Archive for August, 2007

Deserve Victory

Friday, August 31st, 2007

 

Everyone who has rooted for the Mets for at least eight years knows what game was buried inside the game they saw this long, hot, muggy afternoon.  I recognized it as soon as I turned the game on and heard that we were behind, 5-0.  I feared it when I saw that we had caught up, and when we then fell behind, 8-5.  When we took the lead, 10-8, I did everything that would not actually get me committed to try to ward off my sense that the demon game was in there.  But it was in there, like a vampire, struggling to live on our blood.  I recognized it.  I saw it and it prevented me from ever thinking that the Mets were going to win the game.  I am usually a hopeful fan, but I never thought we would win.  I had been in this haunted place before.  Here it was again: the sixth game of the 1999 National League Championship Series.  The game after the glory of the grand-slam single.  The game in which we fell behind 5-0, with our backs against the wall.  The game in which we climbed back and fell behind and climbed back again and then lost our lead twice when closers who had been invincible all season could not hold the Braves.  We lost it right on the knife edge of fate.  Right on the border of happiness and despair.  Right where Kenny Roger’s pitch gave the 1999 National League pennant to Atlanta.

Philadelphia is not going to take it from us.  When they are not psyched because they’re facing us, their lousy pitching staff will revert to form.  But we have a pennant race now.  The odds were at least 32-1 against them winning five in a row as we lost five in a row. But it happened.  And here again we see an old Mets pattern that will not die.  The Mets have a very long history, when they’re very good, of coming a long way, then digging themselves a grave, falling into the grave, and then climbing back out of it. 

All you can hope is that this disastrous series in Philadelphia will give the Mets a sense of what they need.  I’m not talking about stuff only the general manager can fix.  I’m talking about the fingernails you need to climb out of graves and scratch someone else’s eyes out.  I liked the way the team came back today.  I liked the sense of their sweat, their defiance, their frustration, and their desperation.  I liked the ten runs.  Last year people wondered if the ease of the 2006 season had not prepared the Mets for the trench warfare of the playoffs.  St. Louis may even have beaten us because they were used to being a mediocre team that lost a lot of games and knew that they really had to turn it on to beat teams better than them.  We may not have known how to turn it on because we had been pretty much on all the time.

These 2007 Mets are not a great team.  We know that.  They know that.  But they can still go all the way.  They are not the 2006 team.  They are not the 1999 or 2000 team.  What they are is something like the 1997 or 1998 team in a universe in which there is no juggernaut in Atlanta.  This is a 1997 or 1998 team with the opportunity to win its division.  Good, but riddled with imperfections, and seven games in front only five days ago, they must now find whatever gave them 10 runs today.  Maybe something good and unanticipated will happen to make all the difference.  Maybe Carlos Delgado will go on a titanic tear, maybe Scott Schoenweis will bear down and give us a bullpen, maybe Pedro Martinez, having sat out almost the whole season, will put on his armor like Achilles and stride into battle and give us the games that will shape our idea of him forever. 

Maybe we will lose.  Maybe a team as hungry as the Phillies we’ve seen over the last five days will not be denied.  But I am beginning to think that the Mets will fight.  That’s all I want to see.  It would be great if they won.  But the important thing is that they will fight.  I will help them, as I can, from the powerless perch of my couch.  This is an epic unfolding.  You will never forget the game they played this afternoon.  You may never forget the next two months.  The Mets are down, hurt, angry, and headed into Turner’s Field.  The Phillies and maybe even the Braves are ready to bridge the moat and storm the citadel we have held for almost the whole season.

They shall not pass.
 

There’s not much difference

Wednesday, August 29th, 2007

Okay, I know, I know.  My point is look how close what I wrote below came to being true.  Does the fact that it is not true mean that the Mets won’t win it, considering that you would have been prepared to believe that they would have won it if a little dribbler went foul or if a not-that-wild catcher’s throw could have at least been knocked down? 

We are living on the edge.  We will still most probably win the division.  But then, with our talent and our flaws, we will crawl onto a knife’s edge and stay there for however long we stay alive in the postseason.  We may win it all this year and we may stumble right out of the box.  Tonight could have been the turning point of the season.  Tomorrow may still be the turning point of the season.  Or there may be no turning point.  And we may just win it anyway.  Forget the story we will one day concoct to explain how what happened at the end of this season was inherent in what happened during the season.  That story isn’t true and we haven’t even made it up yet.  Anything can happen this year.  There will be no rhyme nor reason.  There will be Mets indeterminacy, as there was in 1999 and 2000, where so little different would have made such a big difference in what we would remember. 

