The following is an elaborate spin-off of an essentially live blog entry I wrote in August as the New York Mets bullpen blew a lead for Johan Santana for the sixth time in the 2008 season. Part one/two/three/four/five.
Part five left us with Carlos Beltran staring at an Adam $*%@ing Wainwright deuce.
After over a month of procrastination, I'm set to face my demons. No Mets fan in their right mind wants to write about the "C" word, but it is and forever will be an integral part of our history.
Let's make this as quick and painless as possible.
The reaction to the Mets' exit from the playoffs wasn't as devastating as it could have been, because our core was still intact, and we were still very much a top team in the National League.
In November 2006, Guillermo Mota, already in Mets fans' doghouses, was suspended for 50 games for violating the MLB Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program, effective Opening Day 2007.
Omar Minaya rewarded him with a two-year contract.
We bid adieu to the likes of Steve Trachsel and Victor Zambrano (finally!), lost Chad Bradford, Darren Oliver, and Roberto Hernandez to free agency, and traded Heath Bell and Royce Ring to San Diego.
We said hello to the likes of Jorge Sosa, Aaron Sele, and Ambiorix Burgos. It's kind of like when you have a heap of old, flaming, ineffective manure, and you throw it away in favor of a new heap of flaming, ineffective manure.
The Mets gave new contracts to Tom Glavine, Orlando Hernandez, and Jose Valentin.
Is it getting old in here?
The infield stayed the same, but the outfield was tweaked slightly. Shawn Green (acquired in August 2006) stayed on board to platoon with Lastings Milledge and Carlos Gomez in right, and Omar made another brilliant signing by bringing in Moises Alou in favor of Cliff Floyd (see flaming heap of crap analogy above).
But we're Mets fans, so we're hopelessly optimistic when it's evident to the rest of the world—nothing good will come out of this.
Pedro spent April through September on the DL, recovering from offseason rotator cuff surgery, but came back in the last month to earn his 3,000th strikeout.
Tom Glavine limped his way to win No. 300, but that's not what we'll remember about him from the 2007 season.
The aforementioned Valentin, Alou, and Green all went down with injuries, but the Mets survived. Despite Mike Pelfrey being a bust (they replaced him in the rotation with Sosa), they took sole possession of first place on May 16 and didn't look back...until September.
My favorite dumb move will haunt us for years to come: the acquisition of Luis Castillo in August. Look, I had him on my fantasy team in like...2000. I didn't want him; I don't think anyone did. We're optimistic, but we're not stupid.
Anyway, seven games up, 17 games to play.
These games are mostly a blur to me, but if I recall correctly, most of them went something like this: score six or seven runs early, and let the opposing team (usually the Nationals or Marlins) gradually chip away until they overcome us late in the game, when our offense mysteriously disappears.
Another vague memory from September 2007 was when I was interning at SportsNet New York, the Mets' TV station. There was a "home run" jar. You put a quarter in, predict a home run for the person at-bat, and if they go deep, you win whatever's in there.
One of the on-air talents, I can't remember which (may have been Brian Custer), was a huge Cincinnati Reds fan, so he loved Austin Kearns, who was now with the Nationals.
I don't remember at what point in the game it was, or even what game it was, but he called an Austin Kearns home run, and it happened. I remember that loss being particularly devastating.
We fell out of first place with five straight losses from Sept. 24 to Sept. 28.
There was a collective numb feeling in New York City on Sept. 30, 2007. John Maine, who had emerged as a big game pitcher over the previous year, had thrown a gem the day before as we stayed alive in the playoff race.
We needed a win. We needed Tom Glavine to come through for us. In his time with New York, he came through more for the Braves and Phillies than he did for the Mets.
I got on the 11:33 train and got into Manhattan around 1:15. I started my 10-block walk from Grand Central to SNY as the first inning was starting. Before I got to 51st and 6th, I received a text message from a fellow intern: "7-0 Marlins."
A nice, numb feeling. Thanks, Tom Glavine.
