There's a saying, you might have heard of it.
"Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me."That's how I feel. Not that this team duped me, but that I let this team dupe me. To a certain extent, we were all fooled by this team ... that this time would have been different. This team, with Daniel Murphy and Argenis Reyes and Nick Evans and an improved Mike Pelfrey and a more focused Oliver Perez and a rejuvenated Carlos Delgado and a revived Jose Reyes and a more honest Snoop Manuel and a less complicated Dan Warthen and Billy Wagner pitching from the windup and all of the moving parts that made the 2008 team less "bored" than their 2007 counterparts and that this team was choke-proof.
We put our blinders on and begged this team to tell us it would be all right. And if it wasn't going to be all right, we begged them to lie to us.
I was fooled. Again. Roger Daltrey, I'm not.
I was looking for the footnote to 2007. Seven games with seventeen to play is a monumental choke job. There were two footnotes that were possible when history was to look back on 2007. One of them was: "The Mets would bounce back from that horrible collapse to make the playoffs the following season." The other was "The Mets would plunge into the abyss after the collapse, missing post season play for the next 25 seasons."
No way did I think of the third option: "The Mets repeated their historic collapse of 2007 in 2008 when they were once again eliminated on the final day of the season by the Florida Marlins." But that's what we're stuck with. Because one choke is a fluke ... two is a trend.
(And three is grounds for contraction.)
Here's what's bothering me already about Collapse Part II: Every time somebody who watches maybe nine innings of baseball all year tell me that this team needs intangible, imaginary concepts like "heart" and "fire" and "guts". I've heard it already. I've used those terms. Sometimes, they apply. This year, they're inconsequential. We don't need "heart" or "fire" or "guts".
We need a bullpen.
Whereas 2007 was one giant choke, 2008 was more like many small chokes encompassed into a big picture that you need to look past the "big picture" to really see. Not that it's any consolation to us, but 2008 was less choke and more suck. If baseball was an eight inning game, the Mets would have had an eight game lead going into the final weekend of the season. Curse you Abner Doubleday for choosing the number 9.
But most of all, curse you Mets bullpen. Curse you Mets bullpen for being the sole ... and I mean the sole reason that the Brewers are going to Philadelphia and not to the golf course where they've been every year since Ben Oglivie roamed County Stadium. And curse you for forcing me to resort to the most simple and the least eloquent to put your accomplishments into a tidy twenty words or less:
You all suck.
When Oliver Perez was slugging through his innings of work on Sunday, I thought of the relief pitchers I would want to keep for '09. The first guy I thought of was Joe Smith. And I'm guessing that Snoop agreed with me. When Perez started slowing down, in came Smith into an impossible situation: bases loaded, one out. He was lucky to escape with only letting one of Ollie's runs to score.
The second guy I thought of? Brian Stokes ... because we need a long man. And he was second in to preserve the tie game that Carlos Beltran created with his two run HR that rocked the house for ... what turned out to be ... the final time. Stokes also didn't disappoint with a scoreless inning.
After that, I really don't trust anybody to come back. But if you had put a gun to my head for a third guy? You guessed it, the third guy in. Scott Schoeneweis.
Um, never mind. I'll stick with two.
But really, if everybody in that bullpen was to depart I wouldn't be heartbroken. Certainly, the only way anybody in that bullpen besides Smith and Stokes attends Opening Day at Corporate Field is either with a ticket or a contract with the Padres. And I'm to the point now ... at this very moment ... if anybody besides Johan Santana were to leave this team, I'd shrug my shoulders in an act of indifference. That includes the Carloses, that includes Jose Reyes, that includes the very handsome David Wright, that includes everyone.
And that's why I'm glad that the current team didn't show their faces at the Shea Goodbye ceremony. Some may disagree, but it took a lot of effort to get the angry crowd (or the portion that didn't leave right after the game like myself) to feel good about anything. And the ceremony actually accomplished that ... seeing this current crop of star-crossed imitators posing as Mets would only send the crowd back to step one of the twelve step program.
We certainly needed one today with the range of emotions the crowd had to go through today. Ticket holders today had just about an hour and a half to go from happy to angry to morose to sullen to nostalgic all at once. After the sixth inning, I'm thinking about changing work schedules so I could get to Game 3 of the Cubs/Mets playoff series on Saturday. By the ninth inning, I'm looking up at the soda stains on the back of the upper deck stands ... trying to take in every nook and cranny that this Stadium had to offer me in the last 32 years of my life, and resigning myself to the fact that "Holy crap, this is it. Once I leave here, that's that."
And that's why I had to stay. Some left, and I can't blame them. Everybody has to deal with these things in their own way. I stayed. I'm glad I did. It started with some reminders as to why we're thought of as second class citizens by the people that provide us with this stupid sport called "baseball", as we were told at 5:23 that the ceremony would start in five minutes. Eight minutes later we were told the ceremony would start in two minutes. This confirmed what we already knew: that this team's only good at counting when they're counting the money they're going to make by selling the dugouts and the championship banners and the NYC parks logos that encase the trees.
Sorry if that comes off as being petulant.
(Some Phillies website referred to my Choke Manifesto from last season as "petulant". I don't necessarily disagree, and there's sure to be more of it in the coming post, and in the coming weeks and months. So if you're expecting anything different, you might be disappointed.)
Then we were reminded that there were very important Mets that had "other things to do" rather than be here for the only closing ceremony that Shea Stadium will ever know. Great, more misery. Not that Nolan Ryan, Hubie Brooks, Mookie Wilson and the like didn't have better things to do. But after what Mets fans had to endure on Sunday, the previous week, and the previous two years, everything felt like a slight.
But then the players who were here came out. And we were excited again for a few minutes. The highlights, of course, were guys like Doc, Darryl, Piazza, and Tom Terrific. But what got me were the guys that helped introduce me to baseball that you don't see anymore. Did anybody really expect to see Dave Kingman come back (or for that matter, show his face in public anywhere?) When was the last time Craig Swan was at Shea Stadium? And my first ever favorite Met, Doug Flynn? They really invited Doug Flynn? Boy, I didn't think this organization had it in 'em to be all-inclusive and recognize players from all eras and not just the good ones. The Mets have been accused of not recognizing their history. Every single criticism in that regard has been well deserved.
But Doug Flynn? Well played, evil geniuses ... well played.
It was all emotional, and it made us forget for a little while that our franchise is once again the joke of the sporting world. But it reminded us that this is it. The old barn is gone forever. No playoff games with the Cubs ... and no next season. It'll be knocked down and made into a parking lot by April.
It's a lot of childhood they're knocking down.
Unfortunately, every time I think about all the good times I've had at Shea, and even the multitude of bad events I've witnessed personally (Pendleton in '87, Gibson in '88, the Yankees clincher in 2000, Scott Speizio in '06), I'll think about the fact that while our bullpen sucks, it was former Met Matt Lindstrom officially closed out Shea Stadium by knocking the Mets out of the playoffs. And that it was the Marlins who were scooping dirt from home plate as a keepsake ... and as a symbol of conquest.
And that the Honeymooners episode that was shown tonight was the one I referenced yesterday: the one with the cornet. Everything was supposed to be louder than everything else. Instead, Shea Stadium exits stage left ... quietly.