Monday, September 29, 2008

Never Right

With one out in the bottom of the 9th yesterday, I turned to El Guapo and said something I'd been thinking for a while, at least on that particular day:

"You know, I don't think you can point out where it all went wrong, because I don't think it was ever right."

And that's a good summation for the 2008 Mets. They were never right.

It was always something with this team, and yesterday, for one final, miserable time, they showed us just who they were: A team that can throw a starting pitcher that will keep you in the game (except for that one instance every 5 days where they throw that starting pitcher who will dominate you, shove the bat up your asses, beat you up and take your lunch money), but will constantly be submarined by a bullpen that can't close the deal and an offense that feels too much pressure because of it and can't extend a lead, or sometimes even get you a lead in the first place.

That was yesterday, and that was the season. It had an even greater sense of urgency than last year. This year, there was not only that palpable sense of fear, there was that sense of history, with so many former players in the building, ready to give Shea that grand sendoff that wasn't going to be Goodbye just yet. Last year, things blew up before they could even get started. This year, it was like Waiting for Godot. Something had to happen with the Mets offense sooner or later, right? Not until they fell behind in the 6th, and then when they fell behind in the 8th, there was no response. Delgado's drive fell tantalizingly short in the 8th, and Church's drive died, along with the season, on the Warning Track in the 9th inning, amid an eerie display of flashbulbs popping and people sighing.

And...That was that.

Milwaukee had already completed their game, and so with Church's drive settling in Cameron Maybin's glove, the finality of it all just socked everyone in the face, collectively. There was still a ceremony to be held, and I'm sure the circumstances were probably the worst nightmare of Fabulous Freddie and the Boy-King. After spitting it up and watching as Milwaukee won and erased the Mets chances of a playoff run for the 2nd year in a row, now, we're going to make you even more depressed by trotting out all these old greats in a ceremony to close down Shea Stadium. And it seemed like they couldn't even get that right, as we sat around for 30 minutes in muted agony, while they piddled around in the outfield setting up some placards, and pulled a special cover over the mound. And the Ceremony was lovely, and poignant, and I'm certainly glad I was there to see it. While it might have taken away a bit of the sting of the game itself, there was a pall over it. There's plenty to be said about the ceremony, and plenty to be said about Shea itself, which I'll save for another day. But when things ended, when Tom Seaver and Mike Piazza walked through the Center Field fence with the spotlight on them, slowly shut that door and the fireworks went off, everyone just sort of got up and left, very quietly and very quickly. There wasn't much chatter going on, there wasn't any cheering, there was just sort of a low mumble as everyone exited Shea, clearing out the old ballpark for one final time.

The discussion after the game between El Guapo and I could have very well been about what a great ceremony it was, and perhaps under different circumstances, it would have been. But the ceremony was just a slight diversion from the abject misery of a season gone awry. All we could talk about was the current version of the Mets, and where things stand right now. There's a core, we know that, and as much as people would like to bash them and call for their heads, none of those guys are going to get traded. Whether you like it or not, David Wright, Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran, Johan Santana and Carlos Delgado are not going anywhere. It becomes a matter of the pieces that are put around them that will make the difference. I had said, and this may or may not be true, that perhaps this group isn't really as good as we or others make them out to be. They're a good team, yes, and a contender. But maybe, after looking back on what they've done over the last 4 seasons, maybe 2006 was the fluke, and near-misses are the norm. It wasn't a collapse when the team displayed nothing more than abject suckitude for 4 months in 2007, and it wasn't a failure in 2008 when the team played inconsistent ball with a brief hot streak here and there for the better part of 2008. You can tell it wears on the players; David Wright looks like he just spent 6 months on Iwo Jima. But he's also one of those guys who has to realize that he can't do it all himself. He can only do what he does, and he did it well until he started trying to carry the entire team on his shoulders, and you could see him slowly making himself nuts over the last month of the season. Which tells you everything you need to know about this team. The players don't seem to have a lot of confidence in each other's ability to get the job done. So, then, why should we? There needs to be some wholesale changes with a good portion of this team before I can feel comfortable calling them a Championship-level team. Until then, they're just going to continue to be a good team that will constantly come up just a little bit short.

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