We are all together on this edge.  Let it please this time be a threshold, and not a ledge. 

 

Put It In the Books

Wednesday, August 29th, 2007

Carlos Delgado’s bat delivered all of the offense the Mets needed yesterday as Tom Glavine turned in a commanding pitching performance, shutting the powerful Phillies offense down in their own park.  Pedro Feliciano, Aaron Heilman, and Billy Wagner held the lead in spite of an eighth-inning lead-off home run by Jimmy Rollins and a throwing error by Paul Lo Duca that allowed the tying run to get as far as third base in the eighth.  The Mets are now 6 games in front of both the Braves and the Phillies, with only 31 games to play.  There is very little chance that they can be caught.  In spite of all of the season’s disappointments, I guess we can finally put it in the books. 

Are We Having Any Fun Yet?

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2007

 

I don’t know about you guys, but I am.  Dare I say that last night’s game may be remembered as the game that defined the season?  I’m not going to take this post down.  I’m leaving it up.  I say it.  It’s over.  The Division race is over. 

They have confounded you all season.  But the Mets are here.  They have arrived.  They will give us one of those memorable Septembers and you will be thrilled.  You will not remember any of the disaffection you have been feeling since the beginning of June.  You will forget you ever said that they didn’t want it, that they didn’t have fires in their bellies.  You will see that big pile of rbis next to the names of Beltran and Wright and Delgado (listen to me!).  You will see that neat row of .300 batting averages, those quite solid E.R.A.s and you will not remember anything.  Until I snap my fingers.  And I may never do that. 

Look, you weren’t wrong.  Something was missing.  A lot was missing.  There was some sloppy play and some bad relief pitching.  There was not enough clutch hitting.  But not as much was missing as we felt was missing.  Our perceptions were all distorted.  By the expectations created by the wonderful 2006 season.  By the fact that Atlanta and Philadelphia were better this year than last year (don’t worry they’re still not very good).  And most importantly, by the fact that last year was full of novelties and revelations.  This year isn’t. 

But look at that ninth inning last night.  There are some novelties.  Milledge, Anderson, the ever-new Jose, and Castillo.  The new guys put it together.  And Carlos Beltran is renewed.  David Wright is finding his personal stratosphere.  Moises Alou is new.  We’ve won six out of seven.  We came back in the bottom of the ninth.  The season is new.
It will be a victory trot.  Those bozos can’t catch us.  I mean, look, we’re 71-53.  There are 38 games left.  If we play just as well as we’ve played so far, which everyone agrees is okay but not great, we’ll win 22 and lose 16.  If we do that, Atlanta would have to go 29-9 to beat us.  Philly would have to go 28-10.  If we just played .500 ball the rest of the season, Atlanta would have to win 26 and lose 12.  Philadelphia would have to win 25 and lose 13.  The season will only be lost if we go into total collapse.  If we stunk up the joint and won 14 and lost 24 (!), the Braves would still have to win 21 and lose 17 and the Phillies would still have to win 20 and lose 18 and that would involve, for both teams, playing above the level they have played at this season thus far.  It’s just not going to happen.  No way.

Let’s enjoy this.  Let’s have a few more come-from-behind victories, a few more weeks of several offensive pistons firing.  We’ve wandered in a desert that was in large part a hall of mirrors.  We’ve come through.  The season is ending well.  Be happy.  Listen to me.  This is not a perfect team by any means.  But I am calling it a team of destiny.  You will feel it, at the clinching, just as you felt it last year.  Do you remember all the losing before the clinching?  Do you remember all the losing after it?  Do you see what I mean?  You don’t remember that.  You remember David with his cigar and his champagne.  There will be cigars and champagne again.  There will be joy and relief that we’ve actually made it.  And then there will be a postseason.  The play of a renewed, surviving, celebrating team.  Who knows where it will lead?  I’m not going there.  I’m going far enough.  The Division race is over.  Wake up.  We’ve won.  Now let’s have some fun.

Into the Warp

Wednesday, August 15th, 2007

 

I don’t know how many more times I can write a piece about how weird it is that the Mets are having an impressive season but their fans aren’t sure whether they like them or not. 

