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Flashback Friday: 2015

Previously on Flashback Friday…

A little piece of me is always watching the Mets in 1970 [1].

Mostly I was enchanted with the possibility that the Mets would win the World Series in 1975 [2].

I was in love with the 1980 [3] Mets. They weren’t the first Mets team I was ever hung up on, but I think, given where I was in life, that they were my first love.

I gave myself over to baseball and the Mets in 1985 [4] in a way I never had before.

If there was ever going to be a year when I might have discarded baseball and pleaded no lo contendre to the charge that I allowed myself to be distracted from the Mets by overwhelming matters of substance, 1990 [5] would have been that year. But it wasn’t and I didn’t. Amid a seismic personal shift that separated what came before from what came after, I was just doing what I’d always been doing. I rooted for the Mets like it was life and death. I didn’t know how not to.

In 1995 [6], I was determined to spend as much time at Shea as was humanly possible.

It was the Year 2000 [7], Y2K. Actually, it wasn’t any different from the 1900s, at least not the last few of them. Since 1997, the Bobby Valentine Mets had become my cause, my concern, my reason for being. Even more, I mean. If I had to rate the intensity of my baseball-commitment on a scale from 5 to 10 (let’s face it, it was never going to dip into low single-digits), these were the 9-10 years. The needle never saw 8.

For all the sporadic delight I’ve derived from the Mets since 1969, I don’t think I’ve ever been quite as personally gratified by a season as I’ve been by 2005 [8].

Make no mistake about it: we lived in 2010 [9]. Of course we did. We live in every season as if it’s our permanent residence. We inhabit them fully. Each one is the most important season of our lives while it is in progress. Across the entirety of 2010, I sat at this very spot and, in concert with my blogging partner sitting in whatever spot he was in, set in type that entire April-to-October effort. It mattered to me. It mattered to you. Then it mattered no more. Weird how that happens.

And now: Flashback Friday.

***
It’s five years later. It’s eventually always five years later. Right now, it’s five years beyond 2015, a season that resides only in retrospect. That’s technically been the case since a little after 12:30 AM on November 2, 2015, when Wilmer Flores looked at strike three from Wade Davis, and the Kansas City Royals ended the only Met season that lasted into the eleventh month of a calendar — and yet another season that ended too soon.

It stopped being the 2015 season right then and there, but the feeling of winning the pennant and going to the World Series lingered all winter. A flag was raised the following April to remind us all over again of what 2015 had been. Soon, 2016 unfurled in a fashion unlike 2015 but rallied, with a substantially (if provisionally) revamped cast, to insert itself into every relevant informational sentence thereafter. In 2015 and 2016, the Mets went to the postseason in consecutive years.

That was the era. It was over in a practical sense before April ended in 2017. Some residual emotion now and then resurfaced. Who could look at Wilmer Flores continuing to belt walkoff homers as late as 2018 and not think of 2015? Who could spot Yoenis Cespedes striding to the plate during his short-lived 2020 return, as blindingly fluorescent as he was preternaturally powerful (when he made contact), and not think of 2015? YOPENING DAY, as at least one back page called it, came and went, as did Yoenis, but he was a reminder. So, to a certain extent, have been the continuing contributions of the handful of 2015 Mets who figure to be 2021 Mets: Jeurys Familia, Jacob deGrom, Steven Matz, Michael Conforto and, once he’s fully rehabbed from Tommy John surgery, Noah Syndergaard. Roster construction subject to change, of course, at the discretion of Sandy Alderson, who, like Familia, had left for Oakland at some point but then returned from a checkered Met past whose most decorated squares were planted on the board in, yes, 2015.

Honestly, though, despite the presence of a few living, breathing participants from the 2015 Mets in Mets seasons of the future, it hasn’t been a whole lot like 2015 for the Mets since 2015. That was a sui generis year in Flushing. Unprecedented [10], somebody insisted. Inimitable since. Maybe someday soon its accomplishments will be matched and surpassed. That’s the plan under new ownership. That’s the hope always. Don’t kid yourself, though. Just getting a 2015 up in here is no mean feat. Good luck to us all getting more.

