I’m all about the similes and metaphors:
On Thursday, the Mets will face the Dodgers at Dodgers Stadium to determine the winner of the NLDS. The winner will go on to face the Chicago Cubs, perhaps this year’s team of destiny. Game 5 is a day away which means that I’ve got to deal with my thoughts and the subsequent anxiety for over 24 hours. Everything is up in the air like Yoenis Cespedes’ bat above, hanging in space until inevitably and irrevocably it will land and settle. Like the outcome of the game, like my unbridled joy or utter disappointment.
This morning I consulted a Magic 8-Ball. “Will the Mets win on Thursday?” I asked. When I turned the ball over, the liquid inside was bubbly and precluded me from reading the oracle’s answer. A few moments later, things cleared. “Without a doubt,” the clairvoyant plastic ball said. Then why do I still have doubts? Investing your time, efforts, energy – and yes, love – into a sports team is to set yourself up for disappointment. In baseball, 29 teams will end their season in disappointment, in the NFL that number is 31. The odds simply aren’t in your favor. Then why do it at all? Why sign up for something that will likely end in failure, possibly misery, offering only a fraction of a fraction of hope for pure ecstasy?
In Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS, I watched Endy Chavez make the greatest catch I’d ever seen, robbing Scott Rolen of a 2-run home run with the score tied. The play became a double play as Jim Edmonds was doubled off all the way back at first base. At that exact moment, I believed the Mets were absolutely going to win that game and advance to the World Series. How could they not? Let me tell you. Yadier Molina hit a homer of Aaron Heilman, Adam Wainwright threw a nasty curve that Carlos Beltran watched go by to end the game. In 2007, the Mets blew a 7 game lead with 17 to play and missed the play-offs. In 2008, the Mets were eliminated from the play-offs on the final season of the day. Since then, the two highlights were RA Dickey winning the CY Young Award and Johan Santana’s no-hitter, the first in Mets history. And that’s it. Nine years of futility.
But this year, something strange happened. Actually, that’s not true. A lot of strange things happened. David Wright got hurt and missed over half the season. Somehow, the young pitching and the horrible, putrid hitters managed to make it to mid-July right around .500. Perhaps most fortuitously of all, the Washington Nationals underperformed and never quite distanced themselves from the Mets. There was hope. But then the Mets reminded everyone why they’re the Mets:
On July 29th, word spread across social media that the Mets had agreed to a deal with Milwaukee to send Wilmer Flores and injured pitcher Zack Wheeler in exchange for outfielder Carlos Gomez. The deal – like all trades – was contingent upon team doctors checking the players’ medical details. Ninety-nine percent of the time, this is a formality. But this was the Mets. The medical checks caused a delay and word of the trade got to Flores while he was playing in the game. In most cases, players who are traded are removed from the game immediately, so as to prevent injury. Flores stayed in the game to take his at-bat, then curiously returned to the field where he wept openly. The Mets scuttled the trade over concerns for Gomez’s hip. Yeah, the Mets managed to screw up a deadline trade and have their shortstop cry about it in the six-hole.
A day later, the Mets held a 7-5 lead over the Padres with two outs in the 9th inning. Heavy rains suspended the game. About 45 minutes later, play resumed and Justin Upton hit a three-run homer to give the Padres the lead and eventually the win. Only the Mets could lose this way. This, I thought, was the death knell of the season. The Mets headed into a weekend series with the division leading Nationals.
Two days after becoming the philosophical antithesis of the old standard “there’s no crying in baseball,” Wilmer Flores hit a walk-off home run in the 12th inning to help the Mets take the first game of the series. The Mets went on to sweep the Nationals and at the end of the weekend, the Mets had pulled into a tie for first place in the National League East. By the end of play Monday, the Mets took a one-game lead, prompting this reaction from John Stewart:
Everything you love will break your heart. It’s the price of passion in an imperfect world.
Caring about something by nature makes you vulnerable to disappointment. We all know this. It is why we are untrusting of people, especially with our hearts. But it’s also the only avenue to moments of transcendent happiness. We can never have our faith, hope, and love rewarded if we never give them out in the first place. This year the Mets have provided so many moments which have given me cause to react just like John Stewart. I will always have them.
I have avoided writing about the Mets all season because I am an idiot. I believe that somehow, my actions here on Oahu can influence the events taking place thousands of miles away. I didn’t want to jinx them. And here we are. I write this now because I won’t be able to write it on Thursday. Either way, I’ll be too manic. If the Mets win, I’ll be incapable of forming any thoughts that don’t involve the words “chee” and/or “huu”. If the Mets lose, we’re looking at a 650-word screed punctuated with swears and vitriol that I am ashamed I am capable of. So I’ll say it now, while I can. Thank you, Mets, for an incredible summer.
METS IN 2015!