For a while, I was blaming the fans.  I worried that the Mets fan base was becoming like the Yankees’, with expectations that were too high.  I marshaled all of these statistics to prove that this season is roughly as good as last season minus Pedro and that it only seemed to be worse because Atlanta and Philadelphia were better.  All of those statistics are still true.  This is still true.  But if we are in August and a lot of diehard Mets fans still aren’t excited about this team, something more must be happening than a psychological illusion as easy as this to figure out. 

I don’t now think that we are expecting too much so much as that we have absolutely no idea what to expect.  We are befuddled.  Nothing is clear.  I mean, is John Maine having a great year or isn’t he?  Is Oliver Perez still a surprise?  Okay, Wright’s numbers are right back up where they should be, but why did it seem as if we somehow missed that when it was happening?  Carlos Delgado has had an impressive couple of months now.  Why does everyone still think he’s in a slump?  There’s got to be a reason for this.  We’re not all just jerks who aren’t giving the players enough credit.

Greg at Faith and Fear in Flushing has the latest essay of this kind, an essay that I basically agree with.  Greg says it well.  They’re doing okay, but something is missing.  He attributes it to the fact that there’s nothing for us to psychologically grab on to.  Why not?  I still don’t know.

I mean, they’ve won some exciting ballgames, but maybe the problem is that the exciting ballgames they win are like the first two games they’ve just won against the Pirates (8/14, 5-4, 8/15, 10-8).  They win in exciting fashion, they do a number of impressive things, but games that really should be blow-outs aren’t.  They’re almost lost.  What is the season’s record for men left on base and how close are we to it?

Teams that are in first place should have a lot of winning streaks.  We don’t.  We win our reliable four out of seven and lead the league.  But we don’t have any winning streaks to give ourselves a brief and temporary illusion of omnipotence.  Teams that are in first place should reliably win at home.  We certainly aren’t doing that this year.  First-place teams reliably beat up on bad teams.  Not us.

But we’ve been in the same place all year.  And Atlanta and Philadelphia stay where they’ve been.  What’s it like to root for them? 

This season has been one of the hardest ever to define.  But it is now August 15.  There are only six weeks left.  You know what?  Stuff is about to happen that will define it forever and mark it in our memories.  What will happen in the next six weeks is going to wipe away the eighteen weeks we’ve already lived through. 

You don’t know what you think about the 2007 Mets now.  In nine weeks, you will.  Events that will just happen will give you a sense that you’ve always known something that you haven’t really known, all along.  This is one of the secrets of baseball.  Did you know that Tug McGraw had a horrible season until the very last month of 1973 and no one ever speaks of, no one even remembers that?   Did you know that the Mets in 1969 were in third place, sinking to fourth, almost ten games out at just this point of the season?  Do you remember right now how hopeful you were feeling towards the end of August 2005 about that wonderful, wonderful break-out season? 

We’re about to go into the warp.  And we probably won’t remember where we actually were when we were sucked into it.

Back in Stock on Amazon and MetsBlog radio interview

Wednesday, August 15th, 2007

Mets Fan is back in stock on Amazon, available for free and immediate shipment. 

And I will be interviewed next Wednesday (8/22)  at 6:30 by Matt Cerrone and Anthony De Rosa on The MetsBlog Podcast.  This is a great show, with great guests (Ron Darling was on yesterday). 

And if you missed my 8/13 in-depth, hour-long interview on New York Baseball Talk with Mike Silva, you can listen to it right here.

Availability problems and the Blog Talk Radio interview

Monday, August 13th, 2007

Mets Fan was finally available for immediate shipment from both Amazon and Barnes and Noble on Friday morning, 8/10.  By Saturday morning, 8/11, it was completely sold out at both sites.  Resellers were able to sell a couple of copies at $10 more than the actual price.  While I should be happy that the book is selling so well, I am very unhappy because a lot of people who have ordered the book don’t have their copies yet and a lot of people who might want to read the book are being frustrated in their efforts to obtain it.  I hope it won’t take them long to re-stock.  I will keep you posted.

In the meantime, the best way to get the book as soon as possible, as long as you don’t mind not having free shipping, is to order it directly from the publisher, McFarland.

If you have read my book, or are waiting for it, and want to hear me talk about what it was like to write it and what I may have been doing in it, please listen to my interview this evening with Mike Silva of New York Baseball Talk.  The interview runs from 6pm to 7pm and can either be listened to live, or as an archive that will be available only 10 minutes after the show ends.