I don’t necessarily visit 2015 that much in my head, but it comes to see me once in a while. I’m happy for the get-togethers. These days, we put on masks and we reminisce.

***
We remember that before it began, our expectations for it were limited, as were our imaginations regarding how good it could be. We’d conditioned ourselves since the end of Shea Stadium to dream small.

Still, my informal predictions for 2015 were vaguely positive. I thought the Mets would be better than the clutch of unsatisfying seasons that preceded it from a baseball standpoint. How much better, I wouldn’t have guessed. We still relied on Jonathon Niese and Dillon Gee. We signed Michael Cuddyer to middling fanfare. We had yet to fully replace Jose Reyes at short by my reckoning, and Jose Reyes hadn’t been a Met since 2011. Bartolo Colon shaped up as more effective than most pitchers about to turn 42, but he was about to turn 42. Curtis Granderson, like Colon, had come over in 2014 and, like Colon, was somebody you loved rooting for, but like Colon, Granderson didn’t hit for average (.227 in ’14).

There were signs, however. DeGrom, with barely a dab of advance heralding, had won NL Rookie of the Year even if the Mets didn’t score enough to net him more than nine measly wins. Juan Lagares tracked everything down in center, including a Gold Glove. Jenrry Mejia was a heartstopping but ultimately lockdown closer, especially with Familia setting up for him. Travis d’Arnaud was showing enough of the stuff that made him worth trading R.A. Dickey for, so we’d be set at catcher for a while. Second baseman Daniel Murphy couldn’t field, but he could surely hit. Lucas Duda could slug and wasn’t bad at first base. David Wright was very much The Captain and forever the third baseman. Matt Harvey was very much returning from TJS and ready to resume his acedom in tandem with young Jacob. Zack Wheeler, like Josh Edgin and future closer Vic Black, would be out, but Gee and Niese were still around.

Bottom-line types might have concluded that a person who devoted his mental capacities to the fortunes of the Mets of 2009 through 2014 had not put his brain to its best use. Yet the early part of the 2015 season undermined the Mets’ handy image as a waste of time, assuming you were already partial to devoting time to a baseball team. These Mets took off like no Mets in ages. From a 2-3 start that followed a 453-519 epoch that dated to the season Citi Field opened (not to mention the pair of September collapses that shuttered Shea), the Mets presented themselves as unbeatable. For eleven games, including an entire ten-game homestand in April, the Mets went 11-0. That was stuff out of 1969 and 1986, and that got a Mets fan revved up for the rest of the season.

There’s nothing better than the year that Feels Different, and before we had a chance to feel anything else, 2015 felt different. We were no longer entering games as a decided underdog. Three of the teams we battered at home in April — the Phillies, the Marlins and the Braves — had slipped into rebuilding mode (the Marlins lived there). We had already done rebuilding. When we weren’t looking, or perhaps when we were looking but not fully processing, we had rebuilt, at least to the extent that we needed to be taken seriously and the extent we needed to take ourselves seriously. Who knew it was just a matter of adding Michael Cuddyer?

Before long, the ease of April would find muck in May and get jammed in June. The injury bug, an inevitable if uninvited Met guest, would arrive. Presumed stalwarts headed for the disabled list. Reinforcements appeared. Some, like the kind you applied around the holes on your loose leaf paper, stuck. The rest didn’t. Somehow the Mets didn’t come totally unglued. There were days and nights when the shallow depth of the lineup threatened to drown them, but they stayed afloat. It helped that it wasn’t a tough division, with only the Nationals seeming imposing (without being as imposing as they seemed). It helped that the Mets were deep in pitching. Jenrry Mejia tested positive for PEDs? Jeurys Familia merely changed his address from the eighth to the ninth inning. Dillon Gee faded onto the DL, practically never to be heard from again? Noah Syndergaard emerged from the wings, a Thor fully formed. A glint of a void opened up in the shadows of deGrom, Harvey and Syndergaard? Somebody call Steven Matz of Stony Brook and tell him to bring his bat.

