The following is an elaborate spin-off of an essentially live blog entry I wrote in August as the New York Mets bullpen blew a lead for Johan Santana for the sixth time in the 2008 season.
Born in 1985, my memories as a young Mets fan don’t date back far enough to remember the glorious 1986 season, or the ensuing seasons when the Mets still put a respectable team on the field.
I vaguely remember Davey Johnson at the helm; Bud Harrelson and Mike Cubbage are foggy memories as well.
Darryl Strawberry and Dwight Gooden were playing their way out of Flushing; Vince Coleman threw some firecrackers into a crowd of fans, injuring small children; and Jeff Torborg was the last person on earth anyone should have to deal with as the first manager of their favorite team they remember.
This is the tragic story of being a Mets fan.
Charlie O’Brien came to the Dutchess County Fair, and I was the first person in line to get his autograph.
Come to think of it…I was the only person in line. Six baseball cards, a glove, and a Mets jersey deep, I’m sure he appreciated my obsession.
My batting stance in little league emulated Bobby Bo(nilla), bopping my helmet with the bat after each pitch.
Every time I passed a Howard Johnson hotel, I wondered if HoJo was in there.
Eddie Murray’s grand slams were beautiful, and as far as I was concerned, he was eventually entering the Hall of Fame wearing the only colors I’d ever seen him wear.
Jeff Kent was a no-talent waste of middle infield; Anthony Young lost 27 straight decisions; and Wally Whitehurst and Pete Schourek baseball cards were in high demand.
I would try to pitch like Jeff Innis in my back yard; Eric Hillman got married about 10 miles up the road; and David Cone being traded to the Blue Jays was devastating. Seven-year-olds don’t understand why bad teams trade their best players.
Yes, I remember Darryl Kile’s no-hitter.
The Dallas Green era started in 1994. Things were looking great. I got my complete set of Topps baseball cards the Christmas before, and Bobby J. Jones’ rookie card was my favorite in the box. I learned about the Mets’ brilliant future with Jones, Jason Isringhausen, and Bill Pulsipher.
I went to an early-season game and saw my favorite utility player, Joe Orsulak, hit a pinch-hit home run.
It was supposed to be the beginning of our Golden Age.
I still had no idea how much heartbreak laid ahead. Our team was full of disappointments who would either get hurt, never living up to their full potential (Jones and Pulsipher), or would be traded away and come back to haunt us years later (Kent, David Segui, and Jose Vizcaino).
Ryan Thompson seemed to strike out every single at-bat, and HoJo wandered off to Colorado to begin the end of his career. The players’ strike ended the ’94 season early. It was fine, we didn’t have a chance.
Brett Butler, Butch Huskey, and Rico Brogna were exciting names in ’95, but the team was still terrible.
Huskey’s home run swing was epic. He would bend backwards as if he were breaking his back because he was swinging so hard. "Butch Huskey?" What a name!
Edgardo Alfonzo jumped on the scene in 1995. He will always be one of my favorite Mets.
The next few years are all bunched together. It was a time I learned to hate the Yankees. Only Mets fans enjoy rooting against other teams as much, if not more than cheering for their own team. I’m pretty sure we invented it. It’s our safe haven.
Bobby Valentine took over, Rey Ordonez was going to be better than Derek Jeter could ever dream of being, and John Franco was still somehow bringing home a sub-3.00 ERA.
My timeless autographs include Pete Harnisch, Jerry Dipoto, and Chris Jones.
Remember the other Pedro Martinez? Yeah, we had him.
Bernard Gilkey and Lance Johnson were huge for us. Todd Hundley started hitting lots of home runs (an astute observation which won’t get me sued for libel).
Suddenly in 1997, we started winning more. Rick Reed’s control rivaled Bret Saberhagen’s back in the day, and Bobby J. hadn’t broken our hearts yet. Shades of the greatest infield in Mets’ history started forming when John Olerud came to town. Carlos Baerga was still lurking, so don’t let me get ahead of myself.
Olerud was a true class-act, and his sweeping swing was as beautiful as Ken Griffey, Jr.’s. He would still have the love and respect of any team he ever played for, even if he killed a dozen kittens in cold blood.
You know what? I really liked Manny Alexander and Alex Ochoa as Mets. It seems like they were around for a lot longer than they really were.
Interleague play started in ’97. Finally a chance to prove to those cross-town divas who the real team in New York is!
Not so much.
1998 brought us one step closer. The long awaited arrival of Mookie Wilson’s son didn’t last too long. Preston was used for the acquisition of Mike Piazza! Al Leiter also arrived on his white horse in ’98. The Marlins had to dump every good player on their roster to get ready for another title run in six years. We loved the charity.
Too bad we still had Carlos Baerga.
Names of emerging players who made me smile: Benny Agbayani (hold your jokes until 2000), Jay Payton, Turk Wendell, Todd Pratt.
Names of players from the ’98 team I’d love to forget: Dennis Cook, Hideo Nomo, Masato Yoshii.
Coming soon: Part Two, the 1999 team.