Monday, August 29, 2005

Dredging Up the Past, Feeling Good About the Present

Games 127 through 130 - Mets

Mets 3, Diamondbacks 1
Mets 1, Giants 0
Giants 2, Mets 1
Giants 4, Mets 1
Record: 68-62

The New York Mets and the Boston Red Sox, as well as their respective fan bases, each have their own reasons to hope and reasons to mope right about now, but there are vastly different vibes emanating from the two camps these days. A quick glance at recent entries on this blog tells the story, and it made me recall Rob's concise, accurate summation of the state of the union at the All-Star break last year:

Perspective's a Bitch
48-38, in 1st place in the Wild Card, and I'm a quivering blob of doubt and depression.
Mets: 44-43, in 4th place in the division, and Whit's quivering too, but it's his ample belly jiggling with gleeful laughter.

Flash-forward to today.
Sox: 74-54, in 1st place in the division, and while last autumn's visit to the mountaintop probably makes "quivering blob" inapplicable to any members of Red Sox Nation, there's definitely doubt, if not depression, and a bit of dread in the tones of MLC's other half.
Mets: 68-62, in 4th place in the division, 3rd place in the Wild Card, and while "gleeful laughter" may be overstating my current demeanor, there is a palpable sense of satisfaction radiating from Mets games in late August that actually matter.
Though the Nation may be giving its club a free pass this season, none of the die-hards are really going to be as flippant as they've waxed heretofore if the Sox tumble out of first place, and especially if they miss the playoffs. You can feel it in Rob's latest posts. Now, if the Sox simply don't repeat, it won't tear down what was built in 2004 for Boston; in fact, it may emphasize how difficult a feat it was and make the fans even prouder. However, there's one scenario in the various blueprints of the 2005 postseason that looms like a virus in the air outside Red Sox Nation's headquarters, and you know what it is. The only true disaster that would tarnish the untarnishable would be if the Yankees take the trophy this fall. And it would be awful.

Sox people know that the quickest way to heal, or at least medicate, the pains of past history is to win that championship. The Yankees and their truest supporters are still smarting from the pants-soiling that occurred at the hands of those Red Sox, though they'd never admit it. [Aloofness and indifference are handy towelettes when one's face is covered in embarrassing egg, but such a display either belies the true heartache of the fan or betrays the true lack of depth to the fanaticism. If you're a Yankee supporter and you tell me you weren't crushed by the events of last year's ALCS, you're either lying or a superficial fan, and in either case you should waive your right to revel obnoxiously when good fortune once again smiles upon the team that paid good money for it. Sadly, there are all too many in the latter category, as "the Yankee faithful" strays into misnomer all too often. At least the Sox fans wear their hearts on their sleeve; to a fault, many times, but it's more endearing than the arrogance.] Anyway, the one sure-fire way to strike back and stuff the recent bad memories into the Yankee subconscious would be to win it all this year, the baseball equivalent to topping a ringer in horseshoes. The Yanks fans desperately need this, and the Sox fans desperately need to avoid this outcome. Hence, all of the tension in those two camps.

Though the Nation is still donning the mask of the winner and may claim to be above the anguish if their rivals succeed them this year, I know it'd sear my salmon if I were a Bostonian. You can already hear the snide, unfunny taunts making their way throughout ballparks and e-mail inboxes everywhere. If the Sox could just guarantee that the Bombers wouldn't be storming the infield and hoisting the trophy after the last game of the 2005 season, they really could breathe easily, get about playing baseball, and let the chips fall where they may. Likewise, Rob and his ilk could enjoy watching the hometown nine give it that old college try without fretting over that one horrific result that might spoil so much good. They can't, and watching their angst from a galaxy far, far away, I'm enjoying the drama.

