Ghost of Shea Strikes Again
As news of Jose Reyes thyroid issue hit the press this morning, the prognosis was that the Mets shortstop would miss two to eight weeks. Fans who lived and died with this team over the past year knew it was going to be at least two months before Reyes played again.
As this bad news scattered through the news wires and Twitter, you could hear the harmonious shrieks of What is going on?”
The answer: the ghost of Shea Stadium.
When Citi Field opened its doors to the public last April, the outcry from Mets fans came flowing in. While the new park in Queens showed off its shiny new apple and perfectly angled seats, fans were left asking, "Where are the Mets colors and Mets decor?"
While nice gestures like a new apple and keeping the old one, as well as the iconic skyline, connected the old and new chapters of Mets history, ownership did not do enough to make this park feel like the home stadium of the Mets.
During the season, adjustments were made. The team decided to no longer hide the few championship banners they possessed, and they plastered images of old and current Mets in the inside and outside of Citi Field.
Besides the retired “Shea” that stood tall next to the numbers of Casey Stengal, Gil Hodges, Tom Seaver, and Jackie Robinson, memories of Shea Stadium, the home of the Mets from 1964-2009, were noticeably absent. The memory of beloved Shea was left in the team’s past.
While the Yankees designed their new cathedral as an upgrade of their old stadium, the Mets went for a completely new look. While many will say this was a smart move as the cookie-cutter design of the 1960s and 1970s was no longer fashionable or fan-friendly, the designers did forget to bring over the orange and blue that Shea so appropriately provided.
While the Mets played their first season at home in a ballpark other than Shea Stadium for the first time since 1963, the team struggled for most of the year. After the first month, the injury bug hit this team as hard as it has ever hit a ball club in the history of this game. As the stars fell, so did the Mets in the standings. By September, Citi Field’s empty seats finally resembled the many empty fall nights at old Shea.
Those connected to the spiritual world started to question if there was something or someone behind this sudden streak of bad luck. Sure, the Mets would never be considered a winning franchise, with more losing seasons that winning ones. But, the bloating disabled list, as well as a defensive performance that had little leaguers laughing, started to reveal that someone or something had a score to settle.
Perhaps the Mets' misfortunes were caused by the ghost of Shea Stadium. Or maybe it was the baseball gods who were trying to even the score by playing a part in the 2009 season. Maybe the proper tribute was not displayed to the stadium next door, as ownership continued to express how Citi Field was a great improvement, treating old Shea as the ex who was used and abused until something better came along.
Maybe 2009 was Shea’s revenge.
During the offseason, steps were taken to calm this ghost. Orange walls and a bridge named after beloved Shea were offered as peace offerings. The question left to be answered is, will it be enough?
Many fans pleaded with the Mets to change the outfield wall colors to blue. This simple move would remind the fans of Shea in its later years. While it is probably a pretty penny to replace the material, it may be the sacrifice this team needs to make to please the past so there can be a future.
Down in Florida, the injuries are starting to pile up again. Jose Reyes and his thyroid, Carlos Beltran and his knee. Francisco Rodriguez can’t see, and Kelvim Escobar can’t throw. Is this a simple hiccup in March? Or is it a repeat performance of last year’s plague?
It’s time the Mets make peace with old Shea.
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