This is it, folks.
The Mets have been beaten by the pesky Florida Marlins to put them out of playoff contention (and their misery) for the second straight year.
Oliver Perez pitched very well for the Mets, yielding only two earned runs. Scott Olsen matched Perez's effort with his own two-run outing, giving up a two-run shot to Carlos Beltran in the bottom of the sixth. The Mets' pen came in, gave up two solo shots, and that was it.
Florida's Matt Lindstrom, a former bullpen prospect for the Mets, closed out the game, giving up only Damion Easley's walk and Ryan Church's deep fly-out.
It is unfair to use the bullpen as the scapegoat of the game, as the Mets only managed a few base hits and could only knock in two runs. Nevertheless, the bullpen continued to undermine the starters. There will be a major overhaul in the offseason.
But I really want to concentrate on the positives of this sad season.
Our Cy Young
Fans saw dominant performances from one of the best pitchers they will ever have on their roster in Johan Santana. Although many of his starts were marred by shoddy bullpen work, fans were treated to spectacular control, terrific athleticism, and clutch performances.
For that, Mets fans should thank Johan Santana for his grit, craftiness, and heart. He will be a major player for years to come.
Daniel Murphy, Nick Evans, and, well, even Robinson Cancel came from nowhere, and they made the Mets a better team when there were no other options available.
They were thrown directly into a pennant race with no experience (unless you are Cancel, who, although technically not rookie, hadn't played in nearly a decade) and provided sparks for a spiraling Mets team.
Murphy showed especial patience at the plate and hammered out a .315 average, 17 RBI, and an OBP of an even .400. He played left field—away from his normal second base—because the Mets asked him to.
Nick Evans related to Murphy, as Evans himself is a natural first baseman. He platooned with his teammate Murphy in left field for a third of the season. Evans finished with a .262 average, has promise for major power, and, most notably, hit three doubles in his first four at bats as a Met.
The Wright Stuff and a Post-All-Star Break MVP
David Wright finished another dazzling year and will accumulate close to a .300 average. He also set new career highs with 33 home runs and 124 RBI, one short of Mike Piazza's team record.
Although Wright struggled a little down the stretch, he played consistent, hard-nosed ball all season and has proved he is one of the best third basemen in baseball. Many gritty years will follow Wright's bat.
Speaking of gritty, Carlos Delgado took apart everything he knew about baseball and ground his way back to his All-Star self.
Delgado had 14 home runs and 45 RBI and was hitting a paltry .228 going into July. He took a breath and slowly started exhaling thunder and lightning, putting together one of the best second halves of baseball the Mets have ever seen.
Delgado finished with an average near .270, 38 bombs, and 115 RBI. No one carried the team offensively more than Delgado after the All-Star break. Countless clutch hits, balls to the opposite field, and monster home runs highlighted a second half return for the D-man.
NL Comeback Player of the Year is in his sights, as well as a few MVP votes.
The Lone Light in a Place of Darkness
Although he did blow three saves this year, Joe Smith had an otherwise excellent season.
When failure was imminent as the seventh inning approached, the Mets could almost always count on Smith to postpone their misery for at least a few outs. Smith pitched in nearly 30 more games this year than last and gave up only three more hits.
He finished the season 6-3, with an ERA under 3.60.
A Leader and a Goodbye
Jose Reyes finished his year just shy of the .300 mark, with 16 HR, 68 RBI, 56 stolen bases, and 113 runs out of the leadoff spot. Although 2008 was not his best year, it was certainly an excellent one.
Reyes' performance reminded the Mets that their chances of competing usually depend on his success—and that he is willing to be that type of player come 2009, in Citi Field.
Ah, Citi Field. You have big shoes to fill. We know that your predecessor has only two World Series championships to its name, but it has contained the extremes of utter ecstasy and pure agony for 48 years.
Citi Field, you will have to imitate the sacrifice, the bleeding of blue and orange, if you want to be an adequate replacement for the Mets' hallowed ground.
It won't be easy, but with a little luck and a bunch of new players, you too can be the home that generations of Mets and their fans have called Shea Stadium.
Goodbye, Shea. Good luck, Citi Field.
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