Meanwhile . . . the Mets have just as many problems as the Sox -- probably more. They just don't seem so pressing, and if those problems topple the Metmen in September, that's a full month to two months later than they've done so in years past. Yes, there are still concerns about second base while Miguel Cairo struggles with batting average anorexia and Kaz Matsui . . . plays like Kaz Matsui. There are still question marks in the bullpen, and exclamation points in the rotation when Steve Trachsel misses a start in favor of Victor Zambrano. Yet while we in the curious collective known as Mets Township reserve the right to pounce on the team at any time for horrid hitting, egregious errors and anything that could lead to the bubble-burst, right now that stuff just doesn’t bother us that much. This year's Mets have given us so much more to relish than the past two seasons combined, and the Mets are still kicking around in that batch of clubs called contenders. Rob can say it again . . . perspective's a bitch, all right.

Just for kicks, I dug up some of my own quotes from late August/early September posts of the last two seasons. This sampling of text should shed some light on why there's a pleasant calm surrounding all things Mets these days, even after the Mets went out to San Francisco and scored one run in each of three games. Enjoy one man's gradual slide into insanity . . .


"Really, really hoping that the Mets would be rained out, since there was no way they could come back from 3-0."

"The Wheel Has Fallen Off the Unicycle"

"Yearning for the Yesteryear of the 154-Game Season"

"Speaking of which, you pretty much know what kind of season it's been when you see that Roger Cedeno has been allowed 443 at-bats."

"So, let's recap the last couple of weeks. Loss after loss after loss, no hitting, no pitching, no fielding, low morale, low attendance . . . How 'bout them Red Sox?"

"What do you call bungee-jumping with no bungee cord? That's what the Mets did for 17 games, sandwiching a tiny win between two eight-game losing streaks."

"In the second half of this aesthetic equivalent of ipecac syrup, the Mets have suffered 4-game sweeps to the Braves, Phillies, and Expos. That leaves just the Marlins, who didn't have a four game series on the 2nd-half schedule. They did get swept in the only 3-game series they played against Florida, and they have the final trio of this season's games to make it 6 in a row. "

"Just a couple of weeks left in the Mets season. Not much ball left, and they're so off-target that you can't quite tell what they were really aiming at in the first place."

"Playing the Mets is like walking into a going out of business clearance sale. They're just giving everything away! Come on down before it's too late!"


"There's a little-known corollary to the 'Don't count your chickens' adage: If you know your eggs are all going to be duds eventually, cracking and rotting and scoring no chicks, count them all immediately and do the funky chicken all around the nest while you still have the chance. As applied to the New York Mets baseball organization, it translates: If you know full well the Mets will blow the lead, hell, you might as well go ahead and celebrate. Any lead is rare these days, and we all need something to cheer about on this dark desert highway towards the completion of this season."

"Gazing Up at Rock Bottom"

"These aren't meaningful games; these aren't even meaningful players. "

"We've go the no-name offense, the no-defense defense, and Fire Marshal Bill in the bullpen. The players just seem to want to get the season over with, a sentiment that corrodes winning percentages in the final months like little else."

"Recaps are for teams worth recapping, and the Mets ceased qualifying weeks ago."

"You Can Go Home Again (Though You'd Never Know It from Mets Baserunners)"

"On a related note, under Things I Learned This Season I can put that on those nights that the Mets are getting stomped by the 7th inning stretch (kind of like saying on those nights the sun actually sets, or on those nights Boston players do something really dorky or effeminate and yet it's still embraced by Red Sox Nation), I can load up on the Jamo's on the rocks, black the whole game out, and enjoy a pleasant good morning from wake-up until Sports Section perusal. Makes starting out the day significantly nicer, even with the headache, rot-gut, and tattered personal relationships."

"So as you can see, we don't need to delve any further into the recent past, especially when the future is now an entirely new shade of midnight black these days."

"There's nothing but worse news every day, and there's little positive to point to right now. There might be tomorrow, but not right now. I can't justify spending any more time bemoaning the sad state of affairs in Metville. I can't even make a joke here. It's just that numbing."

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