Archive for June, 2007

The Answer Is Blowing in the Wind

Thursday, June 28th, 2007

  Last night I saw Bob Dylan perform at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Connecticut.  Although Bob Dylan has been one of my favorite musicians for about forty years, I had never seen him perform.  I can’t even begin to describe what I saw and heard.  I was looking at this person under a hat from a great distance, listening to his absolutely unique voice, hearing his unique music, and thinking that here I was, listening to someone who was better at what he did than anyone had ever been, one of the true geniuses of the twentieth century.  I was so moved and so excited and so glad that our lives had overlapped. 

One of the things I realized is that because I had been listening to Dylan’s music for so many years, some of his songs, and parts of his songs come into my head when I encounter all kinds of situations in life.  We all do this, I’m sure, but Dylan has really helped to define the world for me.  And since my world includes baseball, he has actually helped to define the Mets for me.  I realized that when I think about the Mets and what they do, I use the words of Dylan all the time. 

For example:

1)     The Mets are in a slump:  We’re “Stuck Inside of Mobile With the Memphis Blues Again,” “What price do you have to pay to get out of going through all these things twice?”  If the slump gets bad enough to knock us out of contention, just look up all the lyrics to “Desolation Row.”  And you know, if you’re a Mets fan, how hard it is to “put on any airs when you’re down on Rue Morgue Avenue.”

2)     A player, particularly an older player, stops producing the way he always has and you don’t know if this is temporary or if it’s the end (e.g. Piazza, Delgado, Martinez, etc.) “Something is happening, but you don’t know what it is.  Do you, Mr. Jones?”  (Cleon?)

3)     A Met for whom you’ve had some admiration or affection, just leaves or fades away without a suitable goodbye, e.g. Steve Trachsel “Goodbye is too good a word, babe, so I’ll just say fare thee well.  I’m not saying you treated me unkind.  You could have done better, but I don’t mind.  You just kind of wasted my precious time.  But don’t think twice, it’s all right.”

4)     A Met who was underperforming suddenly does fabulously well and people stop booing and start cheering, e.g. Tommie Agee, Carlos Beltran, etc.  “You’ve got a lot of nerve, to say you are my friend.  When I was down, you just stood there grinning.  You’ve got a lot of nerve to say you’ve got a helping hand to lend.  You just want to be on the side that’s winning.”

You see what I mean?  I’m sure you do this too, with Dylan or with anyone else who means anything to you.  Life, art, and baseball are a continuum.  Tonight, I’m going to the ballgame.  I hope it doesn’t rain and if it does I hope it doesn’t rain hard enough for there to be a rain delay.  I hope they win, going into this long (and lonesome) road trip.  Ain’t it just like the night to play tricks, when you’re trying to be so quiet?


The Psychology of the Slump, Part II

Saturday, June 23rd, 2007

And so, anyway, when you’re in the middle of the slump and you see that 41-year old Glavine got off to a great start but then has a couple of bad starts in a row, so he’s probably over for the season and how can we replace him, and Carlos Beltran also got off to a great start but then just lost it and maybe he’s hurt and maybe he’s not worth $119 million dollars and we need another big bat in our line-up that can hit left-handed pitching, and Shawn Green is not the answer to anything because that great start is not really what he is now and maybe Jose Reyes, as good as he is, is not the greatest player of all time, so we do need other guys on the team.

And then you get this game where you see that Glavine isn’t over for the season, Beltran and Green may have just been in slumps they could get over, and Jose Reyes is ready now to resume being the greatest baseball player of all time.  And Atlanta and Philadelphia don’t seem to be able to capitalize on our bad fortune and you begin you “realize” that the Mets may win the NL East after all.  You see that even though yesterday you couldn’t imagine the Mets ever playing decent baseball again as long as you lived, it turns out that they are really very very good and all set to go back to their winning ways.  And so, like Emily Litella, you think to yourself:  “Never mind!”

