missing the strike zone. Murphy missing the grounder. Cespedes missing the memo on how far off first base a runner should stray. Yeesh.
Still yeesh. Can’t look at Clippard, who is mysteriously one of the few Mets who gets talking head time in the official World Series film. Can barely remember how Murphy dominated the Dodgers and Cubs. Can’t fully trust Cespedes to do the right thing. And I can’t watch a postseason postgame show anymore without remembering what they look like when you’re inside the stadium. When Game Four was done, I didn’t leave the Promenade right away. Staring at the field, I saw the sets emerge for whichever rights holders were allowed to broadcast onsite. Royals were being interviewed everywhere you turned around. The Mets had disappeared. As Will Bailey told Sam Seaborn on The West Wing, the metaphor alone knocks me down.
Conversely, the end of the World Series leaves me hazy. Once the ninth inning went awry — with tying runs scored and/or moved along by future theoretically desirable free agents Cain, Hosmer and Moustakas — I sort of checked out. Game Five stayed on and I stayed put, but I knew in my considerable gut there’d be no Game Six. When Christian Colon’s name fluttered across the transaction line in December 2017 (he signed with the Braves), I didn’t blink. It took a random tweet to remind me that Colon was technically the 2015 World Series equivalent of Yadier Molina; he pinch-singled in what became the winning run…or, for us, the losing run in the twelfth inning. I’d blocked out everything in extras, everything after Hosmer slid home under Duda’s throw past d’Arnaud. The twelfth inning was the ninth inning nine years later but, like the Mets, my heart wasn’t in extra innings.
I still rue our failure to beat the Cardinals in 2006. Same for the Dodgers in 1988, because how often are we overwhelming favorites? Same for losing to the Yankees in 2000 and the A’s in 1973 despite the air of underdoggedness attached to us. I don’t know how much gas we had left in the tank after the great Wild Card chase of 2016, but I sure would’ve liked a minimum of three more games to find out. Somehow it isn’t the losing/not winning that gets me about the 2015 World Series and the Royals. I’m still delighted we’re National League champions. I’m still blown away at how we rose from 52-50 to 83-61 to put the division away. The whole of 2015 warms my soul. But the World Series, save for Game Three’s 9-3 result and my good fortune to be on hand to witness it, is a misplaced puzzle piece. My sense of closure remains ajar.
My lone full viewing of the World Series film on MLBN, in the winter of 2015-16, left me far colder than any revisitation of any nationally broadcast unhappy Met experience. Sixteen years after the fact, I forced myself to watch Luis Sojo’s 38-hopper off Al Leiter seven times in a row as I was writing about the 2000 World Series in my Piazza book. I thought it would be painful, but by the fifth time, it was just footage in the service of research. Besides, I already disdained Sojo’s far more celebrated teammates. The World Series film from 2015 proved much harder to take, even the scant good parts. Despite being a Major League Baseball production, it was the Royals Show from start to finish. The Mets were barely cast as guests. The winner will always be toasted more than the loser, but the tilt was startling. The Mets got some decent play in the ’73 and ’00 productions regardless of outcome. An attempt to rewatch the ’15 version when MLBN aired it again this past December confirmed my distaste.
So I can’t embrace the official document the 2015 World Series left behind. And I can’t fully enjoy one of my favorite writers, Joe Posnanski, because I’ve read him pay homage to the recent Royals, whose beat he covered before they blossomed into champions. And I couldn’t stand to look when Ben Zobrist, 2015 Kansas City Royal doubles machine, accepted the 2016 World Series MVP award as a Cub (which he became after nearly becoming a Met, before my grudge fully festered). And I couldn’t help but cheer when the Kansas City Chiefs were eliminated from the NFL playoffs, strictly from guilt by association. And I can no longer automatically pick a least-favorite in any given Royal-Yankee regular-season matchup, despite dormant affection for that time George Brett took Goose Gossage into the upper deck. And I sure as hell wanted nothing to do with Mike Moustakas or Lorenzo Cain or Eric Hosmer becoming a Met. Let Cain live and be well in Milwaukee. Let Moustakas and Hosmer get paid elsewhere. (And may the late Yordano Ventura rest in peace; my malice may be fierce, but it’s not sick.) Would I take some other Royal some other time? Perhaps. How about a Royal deeply associated with the grudge that grips me? No thank you.
Welcome to the good side of New York, Todd Frazier. If nothing else, thank you for being who you’re not.
I spent Super Bowl Sunday morning talking 56 years of Mets baseball with Mike Silva on Metsmerized Online’s Talkin’ Mets podcast. Football’s over, but the listening is still super.