Here we go again.
I know I’m beating a dead horse, and come to think of it, that's more or less what the Mets resemble, but Jerry Manuel’s ball club seems to be flat lining once again despite being an arms reach away from a postseason berth.
Last night, the Mets found yet another way to reach rock bottom, as the fatal blow came from the opposing teams starting pitcher, who took rookie Jon Niese deep from a fourth inning grand slam which broke open a 2-2 game.
It’s tough to say whether or not this is deja vu all over again, as Yogi Berra once said, or whether or not the Mets will stop this late season landslide before they find themselves on the outside looking in for a second consecutive October.
Once again, the Mets control their own playoff destiny, as they maintain a one game over a Milwaukee Brewers team who has been trying its best to avoid a late season meltdown of their own.
And while the Mets will wake up this morning still holding onto a playoff spot, you wouldn’t know it by the vibes surrounding them.
Last night, Shea Stadium, beginning it’s final week of regular season baseball it’s rusting and rotting walls will ever witness, saw its crowd turn quickly on their favorite choke artists, as cautious cheers turned into deafening, sustained boos.
The one big difference between this season’s late season slide and last is the absence of Willie Randolph, who ended up being the scapegoat for the 2007 disaster, losing his job in the middle of June earlier this season after his team failed to show an ability to get out of its own way through the first 70 games or so.
And while Randolph was enjoying the festivities Sunday night saying goodbye to Yankee Stadium, his successor may have to start preparing to say goodbye to more than his current ballpark come Sunday.
He may lose that interim tag after all—along with his chance of coming back next season.
But just as the blame was somewhat unfairly placed on the shoulders of Randolph, Manuel has done his best to weather this storm that only seems to strengthening by the day.
Once again, this falls on the players.
The bullpen has been putrid, but the offense continues to leave far too many runners on, notably in late game situations.
It would be a shame to spoil some of the feel-good stories around this team, whether its the resurgence of Carlos Delgado or the brilliance of Johan Santana.
And despite those, a failure this season to clinch a playoff spot would be nothing short of apocalyptic for this franchise, which is still very much trying to heal its emotional wounds from how horribly last season ended.
And yet with a chance to atone for their shortcomings last season, the Mets seem to be lacking the same killer instinct they needed last season, along with the mental toughness the team their chasing manages to find a nightly basis.
The Phillies, who were last season’s beneficiaries of the Mets collapse, have once again this year come from behind while leaving the Mets in their rearview mirrors, now holding a 2.5 game lead with the Mets having only six games left to play.
As Joel Sherman states in today’s New York Post, a second consective collapse would be “two much too handle”.
Six more games, at home, with the Cubs and Marlins at hand.
The Mets will start Santana tonight, and again on Sunday in Shea’s finale.
This is why the Mets went out and got him, and why GM Omar Minaya isn’t just yet preparing a resume for job interviews.
Santana’s magnificent season has come down to these last two starts, where he can help pitch his team into the playoffs and put the nightmarish memories from last season.
Succeed, and Shea Stadium will be given a stay of execution.
Fail, and everyone from Minaya to Manuel may not be so lucky.