This is how stupid we are.  Stupid on both ends.  We are stupid when we give up on our team and we are stupid when the evidence of one game makes us feel (whether or not we really believe) that we are coming out of the slump. 

It does no good to think that we should be more patient in the future.  We won’t be.  We won’t relax.  We will lose hope easily.  And we will be suckered back into hope just as easily.  If we lived our real lives like this, what would happen to us?  Uh.


The Psychology of the Slump

Saturday, June 23rd, 2007

I remember when the Mets lost seventeen games in a row in 1962.  Losing seventeen games in a row is a pretty awful experience under any circumstances, but for the 1962 Mets there was little but dignity at stake.  And there wasn’t much dignity left when that slump happened.  The hopeful new 1962 Mets were simply in the process of becoming the symbols of comical failure they have been for the past 45 years, and will be for all time.

We know what the 1962 Mets are.  Truth be told, we knew what the 1962 Mets were in 1962.  But we have no idea what the 2007 Mets are, and we won’t for a while.  Is this slump a dark night of the soul that we will remember with a thrill because we will come out of it alive, swinging, and triumphant?  We’ve had slumps like that in our history, in July and August of 1969, or throughout the whole summer of 1973.  This might be a slump like that. 

Or it might be a slump like the slump in September of 2005.  We were charging to the top of the standings just when Katrina hit New Orleans.  And we blew over and flooded out, just like the beautiful, doomed city.  We went on a road trip and lost 14 of our next 17 games.  Our great season of revival, the magnificent season of Pedro, Cliff, Willie, and Omar, slipped out of our grasp and took its place in that Limbo of disappointing Mets seasons, those seasons that were full of hope and excitement at one point or other, but fizzled and are now hardly even remembered (you know, 1970, 1987, 1989, 1990, 2001, 2005). 

Will this season become like those?  Will 2006 have been a bright, brief flash?  Will we feel the pain of what we are feeling right now for the rest of our lives?  Does it feel, right now, as if they will ever play again the beautiful, controlled, well-oiled, errorless, astonishing baseball they played through April and May? 

Desperate people are demanding that we trade our future for what we dream might be left of someone else’s past.  Radio hosts are trying to see if they can get fights started.  It’s a dark, fevered, unpleasant time right now.  I was in the stands the other night, high up in a stadium that was almost empty at the end, wondering if the Mets would break some kind of record by having more errors in a game than hits. 

I’d like to be able to say that we’ll be all right, we’ll come out of it, but I don’t know if that’s true.  I haven’t lost hope.  With the Mets, I never lose hope.  But I remember plenty of times when all my hoping made no difference at all.

It’s when we’re in a slump that baseball fans encounter the real absurdity of what we’re doing.  We’re not doing anything.  We have no impact.  We have the illusion that we help by cheering real loud, but that’s an illusion.  It’s a nice illusion and it is part of the myth of being a Mets fan, but if we could cheer them out of funks, we would have done it long ago.  To be a baseball fan is to experience the pleasures and pains of being helpless.  We are helpless when they win, and we are helpless when they lose.  We don’t notice how helpless we are when we win because the world is behaving in the way we want it to.  So we think we are doing something right.  But we aren’t.  We are always doing the same thing:  experiencing emotions about something that other people are doing.  Does this make sense?  Does it need to?

What will happen will happen.  And we’ll always remember it.  We are at a crucial moment in either a really great story or a really lousy one.  I know you already know this, but it is all I have to tell you.  It is all you would be able to say to me.  We care about what is going to happen but we have no idea what will happen.  This is why baseball is so wonderful.  And this is why we all feel like crap. 

Some Hopeful Signs for the Mets

Wednesday, June 20th, 2007

Well, I just got back from Shea stadium and although I am disappointed of course that the Mets lost, 9-0, I was very pleased with the game.  I don’t at all agree with the fans who were discouraged by the Mets’ performance.  I saw a lot of very hopeful and encouraging signs of the revival of the team.  They are waking up and they are finally emerging from their doldrums.