The pitchers were pitching and often hitting. Those relied on to hit were another matter after a while. Batting orders were makeshift. Batting results shifted into neutral, then nil. Things began to feel desperate, yet not hopeless. Vive la différence after a brisk start (15-5) that provided just enough cushion for the plunge back to Earth (21-32). The Mets hung in there in all ways applicable: around .500, around the division lead, around the Wild Card race if a side door to glory was deemed necessary. The fresh air of April had not grown totally stale. It was there for the breathing. Sucking into our lungs that we no longer sucked…it didn’t suck.

Nor did having the Mets as an outlet when 2015 got sad and serious in a context I couldn’t foresee.

***
When I’m with 2015, I’m also with my father quite a bit. I wouldn’t have predicted that when 2015 began.

Early one morning in May I saw my phone blinking. Florence, my father’s girlfriend of 23 years, was trying to reach me. My 86-year-old father had to go to the hospital. Something about him falling. I got in touch with my sister. In a matter of minutes were on our way to North Shore in Syosset before learning, no, now he’s at North Shore in Manhasset. So we were on way there.

When we caught up to him, Dad seemed relatively unbothered by his circumstances, a passenger taking note of his journey while lying on a gurney in front of an admissions desk. It wasn’t his first choice for a destination, but he put up with it. We made small talk as we usually did. Something about the NBA draft lottery. The final episode of Mad Men (he thought it was “OK”). Later, when he was transferred temporarily to a small room where testing proceeded, he grew antsier and antsier. He demanded to be taken to the bathroom across the hall, which he was told was off limits. “If you’ll pardon the expression, I have to take a piss.” I’d never heard him use the phrase. He was also getting hungry and began reciting the dishes he could really go for if they would just let him out so he could go home and eat like a healthy person, which he was asserting he was. He’d like a western omelet. Some barbecued spare ribs. I would’ve loved to have run out and rustled some up. I wasn’t particularly useful otherwise.

This was a Wednesday morning and afternoon, leading into the night I was supposed to be at Citi Field but had to bow out of previously made plans. On Friday, when a mound duel in Pittsburgh between young guns Gerrit Cole and Noah Syndergaard failed to engage me (but it was my night to recap), Dad had brain surgery. Wednesday he wakes up in a state of normality. Less than sixty hours later, they’re opening his head. Jesus, that’s quick, but I guess you don’t wait when you find something wrong. He was seeing visitors on Saturday. A doctor came by and asked me to step into the hall and introduced me to the word glioblastoma. That’s what was like 99% removed. But it could grow back.

This is the thick line of 2015. Some years demarcate themselves definitively from the past. Before that morning in May, family business as usual was cordial but distant. I’m guessing the last time we he all gotten together as a family — Dad and Florence; my sister Suzan and her husband Mark; my wife Stephanie and me — before the hospital was in January. Or maybe the previous June. Or previous January. Our holiday, birthday and just-because get-togethers had condensed over the years. Stephanie, Suzan and Dad had birthdays that coalesced over a three-day period in January, so that was usually it. Unless it snowed a lot, then we’d postpone it. And if the postponement bumped up against the Super Bowl, maybe we’d just push it off to Father’s Day, though maybe Father’s Day would encompass just four of us, depending on who was miffed at who.

Actually, it occurs to me we may not have gotten together as a family in toto the entire time my father was in and out of hospitals, rehabilitative facilities and, ultimately, whatever name they used for a nursing home in 2015 and 2016. There was quite a bit of tag-teaming keeping Dad company, pending people’s availability, proximity and tolerance for one another. I seemed to show up mostly on weekday afternoons at first, especially once he was transferred to Glen Cove to recover his sea legs thinking and his land legs walking. I’d take a train to Jamaica then transfer north and east on the Oyster Bay line. Driving any kind of distance had presented a challenge to my anxieties over the previous two decades. One small offshoot of Dad’s eventual transfer to the final place he lived, in Woodbury, and my determination to visit him regularly was it got me back behind the wheel whether I wanted to be or not. I became a competent and reasonably confident driver again. Not on highways, but I’m OK on side roads again.

