As the dog days of August have crept up on us and that "playoff fever" is beginning to set in, the New York Mets have given their nostalgic fans something magnificent—the feeling of not even being in it, forcing most to revert to rooting against the machine-like Yankees as we’re still watching training camp scrimmages.
This is not about excuses, this is not about looking forward. This is about doing what most fans already did more than a month ago—what management officially did when David Wright was placed on the disabled list.
Despite disappointments in 2006, 2007, and 2008, this season was almost more of a letdown. The Mets were exposed for what they really were—injury prone on offense, overachievers on the mound.
Wright didn't get to see a juicy fastball all season since there was neither a stolen base threat on the base paths, nor intimidating hitters around him. We'll take the .324 average, secure in knowing we have a real hitter on our team who did all he could to get on base and give his squad opportunities to win.
Shame on us if he steps on the diamond in September.
Johan Santana is human, unable to win every start, 1-0. It's difficult to swallow the "C.C. Sabathia gets paid more and is going to have a better record this year" pill. Don't try to fight it by citing earned run average or the supporting cast, Mets fans. Just turn the other cheek and pray for sympathy from the baseball gods next year. If we lived through 1996-2000, we can live through this.
We saw some glimmers of hope in our youth when they were healthy. Angel Pagan lobbied nicely for a starting position in the Citi Field outfield next year. Omir Santos is a fantastic choice behind the plate. The addition of Jeff Francoeur is helping us save face as we limp to the finish line.
Oliver Perez reminded us why we're keeping him. He'll put guys on base, but if the bases are loaded with no outs, he can strike the next three guys out. Not every pitcher in the big leagues can do that.
Mike Pelfrey hadn't figured things out like Mets fans hoped he had, but we remember what we saw for those three near-perfect months in 2008. The talent is there.
It's going to be difficult to relive the September of old, watching the Yankees barrel into October, favorites to bring home the jewelry, the Phillies one of their top threats.
It seems like the end of the world for our kind, but there is a silver lining in all of this.
Walk tall, Mets fans. Watch Mark Sanchez, Eli Manning or Terrell Owens in September and October. Even if you show the sly grin on your face, nobody will know why you're smiling.
You're smiling because the stage has been set for a coup. All the pieces have been put in place except for one.
First, the Mets have the superior New York medium. While the Mets and Yankees share the newspapers and network TV stations, there is a decisive advantage with Sportsnet New York (SNY) over Yankees Entertainment and Sports (YES).
SNY has more personality and is more hip to the New York sports scene, regardless of alliance. The "New York New York Sports Sports" commercials are on par with Geico and Bud Light these days in terms of quality of humor.
SNY reaches the essence of what a true New York Sports fanatic is in its purest form. Turn on YES. What's on? Bernie Williams playing guitar? The "Yankees Classic" of the Luis Castillo dropped pop-up? The best part of YES programming other than live games was Mike & the Mad Dog (also broadcast on WFAN, 660 AM, the Mets' radio station), but now that's even lost some luster since Mike Francesa and Chris Russo parted ways.
Both are still lacking in the race for quality programming all day long, but SNY is far, far ahead in comparison to YES.
Each network also has an effective announcing team capable of broadcasting the game with quality analysis, catering to home fans, but not crossing the line as you might experience if you watch a Nationals game with Rob and Bob on MASN (I assume it stands for "MASochistic Network—if you've heard them call a game, you don't disagree).
Second, we now have the better stadium. Players, announcers, and even Yankees fans admit it. Granted, the Yankees' stadium works for them in ways ours may never work for us, but the overall ballpark experience is more enjoyable at Citi Field.
Finally, we receive much less denigration from politicians, citizens, and the media about our spending and ticket prices, given the state and nation's current economic conditions. We aren't exactly angels in comparison, but we're at least the middle child who learns from the oldest, staying out of trouble just by being not as bad.
Of course, none of these three points are as valuable as the fourth, which we lack: putting a winning team on the field. The Mets flirted with the idea from 2006-2008, but completely dropped the ball this year.
The Yankees continue to win, which keeps us in the back seat. They will continue to spend to win, which apparently is finally proving successful, though the rings aren't on their hands yet (see: 2002-2004).
It's not fair or sane to predict the Yankees will ever stop winning, but they do wobble on that line where the history, pageantry, and mystique of being "The Yankees" can wear thin with New Yorkers.
Should the Mets decide to buck up and take their fans for a magical journey into October one of these years, the other pieces are in place to take the reins and rule the state of New York.
Keep your chin up, Mets fans. There's always next year. And at least we're not choke artists anymore, right?
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