I was most impressed, first of all, by their aggressiveness at the plate.  They didn’t let the bats rest on their shoulders.  Although they were facing Johan Santana, possibly the best pitcher in baseball, they refused to be intimidated.  They came out swinging.  And they made contact.  Santana could only manage one strikeout all evening.  How often do you see a team strike out only once in the course of a full nine-inning game?  They swung and they made contact.  They kept the ball in play.  I noted that several of the balls they hit to the outfield would have been doubles or triples if they hadn’t been caught.

The Mets were also aggressive from a defensive standpoint.  They didn’t get out of the way when balls were hit to them.  They fielded the balls and threw them.  Would you rather have a team that didn’t do this?  Sometimes, when you are being aggressive, you will throw balls too hard, or you don’t field them properly.  But making errors of this kind can sometimes be simply a sign of aggressive enthusiasm, of too much energy, of too much grit.  My feeling is that it is better to see such aggressiveness than to see none.  Once the Mets learn how to control their aggressiveness, the rest of the league had better watch out!

Some of the callers on the radio suggested that the Mets gave up completely after they fell five runs behind.  I didn’t see any sign of this.  I didn’t see any evidence that any of the Mets had gone home.  They stayed to the end and they came to the plate as scheduled, and there were nine Mets on the field every time the Twins came up.  I was there.  I saw this myself.  I am confident that, to the very end, the Mets fully expected that they would be able to win the game if they ended up scoring more runs than the Twins.
I stayed to the end of the game.  I felt that it was the least they deserved. 

No choke

Monday, June 18th, 2007

If you think that the fact that something has never happened before means that it is therefore unlikely to happen, you may be comforted by this.  Here are the facts:

In the 37 years of divisional play, the New York Mets have won 5 division titles. In 1986, 1988, and 2006, the Mets won their division by blasting away their competition early, building an insurmountable lead, and holding it.

In 1969 and 1973, the Mets won their division by coming from far behind and passing everyone else with an unbelievably strong final month.

In 1970, 1984, 1985, 1987, 1989, 1990, 1999, 2000, and 2001 the Mets were in contention for the division title into at least the final month, and often the last few days  of the season, but they never held a first-place lead of more than two games after April in any of these seasons, and of course they did not win the division title in the end.

So.  The Mets, in their 45 years of existence, and in the 37 years of divisional play, have never built a significant lead in their division and then lost it.  Never.  This is very unusual, as fans of many other teams can tell you. 

The patterns you see in these pennant-winning or pennant-racing seasons have had an influence on the collective personality of Mets fans.  Mets fans know the experience of greatness (which they value because of its rarity).  They know the experience of coming from behind, which if you’ve ever had it, never leaves you.  And they know the experience of fighting the good fight, hoping with all their might, and losing with dignity in the end. 

Mets fans don’t know, and they do not therefore fear the choke, the collapse, the bottom falling out of the universe.  They are not like fans of the Phillies, or the Red Sox, or the Cubs, or the Dodgers, or the Blue Jays, or the Giants, or the Angels, or even the Yankees.  The Mets have never actually done anything like this.  Not in the regular season nor in the postseason.

Okay, this isn’t entirely true.  Mets fans do remember those September collapses of the puzzling tired-Piazza, crazy-Valentine teams of the late 1990s.  In 1997, we could have had the Wild Card, but we fell just short.  In 1998, we should have had the Wild Card, but we fell short again.  We had had a Wild Card lead but we lost it.  In 1999, we won the Wild Card, after losing another Wild Card lead and then having a miracle comeback.  But we still should have won the division title.  In 2000, we won the pennant.  That’s great, but it didn’t feel as good as it should have because we fell short of winning our division by a single game.  And after losing the first three games of the 1999 NLCS, and losing the 2000 World Series to the Yankees in five, we didn’t, well, feel so hot.  The Wild Card seasons, to be honest, have had their moderately choke-suggestive aspects. 

But who knows how to feel about a Wild Card anyway?  Wild Cards aren’t things you fight for.  They’re things you settle for.  They’re consolation prizes.  I don’t think that the Wild Card seasons have taught Mets fans anything about the psychology of collapse any more than they have taught them about the psychology of triumph.

