Wednesday, April 4, 2007

"Revenge"

As I sat on the train on the way back to Manhattan after Game 7 of last year's NLCS, the most depressing, quiet, catatonic train ride of my life, I turned to Harold and said "I can't do this again." I wasn't going to allow myself to invest emotionally in a baseball season the way I had in the 2006 Mets because I couldn't let myself get crushed like that again. I, like many other Mets fans, spent the next 5+ plus months replaying that 9th inning over and over again in my head, hoping that this time Willie would bunt instead of sending Floyd up there, picturing Reyes' line drive sailing over Edmonds' head instead of into his glove, and begging Beltran to at least swing the bat. You would think that the bitter ending to last season would have had me counting down the days to the new season, eagerly anticipating their chance for a fresh start. Instead, I was almost dreading the new season because it was too daunting: to think they had to play 162 games, win a round of the playoffs and win 3 games of the NLCS just to get back to exactly where they were an hour before that train ride last year was too high a hurdle, especially when considering that this time they would be expected to do it. And so, unlike previous years, Opening Day totally snuck up on me this year. All of a sudden it was here and there was a baseball game on and the Mets were playing the Cardinals. There's something special about baseball though, which unless you really love it, you can't appreciate it. Because as soon as Chris Carpenter fired the 1st pitch of the season to Jose Reyes (a ball - good eye Jose, way to work the count, gotta be more patient at the plate this year)...I was back.

So, the Mets swept the Cardinals. What does this mean for them? It means they're 3-0. Not much else. My mom would try to convince you that the Mets are now likely to finish the season with a record of roughly 162-0 ("An 'A' student is always an 'A' student". ) My mom doesn't understand baseball. I try not to get wrapped up in the outcomes of games this early in the season because the baseball season is just too long. Still, there is something satisfying about sweeping the Cardinals in their building and doing it by a combined score of 20-2. Does this make us even? It very much does not. Nothing ever could. Even if the Cardinals were to go 0-162 for the next 10 years and the Mets were to run off with 10 straight World Series wins, we wouldn't be even. There is nothing that could happen that would take away the pain of Game 7. Nothing. A sports fan never forgets those games (for me, in order: 2006 NLCS Game 7, 1998 AFC Championship game, 1999 NLCS Game 6, 1994 NBA Finals Game 7.) Ask any Red Sox fan if beating the Yankees in 2004 made the memories of Aaron Boone or Bucky Dent any less painful. It doesn't. It never goes away.
So what can we take away from this 3-0 start?
1. This lineup is damn good. They were scary last year, but it seems they might be even better this year.
2. The starting pitching has been very encouraging. Not so much the combined 2 runs they gave up in the series, but more so that their starters have gone deep into games, which they'll really need this year with a weakened bullpen. John Maine's performance tonight was particularly encouraging because he is one of the players I have labeled as an "x factor" for this year. We know what we're gonna get out of Glavine and we know what El Duque can do when he's healthy. And the back end of the rotation will probably be a typical back end (the rookie and the hit or miss guy.) But John Maine could be the difference between the Mets having a "good enough to get by" rotation and a truly formidable one. If he can be the pitcher we saw flashes of down the stretch last year, most notably in Game 6, and then again tonight,
the Mets are gonna be tough to beat in the NL East.
3. Whatever chemistry last year's team had seems to have carried over to this year so far. The way they were able to just turn it on after a nervous spring is indicative of this. Or maybe they were just pumped to play the Cardinals. But I prefer to think that it means the team is just very good and well constructed. We'll see, I guess.
4. This lineup is damn good.
So that's what we can take out of these 3 games. Right now, it's hard to conceive a scenario under which the Mets could lose a game this year. But as the saying goes, "momentum is as good as tomorrow night's starting pitcher." And we have Oliver Perez (6.55 ERA last year) going Friday night in Atlanta. But for right now I'm gonna relish this feeling. Because baseball is back and I couldn't be happier. And the Mets are off to a 3-0 start to boot. And even if it doesn't really mean anything or change anything and we probably won't even remember this, for one night, we got our "revenge" on St. Louis.

