Monday, October 01, 2007

2008 Cannot Come Fast Enough

A little less than 24 hours ago, the Mets went down 1-2-3 in the last inning of their season, unable to get the ball out of the infield. It was a fitting ending to a lame season.

Following an emotional 13-0 win over the Marlins on Saturday, the Mets and Tom Glavine choked away the division by allowing a 7-run first inning, stranding eight runners in the first three innings, and mailing it in the rest of the way. It was, in many ways, to be expected.

A couple of principles hold true. Baseball is the greatest sport the world has ever known. The Mets, despite the choke job, were alive until the last day of the season. They blew a 7 game lead in 15 games, were down a game, and then battled back to a tie. Until Luis Castillo finally struck out to end it yesterday, the Mets could have rallied back to win.

The Mets have a long offseason to think about things. Losing the division by one game, you realize that every game matters. A blown lead in April. A comeback fallen short in May. A decision to start Brian Lawrence in a meaningless June game is not so meaningless. An extra two weeks of rehab for Pedro looms large. A decision to steal third, or play a certain shift, or a failure to manage the bullpen properly which wore down Feliciano just enough to allow one dribbler.

Baseball is perfect. Its a 162 game battle, and in the end, the better team won. I love the Mets and despise the Phillies, but they won fair and square. At the end, when both teams were running on fumes, they had more left. Their 7-0 record against the Mets down the stretch was decisive. The Mets 1-6 record on their final homestand sealed the deal. I bear no lasting regret.

Momentum is only as good as the next day's starting pitcher. Some days you win, some days you lose, some days it rains. Nothing should have been taken for granted, but it was. The Mets deserved to lose, and the longer that it sinks in, the more I feel like this is the right thing. An exit here, at home, unceremoniously and depressing and real, on the last day of the season, is probably much more fitting for this edition of my team.

Things are never as good, or as bad as they seem. As Keith Hernandez said as the game wound down through its final outs, "It's only a game, slugger." It's a disappointing way for things to go, but when all is said and done this is a team that won 88 games. Despite losing what felt like every single close game (after Damion Easley was hurt) the Mets had a successful year.

Perceptions and expectations color your experiences. After last year, an 88-win season feels like a failure. Losing the division feels like a failure now, whereas a charge from behind falling short would have felt like an amazing triumph.

It's a long, long offseason. I hope the Mets, particularly the young Mets, learned some valuable lessons. Jose Reyes, David Wright, Lastings Milledge, John Maine, Oliver Perez, Aaron Heilman - I'm looking at you. Get home and lick those wounds. It's not as bad as it seems. Critics will pan this collapse as the worst in the history in baseball - and honestly, it probably is. Not only because of the lead, but because of the expectations.

But that's baseball. Next season, everyone will be 0-0, every game will begin 0-0, and 2007 will linger as a lesson delivered by the most devastating method possible. Its sad, but that, like everything else in life, serves to shape us and make us who we are. The collapse can define the team, or it can be the crucible through which this team had to pass before it could become World Champions. Time will tell.

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