Let’s talk about winning division titles.  This is the task at hand.  The biggest first place lead the Mets have ever had in their division in a year in which they did not win the division was no more than a game or two, in 1970 or in 1985.  That’s nothing.  We’ve already had a six-game lead this season. 

I’m telling you right now that we will not break whatever our record is for a blown first-place lead.  We will win our division this year.

But right now, we’re relying a little too much on miracles.  Too many of the most impressive players on our team this year thus far are too old or too thinly established to take us all the way to the end.  What we need is our core:  Reyes, LoDuca, Beltran, Delgado, and Wright, the guys who are established and who aren’t too old.  They must all stand and be counted.  Because we don’t yet know if our sparkling rotation of Glavine, Hernandez, Maine, Perez, and Sosa is real or if it is a mirage. 

When this season started, I said that the Mets would win between 85 and 105 games this year.  They had a very big range of possibility.  What is strange is that in mid-June, they still do.  And I still think that the range for the Braves and the Phillies is no better than 85 to 95.  My gut math tells me that we have a 50% chance of a real pennant race and a 50% chance of a commanding victory. 

We must be strong for the Mets.  We must not be crybabies.  We must not freak out. The 1986 or 1988 team couldn’t have lost eleven out of thirteen because of the more balanced and secure ways in which they were constructed.  They weren’t depending on old guys or second-chance phenoms.  Yes, we could lose it this year.  This team, unlike the 1986 or 1988 Mets, can lose.  But this team can also win big.  Unlike the earlier greatest Mets teams, they could build a gigantic lead and they could also choke.  But I still say they’re not going to.

Why?  Because that is what I want to believe.



An earlier version of this post appeared on 



Monday, June 18th, 2007

They have lost 11 of their last 13 games. 

They look listless.  (Yeah, but teams look listless when they’re losing.  When you see a team in a slump, do they ever look positive and energetic?)

They’re not playing good baseball.  (You noticed?)

The pitching isn’t as good as it was.  (Uh-huh.)

Some changes may be needed.  (That’s what everyone was saying about the Yankees a couple of weeks ago.)

They may be in trouble.  (They may be indeed.  They may not be.)

The defining experience of the baseball fan is helplessness.  We are helpless. 

We are helpless when they win, but when they are winning it feels as if the heavens have opened up to shower us with good fortune, which we have not earned. 

When they are losing, it feels as if the ground has opened up to swallow us.  We haven’t earned that either.

We don’t earn anything.  We baseball fans just experience emotions about something other people are doing.

I would like the Mets to do something different now.  I’m going to the game on Tuesday.  Maybe if I cheer very loudly they will win. 

For Father’s Day

Sunday, June 17th, 2007

Just for today, I’m posting this relevant piece from my forthcoming book, Mets Fan 


            Whenever I go to a Mets game with my daughter, we arrive an hour and a half before the scheduled first pitch.  Not an hour.  Not two hours.  An hour and a half.  It’s funny how, with every person with whom you go to a game, there are specific rituals and specific rules.  When I meet other people to go to a game, it’s not an hour and a half.  With my daughter it is always an hour and a half. 

            Arriving an hour and a half before a game, we can choose where to park our car.   The stadium lot has more cars in it than you might think, but it is not crowded yet.  We park in a space that is close enough to an exit that will lead us easily back to the Whitestone Bridge, that doesn’t have any visible signs of glass, broken or otherwise, that is not too close to some guys playing catch, and not too close to anyone cooking hot dogs on a hibachi.   We park so that we can just drive forward and don’t have to back up to get out.

            We get out of the car and walk to our entrance.  We usually enter through gate “B” because although our seats are normally closest to “C,” we get to “B” first and we like to get into the stadium as soon as we can, because as long as we are outside of the stadium, we are outside of the stadium.   I always buy my tickets online now and we always get Loge Reserved as close to home plate as possible. 

