Monday, October 02, 2006

Harder Now That It's Over

Games 161 & 162 – Mets

Mets 13, Nationals 0
Mets 6, Nationals 2
Final Regular Season Record: 97-65, 1st place in NL East by 12 games

So ends the 2006 regular season, with the Mets sweeping the Nationals at RFK. Off go the easy, breezy three-gamers against paltry league foes; on comes a potentially arduous three-gamer against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Bring it.

It’s funny how sports media personnel (outside the home market) seem to get the story about a week late. A week or two ago, everyone was icing the Mets’ cakewalk to the World Series, patting the Mets on the back whilst slagging the remains of the Senior Circuit. Of course, while the papers were praising our lads, the Metmen were spending their garbage time smelling no better than the refuse they’d tossed around for five months. We fans were on edge, inexplicably to the peripheral people.

Now, of course, I am reading a stream of articles on the New York Mets’ sudden fallibility. (Losing your ace will do that, but it's gone well beyond overstating Pedro's void.) Right as the Mets were winning the last four games of their long-locked-up season in dominating fashion, every two-bit sportswriting genius penned a eureka-reeking column on the Met woes. Now, at long last, folks are seeing that the man behind the curtain is actually Steve Trachsel, and that’s more frightening that a pack of flying monkeys to those of us in the ‘ship.

Except that by now, the Mets seem to have steadied themselves, readied themselves, and poised themselves for a true title run. They managed to resolve some lingering questions – maybe not with ideal answers, but with definitive answers nonetheless. There should be little doubt about who’s going to battle in the royal blue and blaze orange. (Were this a real battle, of course, wearing such colors into combat would be tactical hari-kari, but this is baseball, not guerilla warfare.) The offense began to flex those muscles again for the first time in a while, and unlike some of their peers in the playoffs (the 7-in-a-row-winning Trolley Dodgers excluded), the Mets have a little momentum rolling into the postseason.

Game 1 is Wednesday at 4:00 PM. I’ll be finishing up a day’s work in the nation’s capital as quickly as possible so as to catch the opening pitch (figuratively speaking). Anyone in the DC area looking to share bar space with a frenetic freak of a Mets fan should give me a shout.

Of Note: Game 5 of this series, if necessary, will be at Shea on Monday the 9th. My brother-in-law Patrick got us tickets, and though I will have to defy tremendous odds to be there, I’m planning on it somehow. Anyone wanting to watch my children to help me out should give me a shout. (Please, Mets, just win in 3 and let me go to the NLCS.)

Tomorrow I’ll take a closer look at the Dodgers, the match-up, and why Rob Russell is going to have difficulty living up to his promise to root on the Metropolitans when they square off against L.A.

For now, it's time for us to bear down and prepare for the next phase, just as the team does. It's been a ton of fun to sit through the regular season. It really has, but that's over now. Cakewalk be damned, there will be no gimmes from here on out. Supreme confidence and total anxiety are currently sumo wrestling in my belly, and I think only a malt beverage rain-out will clear the mat.

Cheers, mates.

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