Sunday, September 28, 2008

Baseball: Actually, I Do Care If I Never Get Back

For the second consecutive year, the New York Mets took their season down to the final game. And for the second consecutive year, the team fell short.

I can live with that. I am a Mets fan. I am inured to disappointment, conditioned to keep my expectations in check.

It does sadden me that for the second consecutive year, the Mets squandered a truly titanic performance from one of their pitchers in the season’s penultimate game, a Herculean effort that made the drama of #162 possible. And it kills me that they couldn’t win the last regular season match-up ever to be played in Shea Stadium. For old times’ sake.

A few days ago, when the Mets were in the thick of both the wild card and NL East hunts, sportswriter Tim Brown wrote, “say what you will, they do drama like no one else.” That attitude helps take the sting out of another almost-but-not-quite season: view it as a soap opera. It had all the ingredients. The lingering shadows of last season’s collapse, big personalities, late-night executions, sudden reversals, a heart-in-your-mouth ending. If it were a TV show, I’d set the DVR for it.

I’ll remember the 2008 Mets season with fondness, in large part because I got to see them play at Shea one final time. Yes, I know that if their patchwork bullpen, an Achilles heel all year that imploded down the stretch, had held onto a lead in just one game, today’s drama would have been unnecessary. I know if their spotty offense had advanced a runner in scoring position in just one game, a playoff berth would have been theirs.

But the end of the season always puts me in a philosophical mood. So here’s something else that I know. If the last game of the season counts, then all the games before it count. Every single one, no matter how insignificant it may seem at the time.

It’s a lesson that all baseball fans know. Even Yankee fans. It’s just that lately, Mets fan have been learning it the hard way.

All season long, I’ve followed my team at my friend Mike’s blog Mets Fan Club. Thanks also to the guys at Faith & Fear in Flushing. This wrap-up post is particularly fine. And here’s the New York Times’s George Vecsey saying goodbye to Shea.