Monday, October 19, 2009
The Most Beautiful Failure
October 19th, a rather unassuming day as it might seem, is a rather cathartic day for most Mets fans, at least those who remember some of the more memorable games that this team has played on October 19th.
On October 19th, 1986, the Mets played the Red Sox in Game 2 of the World Series. The game itself didn't turn out well for the Mets, but ultimately, they came back to win the World Series. So, in the long run, that wasn't necessarily a failure. But it wasn't especially good, either.
More appropriately, I look to games that the Mets played on October 19th 10 years ago, and three years ago. Both games resulted in losses that ended the Mets season. But it wasn't so much that the Mets lost that stuck with me. It was how they lost.
October 19th, 1999 and October 19th, 2006, both saw the Mets play games that might have been better suited for a stage, not so much a ballfield. This was art. This was pulsating drama of the highest order, and, ultimately, it was failure that left us with a tinge of pride. Beneath the frustration, there was the knowledge that we went down with our heads held high.
Perhaps it's still too soon to lump that Thursday night in 2006 in with its predecessor from 1999. This particular team and era of Mets baseball hasn't lived up to that promise since then, and that night, as harrowing as it was, still leaves a bad taste. After all, we were the favorite. We were in our own building. And we weren't trying to accomplish what, at the time, had never been done before. It was a night of prideful sadness.
And it wasn't the same as it was in 1999.
By all rights, it was enough of a miracle that the Mets had made it to October 19th, 1999. They were dead and buried more than once before getting to this game. They trailed their most hated nemesis, the Atlanta Braves, 3 games to 0 in the NLCS. Their best player was running on fumes. Their Manager was a walking controversy. The starting rotation was in shambles, with half the starting rotation having to work in the latter innings of another game the Mets refused to lose just two days earlier. That one ended up turning out in the Mets favor. Suddenly, the Mets weren't rolling over and dying. Suddenly, 3-0 had become 3-2.
That night seemed to pack every bit of frenetic tension from that month into one magnificent game. The Mets were down early. In fact, they were down so far, they may have been out early. But that was how the Mets rolled in '99. They always looked like they were out. Then they start chipping away and, and chipping away and all of a sudden there's that beaten-down warrior of a Catcher coming up with the biggest hit the Mets had seen in a decade, and a deficit that was once 0-5 had become 7-7. Everyone was chipping in, from the household names to guys you never heard of, like that Outfielder who was from Venezuela but at some point played in China who was all of a sudden playing like a 10-year veteran. Suddenly, that 3-2 becoming 3-4 didn't seem so farfetched.
But that magic ultimately ran out. Those Braves kept fighting back themselves, and in the end just managed to outlast us, to capitalize on one final mistake. It was the ending that hurt the most. But the way the Mets fought to get to that point stuck with us far longer than that ending.
It was 10 years ago today. October 19th, 1999. Perhaps the greatest loss in the History of the Mets.