Monday, September 29, 2003

Games 158-161 - Mets, or R.I.P. '03

Pirates 3, Mets 1
Marlins 4, Mets 3
Mets 9, Marlins 3
Marlins 4, Mets 0

Final Record: 66-95, Last in NL East, 34.5 GB ATL, 27th of 30 MLB teams

So that's it. The New York Mets close their horrendous 2003 season with the most muffled of whimpers, managing four hits and no runs in a meaningless game against the playoff-bound Marlins. I had hoped for a tiny bit of drama in this series, figuring the wild card fate might still be out there. Sadly for Philadelphians, the Phils did their best Mets impression, lying down and dying pathetically when it came down to it.

The last month of this season was exponentially more painful than the rest of it. It's sometimes a shame that there is no option to "fold" in baseball. What had been a refreshing change, watching the youngsters get their AB's and IP's while putting a spark back into the daily dugout, quickly and without warning became depressing drudgery. The upstarts came tumbling back down to earth. The veterans looked very tired (save Leiter & Trachsel). And I got bored.

Watching baseball on television is not for many folks, especially in this era of TV. To feel the draw requires a fairly deep knowledge of the game, a familiarity with the current players and teams, and a level of criticality. The criticality can come in the form of diversionary, media-built subplots, but it's usually simple contention in the races that develop. When that element fades, the knowledge of the game and its players may not be enough. In my extreme case, when you have watched waaaay too much baseball in one season, thanks to modern technology and a sister's Christmas gift, when the drama is removed, the joy of watching the national pastime leaks out like rinsewater through a colander, leaving a pile of cold, wet beans. And the latter portion of this Mets season didn't amount to a hill of said beans.

Thank goodness for the Red Sox. This column would otherwise have become a terrible read, a collection of intermittent, drab pieces chronicling in spots the torture of Mets fans. In some ways, it's an interesting case study for the damage a bad team can do on its fans' state of mind. April and May seem like distant memories at this point, but I seem to recall a vigor in reporting the latest unfoldings at Shea that was sapped in later months. I remember an energy about this project, one that dictated that every day was a blog day, or at least every weekday. It was fun to attempt creativity and generate new angles, metaphors, and inane lines of discussion. It was a new experiment, this format, and it was a good thing.

Was it the Mets that railroaded this project? Was it the bevy of overpaid, underperforming fat cats? Was it the failed prospects? Was it the uninspiring management? Was it just Armando Benitez? Was it simply that all of these people added up to a boatload of losses?

Or can the Mets blame external forces? Can they point to an array of distractions in this would-be journalist's life? A birth, a move, summer vacation, increased workload, increased commutes, increased tabs at The Irish Times, long weekends, short attention spans, hurricanes, blackouts, and an ever-diminishing memory bank? While all of these items factored into the equation, if the Mets had pulled off what the BoSox had, I'd be chiming in with the same frequency as my cohort. But no.

And so this space can be viewed as a profile into bitter indifference, if there is such a thing. The taste is surely bitter, it just registers with decreased frequency upon the palate, and not coincidentally. For me, though there have been rays of brightness along the way, this season has lived up to the Misery Loves Company title. The trouble has been that I have received no company from my friend Rob Russell. What's to be miserable about in a 95-win season? The Sox finished 28.5 games ahead of the Mets, when he only needed them to be 13 better to win beer. The only way that Mr. Russell could provide company at this point would be if the Red Sox managed to get ever-so-close to the World Series trophy, only to fall flat at the last second in some agonizing way. But that never happens.

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