Yet the previous 159 matter about as much as the empty promises we hear every offseason.
For the Mets, this is now a three game season. In these three games, they can win the division, the wild card, or simply go home early for the second consecutive year, wondering how so many of those afore-mentioned 162 were graciously handed to opponents like candy on Halloween.
Fans will lament the bullpen, crying for the heads of Heilman and Feliciano and Sanchez with insatiable bloodlust. They will forget about clutch efforts by Delgado and Beltran, and focus squarely on the absences of Alou, Church and a regular second baseman. They will express their distrust of management and second guess the entire team strategy.
Then these conversations will switch from “can’t believe“s to “shoulda been“s. We will hear about how Johan Santana would have won 24-30 games if not for the leaky bullpen. And how Carlos Delgado would have hit 61 homers if not for the evil svengali ways of Willie Randolph.
In the end, no amount of talking will justify another season lost.
If the Mets don’t make the playoffs (or even if they do) anyone who considers him/herself a true Mets fan should be proud of this team. As a fan, you have the right to criticize, the right to boo, and even the right to hang your head in complete and utter disappointment — things I do on a regular basis around here. But you don’t have the right to abandon them when things get bad. This is supposed to be your team, folks. Now is the time for you to stop booing, start cheering, and shut the eff up about “coulda,” “shoulda,” and “woulda.”
You should stand tall now, and cheer even louder for a team that:
- lost its starting left fielder just minutes into the season, and all the RBI production that came with him.
- lost its best hitter to a second concussion after a hard-nosed slide into second
- had starters that left the team in a position to win nearly every night, despite injuries and endless bullpen woes
- had big hitters endure some of the worst slumps of their careers, always going on to the field despite not being at 100% health
- turned journeymen infielders into everyday outfielders, and revitalized the careers of two men who hadn’t seen regular play in years
- stayed in or around the top of the division despite all of the above.
The truth of the matter is, if Philly wins this division, it will not be as much about their good fortune, as much as it will be about the Mets’ injuries and weaknesses finally catching up to them. Given the sheer number of games missed by important players, Philly should have run away from the pack months ago. But they didn’t, and here we are at the end of the line, and the Mets are still right in the mix.
And for that, we should all cheer, regardless of the outcome this weekend.
Am I guilty of criticizing? Absolutely. Likewise, I’ve made premature judgments about players (read: Pelfrey, Delgado, et al) before they had time to shine. I’m trying to make heads or tails of this team through a blog. I’m human, and I’m often wrong.
But one thing no one can accuse me of is giving up on this team. Even when I write the epitaph for the 2008 New York Mets, expressing my sadness and frustrations like the rest of us, I will still be writing it as a fan. Because despite some rantings and ravings, I never stopped believing.
And I never will.
So, to the fairweathers who poured out of Shea during what could be its final week, cursing the names of David Wright, Luis Castillo, Oliver Perez and Luis Ayala last evening — make up your minds. You’re not obligated to stand behind a team that fought adversity all year and yet is still playing meaningful baseball. But you should be. You’re either in or you’re out.
But don’t waste anyone’s time by pretending.