Mets Fan Now in Stock at Amazon and BN

Friday, August 10th, 2007

As of this morning, August 9, Mets Fan is in stock and available for immediate shipment at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.  This means that you can get free shipping and applicable member discounts at these places.  Demand has been greater than expected and the book is now entering its third printing.  I hope there won’t be any more problems and I apologize to everyone who has encountered problems with availability.  If you are one of the many who has ordered from Amazon and not gotten your copy, you will be getting your copy soon.   

Blogspot Radio Interview

Wednesday, August 8th, 2007

On Monday, August 13, between 6 and 7 pm, I am going to be interviewed on New York Baseball Talk with Mike Silva on Blogspot Radio.  You can listen live or you can hear it any time you like if you click on this image. 

I’m really looking forward to this.  An hour-long interview about a book is something that a lot of authors dream of.  You’re not just limited to a sound bite or a plug.  You can actually talk in an interesting way about something you’ve written, something that really means something to you.  I think Mike is a terrific interviewer and I’m looking forward to what he will be able to bring out.  I’ll keep a link to this interview on my main site (metsfanbook.com) so that readers who might be interested in this can come back to it when they want.

Save the Apple

Wednesday, August 8th, 2007

Please visit Save the Apple

This is a grassroots organization whose goal is to convince the Mets to move the original apple to Citi Field.  There are mumblings that the old one needs to be replaced and is too fragile to move.

Please sign their Petition to Save the Apple.

And please read my reasons why I think Citi Field should have the original Home Run Apple

Mets Milestones

Monday, August 6th, 2007

As I’ve admitted before on this blog, I wasn’t really happy when we got Tom Glavine.  It seemed to me to be a classic move of the Phillips era:  getting a great player for a lot of money at the end of his career to try to win something before Piazza and Leiter melted.  I always admired Glavine, as an intelligent man and a great pitcher.  And I had always enjoyed watching him pitch since  I love to watch great control pitchers even more than I like to watch guys who have “great stuff.”  But Glavine’s identity was already fixed.  He was part of the great Braves rotation of the ‘90s and to put it very mildly, that’s not exactly a Mets identity. 
 

I just didn’t see him as a Met.  And I continued to have trouble seeing him as a Met for the first three seasons.  I couldn’t shake my sense that he would always be the guy who came after Maddux and before Smolz.
 

Well that all changed for me in the 2006 playoffs.  We desperately needed someone to be our ace, after losing Pedro and El Duque.  With his paternal strength and competence, Tom Glavine stood up for us and bailed us out.  He did it the way a dad does, the way an ideal grownup does.  I never think of this man as being ten years younger than I am.  I was way high up in the stands when he pitched that beautiful game 2 of the NLDS against the Dodgers and I was so happy and hopeful when he came back and pitched another gem in the first game of the NLCS against the Cardinals.  We know that he didn’t take us all the way, but we also remember how he eased our worst fears and gave us, for a few moments, a sense that we were standing on firm ground.  I thank him for that.  Last October, Tom Glavine became a Met, a Met for all time. And so I’m thrilled for him that he just won his 300th game. 

Even though 242 of those wins were for the Braves, and I’m sure he’ll go into the Hall of Fame as a Brave, I am happy for this man who has fought hard and usually well for my Mets.  I have a premonition that he will play a decisive role in the playoffs this year, possibly pitching the last games he will ever pitch.  I am in his corner, in his cheering section.  I am so proud that somebody I cheer for has the honor of being only the fifth lefty in history to win 300 games, only the sixth National Leaguer.  Great job, Tom.  I’m so happy for you and your family, and I am so glad that you are with us now.
 

So I hope that no one will object if I say that no matter how happy I am for Tom, I still can’t see this titanic accomplishment as a Mets milestone.  Not when this is only the 58th game he has won as a Met.. 
 

There have been some Mets seasonal milestones and game records.  Tom Seaver broke Koufax’s single game strikeout record and for a while held the record for strikeouts in a season by a NL righthander.  Piazza hit more home runs than any catcher in history.  Gooden may have had the single best season of the post-World War II era.  Reyes keeps getting all of these creative combinations.  The thing is that there aren’t many Mets career milestones.  This is one of the sad facts of the franchise.  Look at the list of our career leaders.  Ehhhh. 
 