The improved driving came later. In June, it was the train, bringing Dad the Times so he could try to do the crossword and get his brain going. We’d sit together, engage in the best possible version of the idle chit-chat we’d perfect over the past quarter-century of midweek phone calls and take in whatever show Steve Harvey was hosting (Dad had developed a love of Steve Harvey hosting anything). If he napped after lunch and before ambulatory sessions, I’d wander into my iPad. Up in Glen Cove, during the dreaded San Diego-Arizona trip — dreaded annually by this blog for the lateness of the games and the lameness of the action — I had gotten unreasonably excited over something I noticed the night before. Four-ninths of the Mets’ lineup wore a double-digit uniform number: Ruben Tejada in 11; Kevin Plawecki in 22; Matt Harvey in 33; and John Mayberry in 44. In a previous era, all that double-vision would have sent me scurrying to get the papers, get the papers to see if there was anything on it. But neither the Times with its fancy crossword or any of the tabloids covered esoterica the way blogs did. I knew it was up to me to track this minutiae down. So I sat by my father’s bed and scrolled all the usual suspect sites for background. Had the Mets ever run out players clad in 11, 22, 33 and 44 in the same game before? Had they done it in this century? My inquiring mind needed to know.

As I intently cross-referenced uniform data with box scores, Dad stirred. Whatcha doing, he asked me.

“Research.”

***
Sandy Alderson did his research, too. Took his sweet time doing so from where I and millions of my fellow Mets fans sat. By July, as my father got the green light to return home (with near-daily trips for radiation mandated and a pill for chemotherapy prescribed), the Mets’ pulse beat haltingly. These were the days of John Mayberry and Johnny Monell and Eric “Soup” Campbell and Danny Muno and just after the days of Dilson Herrera and Darrell Ceciliani. It seems bad sport to call out a stream of Mets who combined for a trickle of base hits just to prove that offensive times were getting hard, but we were trying so hard to think of ourselves as contenders. Instead, we contended with batting averages for which snuff was eternally elusive.

Get us up to snuff, Sandy. Get us some hitters to go with our pitchers. Get us some depth. We’re doing this without David, without Travis, without Daniel. We’re going oomphless in pursuit of a playoff spot. How we’re still talking playoffs is a credit to the rotation, the closer and Curtis Granderson’s ability to draw walks. Yo, a little help?

Yo, we’ll get to in a minute, but cavalry was coming. Last year’s No. 1 draft pick Michael Conforto alighted ahead of schedule and not a minute too soon, one day after Clayton Kershaw toyed with a lineup whose No. 9 hitter, Bartolo Colon, brandished only the eighth-lowest average (he had Anthony Recker beat by ten points). Conforto was 22 and born to hit. Kelly Johnson and Juan Uribe, nabbed from Atlanta, were much older but professionally skilled enough to make a difference in depth. And Carlos Gomez…

We were trading for Carlos Gomez, the ex-Met we dealt for Johan Santana ages before. Gomez had bloomed into a legitimate star for Milwaukee. It would be good to have him back, even if we’d have to give up baby-faced, sometimes-slugging Wilmer Flores, the infielder without a position. Gomez could run, Gomez could hit, Gomez could field. He’d be an upgrade.

Except reports of Flores’s departure proved not only premature, but inaccurate. The exchange between New York and Milwaukee got called off if it was ever truly on. It would go down an unmade trade, little harm, little foul, if not for the fact that Twitter, in full swing on the night of July 29, linked Citi Field seatholders (myself among them) with the news that Flores was as good as gone. We delivered unto him the bulletin and a warm ovation.