            My daughter offers her bag to be searched and we do the thing where the cheerful stadium security people wave the wands around us.  I don’t understand why my watch, wallet, keys, and shoes will always make a metal detector at an airport go off but they never make one of those wands do anything different.  So be it.

            We present our printed-out tickets to the old guys who take the tickets.  They look like the same old guys who took the tickets when I was a kid, but they’re not.  We go into the stadium, and then depending upon what we have negotiated in advance, we either visit the Mets store or we do not.  If we don’t, and we normally don’t, we go right to the kosher hot dog stand near section 9 on the Loge level.  We’re not kosher, but these are the best hot dogs you can get in the stadium.  They are absolutely incredible, real, all-beef, kosher deli hot dogs.  I get two hot dogs with sauerkraut and a potato knish.  She gets a hot dog with nothing on it and a knish.  We get one of those big Diet Pepsis to share.  Then we go and get ketchup and napkins.  She likes ketchup on her hot dogs, to my infinite chagrin.  I should mention that my daughter is now a vegetarian, and she’s rather strict about it.  But this ritual of us getting kosher hot dogs at the Met game goes back many years.  It is the only exception my daughter makes to her vegetarianism, and she makes it with a real seriousness.  Many things are important in life, but some things must take precedence over other things.

            We take our food to our seat, and set up the Diet Pepsi in a place of honor so that it will not spill.  She handles the delicate business of getting the ketchup on her hot dog without getting it all over her.  I transfer the sauerkraut from the little plastic bowls to my hot dog.  And once we have everything where it should be, where it will not spill and make a mess, we start to eat and we watch and we enjoy being in the stadium an hour before the game will start. 

            We talk.  And we always have things to talk about even though we have just spent an hour and a half talking in the car as we drove down.  Our talks on the drive down are wonderful.  We expect to talk, as we’ve always talked on these rides, about serious things.  As soon as we get into the car in Connecticut, we are ready for our serious conversation and we have it and it lasts until we get within sight of Shea.  As soon as we see the stadium from the Whitestone Expressway, we are there, and that conversation we were having reaches a natural end.  When we get inside the stadium, the topic shifts to baseball.   As we eat our kosher baseball lunch or supper in the stands, we talk about how much we love baseball and how much we love the Mets and how cool and bright the stadium looks.  We usually go at night, because both my daughter and I are complete and total suckers for the way the stadium looks at night.  We watch the crowd come in.  We watch the opposing team finish up batting practice.  We make comments about people.  We see and hear the planes overhead.  We pay a kind of desultory attention to whatever pre-game ceremonies or awards or performances or events they have.   And when we’re long done with the food, with the unfinished gigantic Diet Pepsi tucked way back under my seat so that it will not get knocked over if I have to suddenly jump up, it is finally time for the National Anthem.  We enjoy our sense of being Americans at a baseball game.  She always comments on how the anthem has been performed.  She takes voice lessons and her great dream is to someday sing the Star Spangled Banner before a game at Shea.   We sit down and the game begins.

            My daughter welcomes each Met to the plate with a genuinely loud high-pitched non-verbal holler, that you also hear a magnified version of any time a Met does something really good.  She is totally into the game and she knows all the players and has her own very positive sense of their skills and their character.   Don’t tell her I told you this, but she really isn’t that much of a fan.  At least not in the way I was at her age and still am.  She is completely indifferent to statistics and she never watches or listens to a game unless I am.  If there’s a game on and there’s a rerun of “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy,” she will choose “Queer Eye” every time.  But when she is watching the game with me, she is totally into it.  I think she thinks that paying attention to the Mets is an important link she has with me.  She is already very sentimental about the fact that we’ve gone to all of these games together.  I can’t help but think of how the number of games I will go to with just her, when she’s still at home in our house, is pretty small.  It can probably be counted on the fingers of two hands.  This makes all the time we share at the stadium enormously valuable and meaningful.  But it happens in real time and it is such a fun thing to do, you don’t want to get too maudlin about it.  It would ruin the experience.

