3/16/12

Oy the Agony...Oy the Shame-

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For my maiden voyage on Mack's Mets and as we enter this 50th anniversary season, I just want to make sure we all know that it could be worse. Sure there are no expectations for this year, sure we are going to delight in Ruben Tejada, Lucas Duda, and Ike Davis and scour the minor league stats looking for glimmers of hope daily. My favorite stories of last year were Darin Gorski and Juan Lagares...and I hope to have some more this year. Of course, I once made a post on an old AOL site comparing the minor league numbers of Victor Diaz and Albert Pujols, so take it for what it's worth.

However, we have 50 years of real misery to look back on without even starting 2012. And with that, I present the most painful daggers to our Mets fan souls....

Now one of these occurred before I was born, and I will get that out of the way first. The easy part about this exercise is that from 1962-1969, there was absolutely nothing that could break a Mets' fan's heart- there were no expectations. So right off the bat, we start on September 15, 1970 with the Mets tied for first place and holding a 78-69 record. They had spent most of August and September near first, and climbed into a tie with a 10 inning 9-5 win at Jarry Park over the Expos. On September 15, the Mets found themselves down 3-2 with two out in the ninth when Dave Marshall, pinch hitting for Jerry Grote, homered off of Carl Morton to tie the game at 3. Tommie Agee would homer for the Mets an inning later to make it 4-3. However, Jerry Koosman, also in his 10th inning of work coghed up the lead on a wild pitch and then with the bases loaded and two out and gave way to Ron Herbel who promptly gave up a game winning single to John Bateman. The Mets fell out of first and lost 10 of their last 15 to finish 6 behind the Pirates.

Also, one occurred in 1973 which I cannot possibly remember, but it was October 21, game 7 of the World Series. In the third inning of the scoreless game, Jon Matlack struck out Dick Green, but in the blink of an eye, a double to Ken Holtzman, and then a homer to little Bert Campaneris. who had hit 4 all season. Joe Rudi followed with a single, and Sal Bando popped up. Reggie Jackson hit a bomb to right centerfield to make it 4-0 and pretty much end the game and series right there. The Mets barely touched Holtzman, Fingers, and Darrold Knowles. The Mets wouldn't see the postseason or real relavancy again until 1984.

Which leads to my tortured existence as a Mets fan...these are probably in proper order:

Brian Jordan....September 23 and September 29, 2001: The 2001 season was disappointing, exhiliarating, miserable, tragic, and inspirational all at once. The Mets floundered through the first 4 and a half months of the season and finally, something clicked and they got hot. They went on a 25-6 run that took them from 54-68 and 13 and a half games out on August 17 to 76-73 and 3 and a half games out on September 23. That run was obviously interrupted by the horror of 9/11 and Mike Piazza's most amazing home run two nights earlier on the 21st. With the Mets leading 4-1 in the ninth after 8 innings of Al Leiter brilliance, Armando Benitez had two out and a man on first and as he did so often in a clutch situation, grooved a pitch that landed in the Braves bullpen in left field making it 4-3. The Braves would tie it three batters later on a B.J. Surhoff single. In the 11th, Brian Jordan homered off of Jerrod Riggan to give the Braves the lead and then the win. 6 days later, the Mets- both Benitez and Franco would blow a 5-1 lead and allow 7 runs (including a Jordan grand slam) to finally kill the Mets and ruin another Leiter gem.

Two hands! Two hands!- June 12, 2009- In an otherwise nondescript game in June, the Mets were at Yankee Stadium. They pulled into an 8-7 lead and had two out with Frankie Rodriguez on the mound. Things were seemingly working. They were 31-27 and 4 games out and then wouldn't you know it, K-Rod got A-Rod to pop up. Worst thing that could happen. And in many ways, accelerated the demise of this franchise into what we see to day- notwithstanding the slow bleeding collapses of the previous two years.