3 comments:

Eric said...

I don't put too much stock in any 3-0 start, but I think it's always important. Some cliches are annoying crap, but the cliche that a win in April counts the same as a win in September is true. The Mets may win the division by a game this year, and we'll be damn happy they went 3-0 instead of 2-1 on this opening trip.

I too am glad to see this team firing on all cylinders, doing all the fundamentals right (in contrast to the Cardinals), after a spring that was a bit sloppy.

AniOhevMets said...

Hey Av,
First time, long time. What I am about to post has more to do with being a Mets fan in general than with this year’s Mets, but it will be somewhat cathartic for me to get this off my chest. I couldn't agree more with your description of the feelings that went along with last year's game 7 loss. Being in that stadium after Beltran was punched out, there was an immediate feeling of emptiness within me. I actually was going to Detroit that next day anyway to visit my friend at UMich Law. After the great win in game 6, I talked myself into the idea that there was no way the Mets weren't gonna be playing games 1 & 2 vs. the Tigers that weekend. All the stars were aligning. I was going to have UMich-Iowa on Saturday Afternoon in Ann Arbor for my first ever real college football game (Columbia games with a pee-wee-league-esque 50% extra point success rate don't count), followed by Saturday night and Sunday watching my Mets on the road in the World Series. And then came the inevitable gimpy-Cliff Floyd Strikeout and so on. Anyway, that feeling of emptiness following that game is common to many of us who as you said, invested so much emotion into this team. Almost every Mets season, there comes a point where I have the same realization that you had on that train ride; that feeling of, “Whoa. This is affecting me way too much. I need stop letting myself get so emotionally entwined with this team that I get into a really crappy mood for a significant amount of time whenever they lose a big game.”
I can recall another situation when this happened. In 2004 there was an extra-inning game vs. Cincinnati in June (you may remember it as the game where Kaz Matsui managed to get thrown out at the plate by 15 feet, running from second base on a Piazza double that bounced of the wall in dead-center field), that wasn’t necessarily a huge game, but it was one where the Mets came back from a 4-0 deficit to tie it in the eighth. Then they were able to get runners on in the 9th, 10th and 11th innings but never were able to push a run across. It was one of those games where I literally needed to take short walks in between innings through the empty rows of seats in front of me to manage the tension (I miss those empty Shea Summer-nights where you cold claim an entire section for yourself). Then Sean Casey hit a two-run bomb in the 12th, which pretty much ended it.
I asked myself that night, “why the hell do I care so much? Why do I let a bunch of guys who probably are not nearly as emotionally invested as myself, control my disposition to such a ridiculous extent?” I actually remember telling my girlfriend that I couldn’t let this happen anymore. Enough was enough. But I’ll tell you, if you are a real sports fan, and particularly a Met fan, you can never cut that cord. After years upon years of being second-class citizens in your own city (Yanks), after multiple WTF trades and free-agent signings (I think we’re still paying Mo Vaughn), and the constant of having to beat out the most consistent franchise in American sports over the past 2 decades (Braves), the winning brings you back and you immediately start drinking the cool-aid again. We all want that high of climbing that mountain and winning the championship, but the price that we pay is that aweful feeling we had last year when the team loses. The truth is that if it did not hurt so much when they lose, it can’t be as good as it could when we win (the emotional investment goes both ways). We don’t want to invest ourselves this much in a baseball team. It is unhealthy, shallow and lacks perspective on what is important in life; the problem is, we just can’t help it. On that note, after an excellent 2007 opening series vs. the Cardinals, I am once again investing lots of emotional stock in this year’s squad. Let’s hope the market doesn’t crash in October this time around.

Danny the Manny said...

At some point, I joined the Mets mailing list. This entitles me to a free schedule courtesy of the organization. It arrived today. After the Sabbath, I rushed to get the envelope open, to uncover the contents buried within. And while I did that, I got a paper cut that is now affecting my typing ability.

The point? If I need a blood transfusion at any point, I'm calling William Iannicello to make the transfer.