            I also think my daughter does baseball on her own terms.  Fine.  She’s really into drama and it seems to me as if she experiences the game as if it were a dramatic production.  She likes the tense moments, the amazing things that are done, the way the individual players’ characters show through in what they do.  She loves to cheer and applaud.  She loves the stuff on the Diamond Vision.  She always cheers wildly for our section color in the plane or car race, even though she knows that I think it is stupid.  She has an uncanny ability to actually pick which hat has the baseball under it at the end of the shell game.  She stands and waves her hands for the t-shirts.  She wishes there were more human waves.  I wish there were less.  She looks for and is very happy when she sees Cow-Bell Man.  She always shouts “Lets Go Mets” when she is prompted to do so. 

            We have so much fun.  Even when they lose.  Even if the game is absolutely terrible.  Don’t tell the Mets, but normally when my daughter and I go to a game a Shea, they lose, and often something really disastrous happens.  When they win, though, and you get to go down the ramps in a really happy crowd, there’s nothing like it.  We get to the car as soon as we can.  We nose out slowly, letting people walk by us, being charitable to cars trying to get into our line.  We get onto the Whitestone Expressway.  She knows and I know that we now have another memory and that nothing lasts forever.  If she has energy we’ll make up stupid songs and do the kind of dumb and repetitive improvised comic routines that my wife is glad to know we share with each other but definitely doesn’t want to be around to hear.  If she’s tired, she’ll sleep.  And I’ll just sit and soak in my happiness, coming back from a ballgame with my wonderful daughter on a quiet highway with the dashboard lights and the hum of the car.

©Dana Brand 2006


Thursday, June 14th, 2007

Okay, the Mets have lost 9 out of 10. They’ve lost a commanding lead and a sense of inevitable victory in their division. They have had their injuries, they’ve been up against good teams, but they have also played badly over these past ten games. They have not been unlucky. Atlanta and Philadelphia have played well and they have earned their right to be in a pennant race with us. The Yankees have begun to play spectacularly well and we can no longer enjoy the sense we enjoyed a month ago that we were the game in town this year.

We have lost what we had. This is our darkest night since the September collapse in 2005, when we lost 14 out of 17. We are going into Yankee stadium for a three-game series.

We are still in first place.

Our good seasons have not normally been this interesting. And that’s because in our good seasons, we’ve normally had a sense of what we could depend on. This year, we’ve built our lead with great pitching and we don’t really know if we actually have a great pitching staff. What do we have? A record of 36-28. Which projects to 91-71. That’s pretty close to what most people predicted for us.

Ten games ago, I wrote a very happy post. I’m no longer happy. But I am still hopeful. Should I get all lyrical and inspirational? Sorry. I’m not in the mood. I wish I could tell you what I think is going on and what I think will happen. But I feel like I’m in quicksand. I remember how quicksand terrified me when I was a kid. But there were movies, remember, where someone actually would get pulled out, because the rope would hold. Are we going to be sucked into the earth or are we going to be able to use our feet again to walk on dry ground?

Why am I asking you? You’re as helpless as I am. But no one right now looks as helpless as the Mets. Somebody named Loney just hit a home run. The Mets are losing 9-1. I’m going to sleep.


Book Progress Report

Sunday, June 10th, 2007

I’ve gotten my page proofs from the publisher and by the end of the week, I should be done correcting the page proofs and preparing my index.  My publisher, McFarland, is tentatively expecting my book to be published in August now, which is even earlier than I was anticipating.  I thank them for working so quickly.  I’m very excited.  I’m hoping that, if I get the corrected page proofs and index back to them after only a week, the book might even be published before the end of July.  Click on the image below for info about the book.

Road record vs. Home record. Why?

Friday, June 8th, 2007

Why are the Mets better on the road this year than at home?

I don’t actually think that there’s a reason.  It’s probably just a fluke that will correct itself.  But if there is a reason, here’s a suggestion. 

