Monday, August 24, 2009

Rant #72: I Almost Feel Sorry For the Mets

As a lifelong New York Yankees fan, I rarely care about what the New York Mets are doing. They have always been the second team in this town--even during their good years--and if you want a comparison, the Yankees are to the Chicago Cubs as the Mets are to the Chicago White Sox. The Mets and White Sox exist, but they will always play second fiddle to the other teams, no matter what the standings say.

The Mets will never be the top team in the New York Metropolitan area. The Yankees have been so well established that the Mets can never top them as far as popularity, press, history and success on the field.

That being said, the Mets looked to field an excellent team this year. They has a great roster to begin with, with lots of talent. They signed two top free agent relievers to bolster their bullpen, and they were moving into a long-awaited, brand new park.

I mean, they looked like a winner.

However, what looks good on paper doesn't always pan out on the field, and that is the story of the New York Mets of 2009.

Forty years removed from probably their greatest triumph--the 1969 Miracle Mets beating the Baltimore Orioles in the World Series--the Mets are a beaten bunch if you ever saw one. They have had up to a dozen players on the disabled list due to injuries, and the core of the team--Jose Reyes, Carlos Delgado, Carlos Beltran, David Wright, and John Maine--are all on that list.

They went from serious contenders to also-rans pretty quickly with so many players hurt.

However, I wouldn't even be writing up this entry if it wasn't for yesterday's game.

The Mets were down, as usual, but were mounting an "Amazin'" comeback. They had two runners on, none out, the tying runs were on base. The runners were set in motion on a hit and run, and Jeff Francoeur hit a liner to journeyman infielder Eric Bruntlett, who did something that had not been done in generations--he ended the game with an unassisted triple play.

I mean, what more can go wrong with the Mets. Heck, with the Yankees, also in a new park, ahead in their division by 7 1/2 games--and just beating the Red Sox last night--I almost feel sorry for the Mets.

Almost. But there was one year in the Mets history where they probably were more popular than the Yankees.

I grew up in South Jamaica, Queens, just a few minutes from the Mets old home, Shea Stadium. I was never, never, ever a Mets fan, always a Yankees fan. But growing up so close to Shea, many of the people I knew were Mets fans. Sure, I knew lots of Yankees fans (most of my friends rooted for the team in the Bronx), but due to what I call "vicinity osmosis," the Mets were the team people rooted for in my old community, which was known as Rochdale Village, once the largest co-op housing development in the world.

Anyway, during that fabled 1969 season, the interest in the Mets was fever-pitched, and waned for the Yankees, although true Yankees fans stuck by their team. However, when the Mets made the World Series, all you heard was Mets, Mets, Mets.

In those days, World Series games were played during the day, with a few at night. We were allowed to bring in our transistor radios, and could listen to the games if our teacher allowed us to. At I.S. 72, some teachers did, while others did not.

The Mets lost the first game to the Orioles, and Yankees fans were happy. But the next four went to the Mets, and the team from Queens was the 1969 World Series winner.

All you heard for the next six months was Mets, Mets, Mets. I couldn't stand it.

So 40 years later--and just after an actual 1969 Mets celebration which featured appearances by many of the 1969 Mets--the team from Queens is dead.

The triple play simply put an asterisk on probably one of the worst seasons in the team's history.

Some people use Woodstock as a measuring stick for 1969. I use the Mets' World Series victory in that regard, even though, at 12 years of age, I was mad as hell at the Orioles for not taking care of these upstarts.

But today, at 52 years of age, the Yankees are the best team in baseball again, the Mets stink, and all is well in the world of baseball.

Let's hope the 2009 World Series brings my favorite New York team a championship this year.

Sorry Mets, nothing awaits for you, with the exception of a very long off season.

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