Thursday, May 8, 2014

Well that was fun while it lasted

It seems every April I start to do the same dance. The Mets have average to low expectations, because they're scrappy and try oh-so-hard and Terry Collins is a pretty decent manager they end up having an ok first month of the season, and then my eyes start to widen.

Then, you know, the sample size grows.

Since the Mets were last legitimate postseason contenders in 2008 (let's not talk about how that ended), they were seven games over .500 as late as May 31 in 2009, five games over .500 on April 30 in 2010, actually rallied from six games under .500 to reach the even mark on May 20, 2011, were five games over .500 on May 9, 2012 and in first place (note I attended the game that brought them there in Philadelphia), and last year... well, last year didn't really go so well from start to finish. Meanwhilst, despite those strong starts, the Mets finished with an average record over the last five seasons of 75-87.

Because I know all this, and because I understand the Mets are taking a deliberate, patient approach to rebuilding their team, I had no expectations for this season in terms of final record. I made this patently clear in my season preview, and am concerned only with seeing the individual puzzle pieces the Mets need to succeed develop properly and successfully. I have no designs on the postseason or a division title of any sort. I am rational. I am patient. I am cool-headed.

So naturally, when the Mets finished April this year with a 15-11 record and general manager Sandy Alderson said in a private meeting he expected 90 wins this season, I kept everything in perspective and didn't get too excited.

Ha! Just kidding! I root for the Mets, remember?

So yeah, I might have gotten a bit carried away with my own excitement surrounding the Mets' surprising competitiveness, and may have told a friend I would not be able to attend his late-October birthday party at Di Fara Pizza in the event that the Mets were playing in the World Series that night. But I mean, who wouldn't? New York had played 26 whole games out of a 162-game season. That's a solid 16% of the schedule right there, and if AP statistics taught me anything in high school, it's that extrapolating small sample sizes is a fool-proof way to uncover plausible long-term trends.

Thanks for everything you did for me, Mr. Fox. (Seriously, though, Kevin Fox was the best.)

So imagine my surprise when the Mets came into Colorado high on the hog and proceeded to drop the first three games of a four-game set, including a blunder-filled 11-10 loss in which New York had a 6-0 lead. Then imagine my greater surprise when New York headed to Miami and was swept in three games, wasting a brilliant outing by Zack Wheeler in the finale. Suddenly here we are on May 8, and the once streaking Mets are now streaking in the opposite direction and sit at 16-17.

Who could have seen that one coming?

I'm not sure why it is that I still let my mind get carried away with these sorts of things, though I imagine desperation has a significant amount to do with it. But is it so much to ask that one season an April run might turn out to be more than a mirage? It occurs to me now that the Mets have not reached the postseason in eight years, which is the longest stretch since I've really started following the team closely. It has also been 14 years since the Mets went to the World Series, which ties the longest stretch without an appearance in the team's history as well as the length of its last gap between 1986 and 2000, a span that seemed interminably long to 15-year-old me back in the heady days of Mike Hampton and Benny Agbayani.

There is no doubt that this team is improving, its minor league system is getting full of blue chip prospects and its young major league talent is beginning to bear its own kind of fruit. But as a fan who so desperately wants to remember what the joy of a pennant race feels like, my patience is starting to wear thin. There are only so many "next years" a fan can endure, and while I know the future is brighter than it has been in years, would it really be so bad if the future was now? Probably not, right?

Tomorrow I will be making my first trip to Citi Field this season, a surprise when you consider the season is nearly a fifth over, though I did attend those two games in Anaheim. Strangely, it will be the third consecutive year I have gone to see the Mets play on May 9, a statistic that is as meaningless as it is odd. I will enjoy myself. New York will play Philadelphia, hopefully New York will win and return to or even above .500 this weekend, and I will almost certainly have a Pat LaFrieda steak sandwich, the best ball park food in New York.

But I probably won't get too up or down when the final out is recorded. And that's a damn shame.

Maybe I will next April.

No comments:

Post a Comment