I suggest that booers make the relief pitchers nervous.  I suggest that this is also the reason why Carlos Beltran hit so much better on the road last year than he did when he was at home.  He was more relaxed on the road because of the boos he heard in 2005.

I suggest (I accuse) that some fans of the New York Mets (you know who you are) actually hurt the team by putting too much pressure on some players by booing them if they underperform.  Of course, many players can just ignore booing.  But some players can’t.  And that’s enough to hurt the team.

I’m not saying that Heilman doesn’t deserve to be booed for giving up a 3-run homer.  I’m not saying that Schoeneweis doesn’t deserve to be booed.  What I am saying is that it is counter-productive.  That is enough of a reason not to do it.
So please, let’s give them more of a break.  If they give up a lead, be sad, don’t cheer, don’t make any noise.  Cheer if they do well.

Then, maybe the Mets will start to play at home as well as they play on the road.

Save your booing for players on other teams, and for real, genuine assholes.


Swept Away

Friday, June 8th, 2007

Look, I can’t really say anything more than what I said yesterday. Something like this will happen even in the very best of seasons.

What is freaking me out a little is this unprecedented gap between the home record and the road record. I’ll have to check this, but I don’t think the Mets ever had a season with a better record on the road than at home. It may mean something (who knows what?) but I suspect it is just a fluke. Is it possible that our relievers are more nervous in Shea stadium?

Those three home runs in a row were inspiring. Maine was absolutely fine. Bullpens are streaky. What can you say? I still think we have a better bullpen than Philadelphia and I still think we will win the division in part because of that. But I also think that Philly is a force to be reckoned with.

So now we play the Tigers, the Dodgers, the Yankees, the Twins, and the A’s? At least we’ll get a chance to rest at the end of the month by playing the World Champions! Hey, don’t they have any weak teams in the AL we could play?


Coming Down to Earth (A Little)

Thursday, June 7th, 2007

There is no such thing as a Mets season without peril.  There is no such thing as a good story without conflict or tension.

The 1969 Miracle Mets looked great for a while, then they lost lots of ground, fell 9 ½ games out into third place in August.  The Miracle happened in late August and September.  People forget this.  That season wasn’t pure, continuous, and unmitigated triumph.  It was a jerky, bumpy ride, and to be honest, it looked as if it was lost when the season was considerably older than the current season is now.

The 1986 Mets came as close to having a perfect season as any team can get.  But all Mets fans old enough can remember game 6 of the NLCS and game 6 of the World Series.  The greatest Mets season of all came real close to ending twice, in an undeserved disaster.

1988 and 2006 were also almost flawless seasons.  And we know how they ended. 

1999 and 2000 were great seasons too.  But they were struggles.  And they ended in dignified defeat.

And then there were all those good seasons that gave us so much pleasure, and the excitement of a contest, but not even a division title:  1970, 1984, 1985, 1997, 1998, 2001.

We’re not baseball fans and we’re certainly not Mets fans because we have to have happy beginnings and middles and endings.  We are followers of a story that, like life, is never entirely smooth, and for the most part, in the end, for all of its wonder and beauty, is tragic.

I’m not going to get mushy at this point.  And I’m certainly not losing any faith or even any confidence.  I think that we are going to clobber our division and win the goddamn pennant and I think we have a very good chance of winning the 2007 World Series.

But I want to observe that our first three-game losing streak this season, and the last two games in particular, remind us that there is no such thing as victory without obstacles and bumps.  These games should have been won and they were bitterly disappointing.  And Philadelphia really is a good team.  And you can imagine what this does for them.  Thursday night’s game will be very important.

I’m not going to say vital yet.  I don’t sense a shift in the winds.  This is still our season.  But the injuries and the sluggishness of the big bats and the flickering of the bullpen may be slowing things down a bit, bringing us closer to the earth.  I don’t think Atlanta and Philadelphia have, in the end, what it would take to beat us.  Our pitching is too good and our offense, and our health, will probably come all the way back.

But we may have a pennant race.  We can handle that, can’t we?  We’ve been there before.