Flores had no idea he was traded. Terry Collins had no idea he was traded. Sandy Alderson had not traded him. Big misunderstanding, but not harmless. Wilmer, likable enough to that moment, transformed into instantly beloved because he shed a tear or two, as detected by SNY when he thought he was outta here. He wasn’t. We were glad.

Except we didn’t get Carlos Gomez and we still needed another player and not only did we lose on the night of the bizarre non-trade, we lost the next day in soaking, excruciating fashion in the ninth inning when Familia imploded versus the Padres. We had held the fort for as long as we could. We clearly required another bolt to secure it.

It came from out of the blue. Detroit, anyway. Yoenis Cespedes — Yo! — was acquired for real and for two minor league pitchers. This was the addition onto our house that Alderson had never made in the middle of a season before. An impact player for an impact season. We got word on Friday afternoon that Yoenis would be here Saturday. In the interim, during the second-place Mets’ Friday night showdown with first-place Washington, Wilmer Flores was embraced as perhaps no Met ever, certainly as no Met ever whose major achievement to date was public emoting.

Flores was so touched by the affection that he responded by winning the game on a twelfth-inning home run. From not outta here to triumphantly OUTTA HERE! The Mets, if we hadn’t figured it out yet, were also for real. Cespedes pulled into town on Saturday and things got realer. By Sunday night, the reality was a sweep of the Nationals and a virtual tie for first place. The real thing, first all for ourselves, followed in very short order.

One of the elements of baseball fandom that never fails to fascinate me is how quickly we can change our concerns and perceptions as the fates demand. For six season we’d been this lumpy punching bag of a franchise, either completely out of it or only tentatively and ultimately fleetingly in it. The “it” in question was the quest for a berth in the postseason tournament to determine a champion. We hadn’t been truly sincere about contending since September 28, 2008, the last day of Shea, and it translated to our attitude toward our Mets and ourselves. They were not winners. We were not happy. But at least we could relax.

The months leading up to July 31, 2015 — the date we got Cespedes and the date Flores went deep — had seeded the ground a little for a change in the way we saw ourselves and our team, but that weekend, followed by our commandeering of the National League East lead, catapulted us full-force into a new and dizzying headspace. We are winners. We are happy. We can’t relax because now, suddenly, every single game and every single pitch matter. Not just in the caring about the Mets, therefore of course it matters sense, but in the holy crap, we can actually go places this year sense.

It was a beautiful place to be.

***
Less beautiful: That hospital in Manhasset on a Thursday night in August. Dad’s clearance from the woods proved temporary. I suppose that was predictable. On July 29, the same day Wilmer Flores wasn’t traded, he’d gotten something of a clean bill of health after his month of radiation and chemo. At 86, it would have been a bit much to expect a long-term thumbs-up (at some point he sought assurances from an oncologist that he’d be fine for the next “eleven or twelve years”), but it would have been nice if he could have enjoyed something resembling normality for more than three weeks.

There had been another fall and another need to call. Stephanie and I helped settle him into his next room until maybe two in the morning. I’d be back Friday evening. The Mets were in Colorado. Cespedes led them to a 14-9 win, something that the Mets, in their 54-season history, had never statistically notched. I was back Saturday night. The Mets were still in Colorado and the Mets were winning again by a score of 14-9. The big “go figure” of 2015 was on. Go figure, the Mets keep sweeping series. Go figure, Dad can’t stay out of the hospital.

When the weekend in Denver and Manhasset began, the Mets existed on the periphery of my father’s consciousness. They were something I stepped out into the hall to keep tabs on while he grudgingly got felt up by a nurse. We watched Jeopardy or The Big Bang Theory reruns or NFL exhibitions on his TV. I glanced at my iPad for updates from Coors Field. “Big Met doings?” he’d ask. I’d half-apologize for my first-place distraction. He didn’t seem overly put off.

