Friday, May 11, 2012

8,000 Nights Of, Well, Mostly Disappointment and Pain

There was a magical alignment of the stars earlier this week that made me almost obnoxiously happy. As I have pointed out many, many times, I don't like Philadelphia and the opportunity to beat or one up a team from the City of Brotherly Love is not exactly something I like to let slip away. So you can only begin to imagine the smile on my face on Tuesday night when my Devils completed not just an unexpected series win over the Flyers mostly thanks to this flub by Ilya Bryzgalov, but a thoroughly dominant one at the same time that my Mets rallied from four runs down to beat the Phillies across the parking lot. I always was a fan of the fact that Philadelphia's four major professional sports teams all played in the same complex, but the fact that two of my teams could be enacted such misery on the Philly faithful at the same time in the same place was probably more sensory overload than I can handle in one night.

Of course, given that I'm a Mets fan, I assumed my happiness was more than likely to come crashing down the next night in Philadelphia -- why should we Mets fans get too much of a good thing, after all -- but instead, for the third time in three games the Mets came from behind in Philadelphia to complete an impressive early season sweep. Eliminating the Flyers on one night and then sweeping the Phillies in Philly the next night? What could possibly come next to make it even better? Well, I can tell you what I'd like it to be, but I don't think that's particularly feasible. And while there was a bit of a downer mid-week, albeit a forseeable one, when the Knicks were eliminated by the Heat, and my hockey fix won't be satiated until Monday as the Devils play an eternal waiting game, I'm still managing to take quite a bit of joy out of these Mets in the meantime.

And why wouldn't I? Somehow they've managed to go 18-13 to this point despite facing universally low expectations and a surprisingly difficult early season schedule, and that kind of success, which includes a sweep of the Braves, a sweep of the Marlins and the aforementioned sweep of the Phillies suddenly has some people thinking there might be some magic in the air. And why not? Sure, there are still 131 games left to be played -- a whopping 81% of the season -- but they're looking good, are only a game out of first place, and would be there already were it not for a maddening sweep at Houston against the consensus worst team in the Majors.

But don't worry, people, because just when things might be looking a little too good, there's this stark harbinger of doom looming over the team that will be crystallized tonight. When the Mets start their game against the Marlins at their ridiculous new ball park tonight, it will mark the 8,000th game in franchise history. That's right, 8,000 mostly awful, distressing, but at least entertaining or interesting games for my New York Mets. As a fan of a franchise that always seems the ugly, new stepchild of the crosstown Yankees, seeing a number like that puts a new light and perspective on the fact that the Mets, now 50 years old, aren't really that new anymore, and they have an identity and a history all their own forged over decades of mostly futility and periodic success. That's all kind of nice, but this is a franchise, despite having all sorts of moments high and low worth mentioning, is still missing one thing.

That elusive no-hitter.

Somehow, some way, of the 131 no-hitters thrown since the Mets began playing in 1962, a grand total of none of them have been thrown by someone wearing blue and orange. The odds of this, all things considered, is really pretty slim considering the pitching talent the franchise has seen (Tom Seaver, Doc Gooden, Johan Santana, Nolan Ryan) or even just the law of large numbers. The other franchise that entered the majors with the Mets in 1962, the Astros, has 10 of them. The Marlins, whom the Mets play tonight and have not even been in the Majors a full 20 seasons, have four.

The process has been diligently tracked by the website, which I've been following on twitter for some time partially for amusement and partially because I hate myself, and as it has noted, while the Mets already hold the mark for longest stretch without a no-hitter since a franchise's inception, they are less than 1,000 games away from the all-time longest drought, one put together by the Phillies from 1906 to 1964.

This has been a major thorn in the side of most Mets fans, particularly given the 35 one-hitters the franchise has managed, and one that was crystallized earlier this season when Jon Niese flirted with a no-no on Easter and then former Mets uber-prospect cum flameout Phil Humber somehow threw the 21st perfect game in Major League history.

The no-hitter-less run is so bizarrely remarkable that as the team hits the 8,000 milestone tonight, articles on the run are popping up everywhere. I suppose, in some ways this is not simply the Mets' lot in life, but their special quirk that makes them memorable. In most ways though -- the right ways -- it is just an improbable bit of bad luck. If the law of probability has its way, the Mets will at some point get a no-hitter. Ron Darling declared earlier this week that it would be in the 8,000th game tonight. I don't think that's really going to happen, of course, but I do think the Mets will get their no-no at some point.

When it happens, I just hope I'm there to see it. Even if it takes another 8,000 games.

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