Lost in the shuffle that was the past three seasons of mediocrity for the New York Mets was the fact that the Washington Nationals were causing more problems for them than the rival Philadelphia Phillies.
In fact, the Nationals are bringing to mind the painful memories that Mets fans endured during the 2007 and 2008 collapses.
In 2009, the Nationals finished the season with 103 losses and a distant 34 games out of first place. The Mets, until a disastrous second half, were a decent team.
The Nationals swept the Mets in the final series of the season, highlighted by a walk-off grand slam by the immortal Justin Maxwell (who?) off the ex-closer Francisco Rodriguez.
I remember watching that game, and sensing something brewing in Washington despite their dismal history.
Knowing that they had the top pick in the draft the next season meant they would be drafting Stephen Strasburg.
Additionally, knowing they would probably be equally as dreadful in 2010 meant the first pick of the 2011 draft as well, which sprouted into a Chipper-Rollins hybrid named Bryce Harper.
Since then, the Nationals have been thorns in the sides of the Mets.
In 2010, the teams split the 18-game season series despite the Mets finishing with 10 more victories.
Last season was the first time during the Nationals brief history that they won a season series from the Mets.
What used to be an easy two of three for the Mets has now become all nail-biters with hair-on-fire type urgency.
Thus far, the Nationals have already won five of the first seven meetings with two of them decided in extra innings.
In the past few years, the games have lacked any sort of significance to the standings, but now they are beginning to remind me of what was experienced four and five years ago.
The September matchups between the Mets and Phillies in '07 and '08 felt like they took years off my life.
Watching leads get blown by Billy Wagner, Luis Ayala, Aaron Heilman and Co, then have J.C. Romero or Chad Durbin strand inherited runners from Jamie Moyer was literally the most frustrating thing to watch.
The Mets clubs of those years differed from 2012 in that they actually possessed several offensive weapons while this team is basically David Wright and Scott Hairston—against lefties.
In 2007, the Mets won six of the first 10 meetings of the year, before losing the final eight in gut-wrenching fashion—all in the second half.
The low point had to be on September 16 when the Mets used Guillermo Mota, Willie Collazo, Joe Smith and Jorge Sosa to navigate through a five-run sixth inning which cost the Mets the game.
Since that point, the Mets have actually held their own against the five-time defending NL East champs and the games are not nearly as intense as they were.
The Mets swept the Phillies IN Philadelphia earlier this season! Could anyone have imagined that during the woeful collapse?
In any event, the Mets are now in the midst of what appears to be another collapse. This one is much earlier in the year, but the Atlanta series, and now Washington, is causing Mets fans—like myself—to be reminded of the all-too-familiar feeling of hopelessness.
Is the film being re-scripted with Bryce Harper, Sean Burnett and Gio Gonzalez playing the roles of Shane Victorino, J.C. Romero and Jamie Moyer, respectively?
How ever you slice it, this has not been a fun five-game losing streak for Mets fans to watch, and the Nationals have caused ulcers this season for us.
They will face them 11 more times this season, so they either must figure it out now or be faced with another offseason in the abyss.