My dad couldn’t have cared less what the Mets were doing had he thought to care at all when the 2015 season began. He was at home with Florence, grooving to Steve Harvey and whatever he pleased whenever he pleased. If we talked about the Mets, it was to confirm that I was still devoting an outsize portion of my consciousness to them despite the diminishing returns he believed I was collecting for my passion. The blog and a couple of books had convinced him I was at least getting some use out of being a Mets fan, but on the telephone line between me and him, the Mets were essentially handy conversation-filler in our irregular chats, a box to be checked. “So, are you going to any Mets games? I see they lost again in heartbreaking fashion.”

Despite my trying to keep them politely isolated in the hall, the Mets seeped into his room, and then his consciousness. On the Monday after Colorado, the Mets were in Philadelphia. Dad suggested turning on the game so we could watch together. I did and we did. It wasn’t a perfect viewing situation — I was emptying his urinal while David Wright was homering in his return from spinal stenosis — but it was a good time. It woke up the echoes of 1986, when Dad, like Mom, was into the Mets like all of New York was into the Mets. That interest dissipated almost overnight when Mom died in 1990 and the Mets fell away from contention. But now it was all coming together again. The Mets were hot, Dad was into it and I was the facilitator. By Friday, he was calling me at home asking when I’d be over to watch tonight’s game.

I couldn’t make what was ailing him (lots) go away, but I could give him something to take his mind off it (a little). I could give him more of me than I had managed to peel off in recent years. I could give him more Mets than I ever dreamed he wanted. I liked that I could do that. I’m sorry it took this to get it done. I liked that the Mets were so good in 2015 that there was no way they couldn’t or wouldn’t be involved.

***
The Mets clinched the National League East on September 26. The Nationals, so hyped in the preseason, never really challenged them after the Flores/Cespedes series. In early September, we descended upon Washington and swept the last evidence of fight right out of them (except, maybe, for their fighting with one another). Then we went to Atlanta and kicked the Braves’ ass all over Turner Field, an activity that was never out of favor. The finale of that series looked to be a loss until Daniel Murphy smashed an unlikely ninth-inning home run to tie it. We won in ten. It was after Murph went yard that Gary Cohen proclaimed these Mets didn’t know how to lose. After so many seasons and so many Septembers when the opposite was true, it was a thrilling pronouncement.

Plus, it had the benefit of being essentially true. The Mets at one point tore off 31 wins in 42 games. Good enough for the divisional flag, hoisted in Cincinnati on a Saturday afternoon. Good enough for a feeling of near-invincibility. We had been Mets fans too long to believe we were permanently unbeatable, but here we were, owning the East and heading to the playoffs. We kept pinching one another. It didn’t sting in the slightest.

The Mets would play 14 postseason games. Five I experienced at Citi Field, which seemed impossible to grasp until I was at the first of them, Game Three versus the Dodgers in the NLDS. Citi Field had been a big mope from its opening in 2009. That first genuine October night, as we booed Chase Utley for dismantling Ruben Tejada’s leg and cheered Ruben Tejada for enduring Chase Utley’s venom, it became Shea the Second. All it had been missing all those years was our most vocal support and a reason to express it.

My good fortune to be in Flushing in the fall extended to the World Series, Games Three and Four. It was better than any World Series game I’d ever experienced at Shea because I’d never had that opportunity. Citi Field is indisputably the best place I’ve ever seen a World Series game. The park doesn’t play like Coors Field, but I swear the atmosphere was elevated. If I hadn’t known there’s nothing like a World Series, I discovered it for myself, and that will stay with me forever.

As will the four postseason games of 2015 I watched with my dad, one versus L.A., one versus the Cubs and, most of all, the two against the Royals in the World Series. It wasn’t crazy that the division champion, 90-win Mets persevered through two playoff series to win the pennant. They were a very good team firing on all cylinders, especially the one marked Murph (seven homers in nine games). What was crazy was a remark I made from thin air in August to calm my father down as he resisted yet another invasion of his person by medical personnel. Appealing to his well-honed logic wasn’t working — though after months of doctors and nurses, maybe the most logical thing was to resist another poke or probe — so I held out a carrot. If you don’t get better, Dad, I dared to say as if speaking to a child, then I won’t be able to watch the World Series with you.

