Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Most Frustrating Season?

I’m trying to recall a more frustrating season than the one we’re currently experiencing. Born just two years after the Miracle Mets season of ’69, I was just a wee little lad in the mid-to-late 70’s and therefore, was immune to the losing that permeated Shea Stadium. As a kid you’re more interested in the cotton candy than you are the outcome of the game. Innocence was bliss.

In the mid 80’s, while the Mets were evolving into a dominating team, I was maturing as a fan. I started to understand the game more; why getting ahead in the count was important, why you should bunt a runner over, and why you should never make the final out of an inning at 3rd base. It was also during this time that I realized losing didn’t sit well with me. It bothered the heck out of me when the Mets lost. Fortunately, the Mets didn’t loose often back then, although there were some very bitter defeats thanks to Terry Pendleton & Mike Scosia. (If only there had been a Wild Card then).

In the early 90’s, the Mets turned into one of the most pathetic franchises in all of sports; Brett Saberhagen and the bleach incident, Bobby Bonilla and the ear plugs, Vince Coleman and the firecrackers. And who could forget the loveable but flawed Mackey Sasser, who was plagued by a rare disease called the “Can’t throw the ball back to the pitcher” syndrome. It was downright embarrassing to be a Mets fan. Then, the long-awaited hope that was to be Generation K, quickly evaporated when all three kids went down with arm injuries. It wasn’t until the arrival of one, Mike Piazza, that we finally regained credibility; He single-handedly resurrected this organization from the abyss and led us to our first post season in 13 years. I am forever grateful to #31 for making it fun again to be a Mets fan.

And it was fun. Sure there were heartbreaking defeats along the way, there was disappointment, but for some reason, there has never been a season more frustrating than this one. Some have asked “Is losing all those years better than this season?” or “Would you rather be in last place than be in first?” Of course the answer is ‘no.’

When we were terrible, it was disappointing for sure, but you sort of accepted the fact they weren’t going to the playoffs, so your heartbreak was limited. It was so commonplace for them to stink, that my wedding in ‘04 included this vow from my wife: ‘I promise to always root for the Mets, in good times and the bad.’ The point is, there weren’t any expectations so when they did manage to be competitive, like ’98 and ’05, you were just thrilled they were in it. You were happy to watch them play meaningful games in September as Fred Wilpon would say at spring training every year.

So what makes this the most frustrating season in all my years as a Mets fan? They’re supposed to be good! Expectations are high. The NL is weak and we’re not taking advantage of it, instead we’re underachieving. Guys aren’t hitting the way they’re capable. Plus, can anyone remember a season with more heartbreaking losses? How many more of these crushing defeats can we endure?

The frustration is compounded by the fact that we had our best chance since ’86 to win the Series last year and we still came up short. With all of that offense and that lights-out bull pen, we still couldn’t bring home the trophy. Game 7 is still a bitter pill to swallow and so I want it that much more this season. That’s why it’s been the most frustrating season. So if we’re fortunate enough to win the NL East again, it will be the biggest sigh of relief since Orosco’s strikeout of Marty Barrett nearly 21 years ago.

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