It's not easy being a fan of the New York Mets. The fall from grace has been so quick that most fans didn't even have time to adjust to life in the basement.
With expectations at their peak coming off an NL East title and NLCS appearance in 2006, the Mets would go on to finish second in 2007 and 2008.
In 2007, the Mets completed what I have come to call the "Seven with 17" collapse, losing the division on the final day of the season to the Philadelphia Phillies. Since that season, the Phillies haven't relinquished their division supremacy, and the feeling Mets fans had on that day hasn't gone away.
A few bad contracts and back to back sub-.500 seasons later, and it's impossible to walk out your door without hearing something bad about the Mets.
In no place is that more true than in the Mets' home town, New York City.
Obviously, you're not going to read about the Mets issues in the Kansas City Star, but there has to be some pro-Met coverage somewhere in New York, right?
You can turn every page of every newspaper you want; scan every Mets website or magazine; even ride any bus or subway in the city, and you'll get the same story everywhere: the Mets are a terrible franchise, and a terrible team, with no future and no chance.
Look, am I going to sit here and make a case for the Mets to be competitive in 2011? No. I've already done that many times in the last few weeks and it's based entirely on a list of "ifs."
And I'm more than aware of their struggles and situation, both on and off the field.
Whether it's Luis Castillo, Oliver Perez or Bernie Madoff, the Mets are open to criticism from all sides. They have no one to blame but themselves.
But if you say the same thing and hear the same story every day, your future becomes nothing more than a self-fulfilling prophecy—an inescapable truth that despite your best efforts, you'll never be able to change.
Mets fans expect a bust in 2011. They expect another sub-.500 team with no chance at even a second place finish. Heck, there isn't a Mets fan alive who wouldn't sign up for a .500 team that keeps the Phillies from winning the division by beating them on the final day of the season.
And that's what it's come to in the the Empire State. The biggest city in the world has the smallest expectations for their team.
On a subway last night, riding along, half awake, I turned to my left and noticed an advertisement. Nothing new on a subway, but this one in particular caught my eye. Perhaps some people reading this have even seen it themselves.
It was an advertisement for a mini-storage business that said: "Why would you leave a city that has six sports teams...and the Mets."
I mean, seriously?
I know they're bad, but isn't something like that the same as telling your son he'll never be a great player after he strikes out in little league?
Maybe it's the size of their payroll. Maybe it's the dancing and carrying on the Mets do when they're winning. Maybe it's the result of living in a city where affections change with the traffic lights.
Maybe if we pound this team into the ground and put enough pressure on them, we can create a diamond out of a lump of coal. But maybe we can try taking this team for what it is—a group of guys playing a game. An eight-game losing streak isn't costing the fan anything other than a few bottles of Pepto-Bismol.
There's a new regime in place ready to turn things around. Handing Sandy Alderson and Terry Collins a lemon isn't going to get you champagne. They're playing with house money in 2011 and there isn't any realistic result which would come as a surprise to Mets fans.
So let's start the season and see how the chips fall. Let's stop beating the poor horse and pointing out the obvious. Let's play some baseball!