Like I had the World Series in my pocket or in the trunk of my car and needed only his cooperation to dispense it. The Mets hadn’t clinched anything when I said that. The Nationals were still viable. The Dodgers, Cubs, Cardinals and Pirates all loomed as obstacles. Hell, all four of the other NL playoff teams would wind up with better records. But I inadvertently uttered magic words before there was even a magic number. “The World Series” spoke to my father. He grew up in a New York when there was always a World Series nearby. He supposedly rooted for the Dodgers as a kid though he rarely emitted any Boys of Summer vibes. His father liked the Yankees so much that he himself couldn’t stand being dragged to any more games after he was a teenager. Some weirdo in his high school was loyal to the schleppy Giants of the Forties (he once told me I reminded him of that guy). He used withholding the 1969 World Series as a threat on me so I’d take eye drops from an eye doctor when I was six, but the difference was the Mets were already in that World Series.

“The World Series” stayed aloft in our dialogue from late August on. My dad, with whatever faculties he maintained, decided it was coming. We watched the Mets win the NLDS together as a necessary step. He called me in rare moment of peak lucidity after the Mets won the NLCS, impressed by their attainment of “the pennant,” another word that stayed with him from childhood on. And now, on October 27, we had a World Series to watch.

I still don’t know how I pulled that off.

The Met lost our two World Series games, Games One and Five, each of which went on far too long. The Mets were defeated in Kansas City in 14 innings in Game One and again in decisive Game Five in 12 innings. They went on far too long because a) we lost and b) my car was in the shop, so getting to my father’s nursing home and getting back home thereafter was, to borrow Pete Campbell’s phrase, an epic poem. Still, it was worth the trip. My father enjoyed it as much as he could. Naps were needed as the innings piled up. I filled his sleepy intervals by texting back and forth with my sister, the Prince least likely to be pulled into baseball’s gravitational pull. Suzan empathetically climbed aboard the bandwagon just the same.

GAME ONE, AROUND MIDNIGHT
S; U still watching there?
G: Yes. W/O car; in shop. Big fan CHP sleeping last several (most) innings.
S: Ugh, and xtra innings too. What’s w/ ur car? Maybe take cab home? Either that or lie down in one of the empty rms (!)
G: Will take cab.
S: Glad ur taking cab. Still cheaper than scalper tix.
G: More impressive: u know what’s going on in game.
S: Lovin’ it especially crotch signals. Cant other team see them on tv?
G: Other team isn’t watching TV, doesn’t know what crotch signals mean.
S: Ok, will take ur word for that.

GAME FIVE, AS THINGS GO IRREVERSIBLY AWRY
S: Oh no Charlie Brown!
G: My fault. I was looking at train schedules.
S: Get out ur sleeping bag.
G: Go big or go home.
S: Yeah man. Here goes nuttin. Ain’t over til it’s over, or so I’ve heard…
G: Your bromides are inspirational.
S: Cliches help in trying to stay awake. Oy vey dis is not looking good.
G: That’s the way Drake’s Coffee Cake crumbles.
S: Hope for best expect worst.
G: Wind up with the Mets.
S: Yup. Still alive, barely.
G: Have a Niese Day.
S: Ha I get it! Could Mets mgr chew gum any harder?
G: Four out of five dentists agree.
S: Ho ho. Dad asleep?
G: Totally. Woke only briefly when I detonated my f-bombs in the 9th.
S: That’s funny, kinda. Looks like u cn shred train schedule…

