In the 46-year history of the New York Mets, there has never been a veteran player, who appeared to be washed up, who has come back to life to lead the team to a title or a championship. This is actually a very rare story, and when it happens, it is a beautiful thing to see.
The 1973 pennant involved the revival of a slumping ballplayer, but that doesn’t count. At 28, no one thought Tug was on his way out. We hoped for this story from Mike Piazza after 2001, but it didn’t happen. His decline was our decline. When Keith Hernandez and Gary Carter started going down, they didn’t come back up. Other guys were good enough to keep the team afloat for a couple of years, but once Keith and Gary were over, the team of the eighties was over.
It hasn’t happened to us before, but it is happening right now. If Carlos Delgado takes us to the top this year, it will be fitting. The last year of Shea is in many ways about death, about losing something beloved. It would be perfect if the real baseball story of the season was a resurrection.
It would also be so wonderful because it would mean that the Mets of 2006 came back to life. Remember 2006? Remember how Carlos Delgado was the center of that team, the main guy surrounded by talented children and leading by his example? Well how would you have felt, or I guess how would you feel if 2006 had no successful follow-up? How would 1969 have been remembered if there hadn’t been 1973? It would just have been an isolated event, a miracle that might as well have been an illusion. If we have what we could very well have in 2008, 2006 will not be an illusion. 2007 would be the illusion.
Carlos Delgado will stand for this. He would mean this. The 2006-8 Mets would be the Delgado Mets, remembered forever. He has found his swing again, we’re told. He just had an off year, his first ever. Don’t tell anyone, but it wasn’t all that bad of an off year. Most ballplayers have much worse and most ballplayers aren’t anywhere near as consistent as Delgado has been. But it sure felt like a bad off year. I don’t really know why it felt so bad, but I remember that it did. And I remember giving up on him in June, when I had given up on the whole team.
There’s no reason to give up anything now. Carlos, the unfairly maligned, the abandoned, the despised, has returned to form. He does things worth taking a curtain call for. And when he smiles that broad, bright, soothing smile he has, we smile back.