There is one milestone I wish we could claim.  I remember that desolate day when Tom Seaver won his  300th game in a White Sox uniform.  I was so happy for him, of course, but I found the ironies unbearable.   There he was, the greatest Mets pitcher ever, winning number 300 in New York, but not at Shea, not in our uniform.  The only consolation I felt on that day came when I heard a reporter ask Seaver when he had first become aware of the big crowd at Yankee stadium.  Seaver laughed and said:  “When I was driving to work this morning and the traffic on the Major Deegan was backed up all the way to the George Washington Bridge.”  You see, he had never left us.  He still lived among us.  Oh, why couldn’t the traffic have been on the Whitestone Expressway?
 

I’m digressing, I guess.  But that’s the way I feel.  Glavine and Seaver are giants of the game.  Their achievements belong to the game and to all baseball fans.  Good for the Cubs fans who stood and cheered him.  I would have done the same for one of theirs.  But I am still puzzled about why this franchise, over forty-five years, only gets the last few years of Hall-of-Famers, or else it loses the fullness of the achievement of the few Hall-of-Famers we’ve grown ourselves.  I have this disappointment.  And the hope that all of this is about to change.
 

A Microcosm of the Season

Wednesday, August 1st, 2007

That thirteen-inning game that opened the series in Milwaukee was very long and very exciting.

It was played between two talented, yet flawed teams that have held on to leads in their divisions for almost two-thirds of the season, yet still are not really sure of themselves.
There was brilliant defense and there were mistakes.  There was clutch hitting and there were too many men left on base.  There was superb pitching and there were some crucial moments of lousy pitching.

The Mets could easily have won it.  The Brewers could easily have lost it.  It was essentially a draw, but I like how there are no draws in baseball. 

Since the All-Star break, the Mets had a West Coast road trip against two very good teams.  They took four out of seven and we were happy.  Then they had a homestand against two not very good teams.  They took four out of seven and we were not as happy.  The 2007 Mets, it seems, are a four out of seven team.  If you take four out of seven and play 162 games, you will win 92 or 93 games.  Barring any major surprises, that’s just about exactly where the Mets are going to end up.  That’s good, isn’t it? 

Yeah.  I guess.  Some years you’ll win the pennant with that.  Some years you’ll come in second.

Will they go far in the postseason?  I think that they are as likely to win each series in the postseason as they were likely to win last night’s game.  What’s the minimum level you need to play at to win a League Championship Series or a World Series?  Four out of seven.  That’s enough to win the whole thing.  If you win three out of seven, you lose the whole thing.  And as you know, there’s hardly any difference between winning four games and winning three.

The Mets this year are on the edge between triumph and no triumph.  They’ll have a good season.   And they’ll win things by a hair or they’ll lose things by a hair.   

And how we remember this season will depend completely on which side of the very thin line we end up.  Just like last night’s game.  If you spent four hours watching it, as I did, you think of it as basically four bad hours.  If they had pulled it out, as they might have several times, you’d think of it as four good hours. 

The jury is out on the six or seven months of the 2007 season.  The decision will come down to a few might-have-been-otherwise events that will happen around two months from now.  We in the present are held hostage to those events in the future.  We don’t know if we’re living through what we will remember as a good season or a bad season.  We know that this is a good team, but not a great team.  We’re balancing on the edge of something we can’t stay on. 

I don’t expect us to be happy over the next three months.  There’s going to be a whole lot of kvetching.  I doubt that we’re going to start feeling invincible.  There’s no reason why we should.  But you know what?  Great teams are in the same place.  But they have even more to fear if they lose.  The 1954 Cleveland Indians were 111-43 and they got swept in the Series.  The 1986 Mets, as you know, came unbelievably close to not winning the pennant or the Series.  We don’t have as much to fear as the 1954 Indians or the 1986 Mets.  We don’t have a record of triumph that can be wrecked and soiled at the last minute.  If we lost anything from this point forward, we would have a sense that we deserved it. 

So okay.   Here’s what I have to say.  This season has been just like that thirteen inning game.  The rest of the season is going to be just like that thirteen inning game.  It may or may not turn out differently.  But it will be like it.  It will be close.  I think it will be long.  And it will probably be very exciting.
 

P.S. I want to apologize to everyone who has ordered my book from Amazon and not gotten it yet and I also want to apologize to people who want to order it from Barnes and Noble and are getting the message that they are out of stock.  I keep being told that new books will be in stock at both places very soon.  I am upset that it is taking so long, for no reason that I can figure out or that anyone is telling me.  Please be patient.  I’ll keep you posted as I hear anything.