***
It went on too long and it was over too quickly. The World Series needed to go seven or at least encompass three additional Met wins. That’s math when you’ve lost four games to one. That’s 2015, too, the Met portion. That July day that brought Cespedes to Flushing. That July night that launched Flores into legend. That August and September in first place. That October capturing the pennant. Those three months lasted as long as it says right there, three months, but they lasted about three minutes. Or so it feels five years later. Still, I’m delighted to dwell in them and on them whenever the mood hits. It does sometimes. Because 2015 landed in our midst without much buildup — no 1984 and 1985 foreshadowing its stab at 1986 — and because it didn’t birth a run of lasting, even modest success — no 1970-1972 competence bracketed by 1969- and 1973-style miracles — it feels detached from the overall Met narrative. Sure, there was the Wild Card spurt in 2016, but that postseason lasted exactly nine innings, and then the cliff beckoned. Our Wile E. Coyote ballclub couldn’t zoom off its farthest edge fast enough.

Sandy Alderson, when baseball was in its 2020 sleep mode (and before he was rehired by Steve Cohen), joined Tim Britton and Pete McCarthy on the Athletic’s Met podcast the Metrospective. In a wide-ranging conversation, Alderson touched on how swiftly Metsian attitudes changed by his last season as GM, in 2018, once 2015 became definitively past-tense: “The team got off to such a poor start, and when that happens, people typically go back to their default positions. In the case of the Mets — I don’t mean internally but externally: cynicism, skepticism, negativity, and they never really recovered. […] When you are faced immediately with an overwhelming number of losses, you lose that momentum and you default back to where you once were.”

Like I said, we do quickly change our concerns and perceptions as the fates demand. Pointing out the awesomeness of 2015 by 2018 (really, by 2017) was about as relevant to those contemporary Mets as bringing up ’69 and ’86. It was fine and fun for nostalgic purposes, but it was in a past that left faint footprints and exhibited short tentacles. Even 2006 had a couple of full years of contention in front of it, never mind how they melted. Twenty Fifteen didn’t so much belong to an era as serve as the baseball equivalent of Rudy in Rudy getting that Hostess cupcake with a candle in it in the break room at the steel mill from his best friend for his birthday. It’s a thoughtful gesture. Rudy blows the candle out. Not much later, Rudy’s friend dies in an explosion.

The movie, it should be noted, has a happy ending. Rudy gets to go to Notre Dame, makes the football team and runs out of the tunnel, fulfilling his dream. Us? We didn’t get a world championship in 2015 and we didn’t get an era surrounding 2015, but I don’t feel shortchanged. We still have proof the usual narrative can be disrupted, and boy did we need that. We still have that pennant, which is not to be confused with a fluttering handkerchief (nothing to blow one’s nose at). We still have Conforto, deGrom and Syndergaard, each with postseason spurs earned, each potentially leading another batch of Mets back near and maybe to the promised land. I’ll never not have that eleven-game winning streak in April; the invigorating Citi Field debuts of Thor and Matz; the injection of talent exactly when we needed it; the stomping of the Nats twice; the thousands of words with friends of the “can you believe this?” nature; and the toasting and drinking of champagne with Stephanie every time we clinched something. I don’t have my dad anymore, but I have that World Series with him.

Funny, I feel surprisingly nonspecific about Game Five in terms of the parts that are supposed to hurt worst. Collins left Harvey in a batter or two too long. Wright threw to first instead of home. Duda threw to Corona instead of d’Arnaud. We scored nothing in the tenth, eleventh and twelfth. The Royals scored five and I vehemently resent them for it, yet the loss doesn’t really grab me by the throat. I recently came across this Times photo feature that ran the following spring. They found a bunch of fans standing behind home plate with agonized expressions etched on their faces and asked them to elaborate on how awful it was [11] that Hosmer scored the tying run in the ninth. That’s right, I thought anew, that was awful. That was the Series right there. Fuck, I guess.

But it felt less awful to look at it in 2020 than it did when it first ran in 2016, and though it was absolutely awful to live through on November 1, 2015, I don’t feel defeated by it, and I don’t feel 2015 was defined by it. I was with my dad when it happened. He had nodded off, but we were together. And the Mets were in the World Series.

That was 2015 [12]. It’s five years ago now.

[13]