This is where I would cash in on my depressing conclusion and announce the next part is on its way, but unfortunately, we're not done with the "C" word yet, so let's jump right into 2008.
It was time for wholesale changes. Paul Lo Duca—see ya! Glavine—adios! Guillermo Mota—peace out! Alou, Castillo, El Duque—sayona—what?! We kept them?!
(I'd slam on my keyboard right now, but the editor would probably take it out. I'd be profane instead, but that might make the editor feel awkward. I've got nothing but love for my B/R editors, so I'll spare them.)
The Mets did manage to dump Lastings Milledge, trading him to the Nationals for Ryan Church and Brian Schneider.
I had the opportunity to meet Minaya in November of '07 at an Associated Press Sports Editors meeting at the New York Times. Minaya was a guest speaker, and was absolutely delightful.
Off the record, he told us Jose Reyes was safe, Rickey Henderson would not return to the playing field for the Mets, and he would do everything he could to get Johan Santana on board.
Santana, the man responsible for these entries, was the big fish on the market after 2007 ended. The Twins were asking for things the Mets didn't have, and the Yankees and Red Sox were the favorites to land him.
Minaya pulled off the impossible and delivered huge for the Mets and their fans.
Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2008, Johan Santana was traded to the Mets. Nice.
Though we had to part with youngsters Carlos Gomez, Phil Humber, and Kevin Mulvey, it was probably worth it. I would have liked to hang on to Gomez.
The most overlooked move made by the Mets was putting Ruben Gotay on waivers. Though his defense was questionable, he brought youth to the second base position. He ended up being claimed by the Braves, and like all ex-Mets (Kaz Matsui, anyone?), he hurts us when he plays us.
The season started, and with Santana, the Mets were again among the strongest teams in the league, near the Cubs and the Diamondbacks.
Let's pretend none of these teams are the punch lines of jokes and get through this unscathed.
April 6, Santana was making his second start as a Met. Coincidentally, it was against John Smoltz and the Braves.
Pedro Martinez's second start as a Met was against Smoltz and the Braves. Smoltz pitched a gem, striking out 15 batters, but Pedro pitched more of a gem, and the Mets won 2-1.
Johan wasn't so lucky.
Like Pedro, he allowed one run. Unfortunately, the Mets couldn't cross the plate at all. Just in case they managed to (which they did after he was taken out), Aaron Heilman gave up an extra deuce to the Braves in the ninth inning. Santana takes the loss.
Dear Johan, welcome to New York!
Santana finished 16-7 with a Major League best 2.53 earned run average. Had it not been for the bullpen blowing six wins for him, Santana would have some more hardware in his trophy case at home.
Injuries plagued the Mets, yet again, all season. Pedro was a ticking time bomb; Church, Maine, Billy Wagner, and Alou (of course) all missed time due to injury.
The bullpen was a disaster, as we all know. Responsible for blowing leads in 29 games, it was only safe to watch the first five innings of games (six or seven when Johan was pitching!).
In June when the team wasn't performing up to expectations, manager Willie Randolph was the victim. Rick Peterson and Tom Nieto went down with him. Jerry Manuel took over on an interim basis, and the Mets started playing well again.
Carlos Delgado went on fire as soon as Manuel took over, and whatever anyone thinks, it was a coincidence. It had nothing to do with Randolph's departure.
Fernando Tatis was the feel-good story of the year, as he went from rags to riches, out of baseball to the back of Page Six. He was instrumental in keeping the Mets afloat over the summer, as was Daniel Murphy.
Three-and-a-half game lead with 17 games to play. Not as bad of a "C" word as 2007, but September 2008 was the same story, just a little worse.
You see, baseball's ultimate bragging rights went to our rivals in the city of brotherly love.
It was only five months ago, but I can't remember much, if anything at all, from September 2008.
I just remember a whole lot of losses, including in the final game ever played at Shea Stadium, already out of playoff contention.
The life of a Mets fan is brutal.
Coming soon: Part Seven—Time to write a new page.