Cocks in the Hen House: 09.29.10


“Cocks in the Hen House” is a weekly column by friends of the Chicks that aren’t, well, chicks. Stop by every Wednesday to see what the men-folk have to say about the weeks biggest baseball stories.

By Matt Carnavos (@mattcarnavos)

Well Phillies Phans, you sadly weren’t able to celebrate a season well played this Sunday.  That celebration was put off a whole day because of a team that hasn’t learned that at this point, winning is akin putting a Band-Aid on the festering bedsore that was this season of New York Metropolitans baseball.  However, I can entertain you with stories of misery, stupidity, apathy and sadness, from the capital of all those things: Flushing, Queens. That’s right, the team that brought you your favorite Twitter Hashtag, #LOLMets, the 2007 Mets.

For a brief look into how many Mets fans were feeling after the collapse, I urge you to watch this video of Jon Stewart,  one of the most famous Mets fans, talking about how he felt on The Daily Show.

Much has been written about the spectacular collapse of the Mets in 2007 (and again every year since then). Many blame the lack of depth in the bullpen or overreliance on injury-prone, overpaid veterans and a depletion of a once promising minor league prospect base to sign them. Others blame the inability of management to understand how baseball actually is managed and played at even the most basic level. While all these are true, I am not going to rehash the root causes of the MetsFail of 2007, but instead give you an insight into what we fans were going through while the Phillies went to…do something. (I am unsure what happened in baseball after September 30th of that year.) Now on to the misery…

If you look at the breakdown of the 2007 Mets season, September overall wasn’t that bad of a month. In fact, they had a worse June and July both in terms of wins versus losses and runs scored.  Well then how does a team go from being seven games up on teams in its division to ending up a game behind? I think I have the answer to this. The Mets stopped caring. And I have proof based on my experience at one late season Mets game during the September of Fail.

It was a brisk Tuesday in September in Washington, DC and the Mets were in town to take on the hapless Washington Nationals (nee Montreal Expos, which is what I still call them) at RFK, a stadium that made Shea Stadium look like the palace of a Saudi Prince. I decided that although things looked a bit bleak, that I would go to one more Mets game that year, especially since tickets at Expos games were plentiful and inexpensive. While I was waiting to buy my 20-dollar field level ticket (an equivalent ticket at Citi Field would cost you your first born child), someone offered me a free ticket. As I was by myself I graciously took the ticket and took my seat.  What I witnessed that evening was…well, an indication of things to come. Remember kids: there is no such thing as a free baseball game.

The Mets came to town after a miserable homestand (which I was at) the weekend before against some team from Southeastern Pennsylvania that was “winning games when it was important” and “trying.” Since the Expos were and are pathetic, I figured the Mets could make up some ground and maintain their lead in the NL East. The Mets lead by then had been cut down to 2.5 games, after 5 losses in a row.  The Mets started the game strong, with three runs scored in the first inning. The Expos management tried to get the sparse crowd (mostly Mets fans, of course) to engage in the game, but because of their apathy and lack of understanding of baseball, they were wildly unsuccessful.

After another run scored in the top of the 4th, things looked even better. The Mets would break their failure streak and go on to tell Adam Wrainwright and the Cardinals where to stick it, before losing the World Series to whichever AL team had better pitching and hitting than the Mets. (I am ever a realist.)

Then came the bottom of the 4th.

It’s painful to remember.  The Expos scored four runs in their half of the inning, tying up the game. Oh, but it gets better. After some bullpen Russian Roulette (where all the chambers have lethal bullets of fail), the Mets gave up the go-ahead run in the bottom of the 5th. But then, the Mets forgot how to play baseball even more. After three fielding errors, (one caused by steroids pusher Paul Lo Duca), the Mets were, by the bottom of the 7th, down by seven runs. It was at that moment the season was over.

While I stayed for the rest of the game and watched the normally hapless Expos ruin any chances of postseason glory for the Mets, I came to a realization. It wasn’t any one team that had caused the Mets epic collapse; it was their own pride. It was almost like they had said to each other in early September “Here’s an idea! Let’s replace ourselves with those cardboard cutouts that they sell at baseball card stores! We can take off the month, recharge, and then lose spectacularly in the postseason. No need to play baseball! Or catch the ball! Who needs that? We beat mediocre teams in the NL West and Central a lot this season, so why try against teams in our division!? Let’s play cards in the clubhouse as the season burns down around us.”

The Mets went on to lose that game, the next one, and a whole bunch more in the waning days of the 2007 regular season.  The team has never been the same since.  Now, as the 2010 season draws to a close, the Mets faithful wait to see what new epic mistakes they’ll make in their efforts to become a better team.  Perhaps they’ll trade away Ike Davis and Angel Pagan, two bright spots in this season of tremendous suck, and welcome to the team several decrepit veterans who barely know where or who they are anymore.  Perhaps Alex “Several Pitchers Have Higher Batting Averages Than I Do” Cora will be promoted to everyday player.  Maybe RA Dickey, another great new breakout player, will be traded to Seattle for a sushi combo plate and some old uniforms.  Or maybe they’ll decide that it would be more effective to set $5m on fire and broadcast it on SNY than pick up another player like Jeff Francoeur, who has playing skills that are only slightly better than mine.  Or hey, maybe they’ll ask Joe Torre to come back as manager, causing every single Mets fan with any sense of history to flee into the arms of any team that will have them.

Or maybe…You know what?  Fuck this.  I can’t do this.  I’m going to go watch the 1986 World Series video and weep.

__

Matt is a lifelong Mets fan, world traveler, and biomedical engineer who lives in Washington, DC.  His hobbies include mocking the Nationals, making scientific discoveries, traveling to exotic locales, and reliving the Mets glory days while crying into his microbrew. He hopes to bring the incredible, baseball like Finnish sport of Pesäpallo (see a video here) to the United States.

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