Walking the plank... October 21, 2000. The Mets had survived the mistake. Timo Perez was thrown out on a ridiculous play where he watched Todd Zeile's liner hit the left field wall, the Yankees took advantage by scoring two of their own in the bottom of the 6th. The Mets then got to Andy Pettitte in the 7th inning, scoring 3 times and taking a 3-2 lead into the ninth. Enter Armando Benitez. A fly out to center, and then that painful, draining 10 pitch walk to Paul O'Neill. The Yankees would inevitably tie the game, and win it 3 innings later. As for the Mets, 9 up, 9 down without a baserunner in extra innings. The next night, Roger Clemens threw a bat at Mike Piazza, the Yankees battered Mike Hampton, and despite a dollar late, and a dollar short comeback in the ninth, the Mets were cooked. As much as I wanted that pennant, I didn't want the Yankees. The best thing about that World Series for me? The fact that the Jets staged the Midnight Miracle down 30-7 between games 2 and 3 of the series.

Put down the broom... October 3, 1985. In the year that Gary Carter was supposed to be the final piece, he wasn't. Though he did put up MVP numbers that year. The Mets went to Busch Stadium in St. Louis on October 1, down 3 games in the NL East, we knew they needed a sweep to stay alive and they almost obliged. In my mind, it's still 10:44 where Darryl hit that homer off of Ken Dayley in game 1. In the second game, Doc made easy work of the Cards, 5-2, and in game 3, they just couldn't close the gap after a 2-run single by Vincent Coleman in the 4th.. losing 4-3. I will go to my grave knowing that the Mets would have been much better than 20-23 in the time when Darryl Strawberry went out with a thumb injury in a season that prorated to 43 homers for him.

Not much power. September 11, 1987. The 1987 Mets saw all 6, that's right, 6 of their starting pitchers- Doc (rehab), Fernandez (knee), Ojeda (elbow), Aguilera (elbow), Darling (Thumb), and David Cone (pinky) miss significant time on the disabled list. Yet, the offense carried them with bustout seasons by Darryl Strawberry, Howard Johnson, and Kevin McReynolds. It wasn't enough to keep them from falling 10.5 games out in July. But they got healthy and won, and won. And on September 11, they sat 1.5 games behind the Cardinals with a 4-1 lead in the ninth. With two out and Ozzie Smith on second, Roger McDowell allowed a single to Willie McGee to make it 4-2. Tim McCarver mentioned that Terry Pendleton with only 10 homers in that seemingly juiced up year, didn't have much power. However, Roger McDowell's sinker didn't sink and I still see that ball flying over the 410 sign. The Mets would lose in 11.

A shot to the heart... October 9, 1988.  The Mets were all set to go up 3-1 in the 1988 NLCS against a Dodger team that they had beaten 10 of 11 times during the regular season. Something happened on the way there. Doc Gooden was cruising at Shea, 8 innings after surviving a shaky first. But he walked John Shelby to lead off the 9th and then Mike Scioscia, never known for his power ended the run to what should have been the inevitable matchup with the Bash Brothers- Coke vs. Juice- what a series that would have been. Kirk Gibson and Orel Hershiser would beat the Mets that night, and despite the reprieve of game 6, a gem by David Cone, the die was cast. The Mets lost 6-0 in game 7 and entered the wilderness just like they had in 1973.

Sysiphys- October 19, 1999- They couldn't beat the Braves. A tough spot? Make a statement? No, never can beat the Braves. When they won the pennant a year later, they were given the gift of not dealing with the Braves. They appeared to have climbed that mountain/ They went down 3-0 in the NLCS. They cut it to 3-2 on the grand slam single and they even over came an Al Leiter disaster in the first inning that night to put them down 5-0. Mike Piazza changed all that with a blast off of John Smoltz to tie it at 7. They went up 8-7, Franco blows the save. They go up 9-8, Armando blows the save.  That left Kenny Rogers and a heck of a lot of wildness. 10-9 Braves and a nightmarish Yankees-Braves world series.

The gods must be crazy- October 19, 2006- The 2006 season was ours. It was Omar's, and it was all a mirage as it turned out. But in a back and forth NLCS, the Mets found themselves at home in a game 7. Endy Chavez makes a ridiculous catch, Oliver Perez pitches serviceably. But the Mets forgot to score runs. Leaving a small army on base, the Mets mustered one run, as did the Cards. Aaron Heilman faced Yadier Molina in the ninth inning and the mirage became exposed. In the bottom of that inning, all it would take is a good bounce, a Jose Reyes liner a little more to the gap, or perhaps Carlos Beltran taking the bat off his shoulder. We'll never know, but it's the only time as a baseball fan I felt that what was ordained didn't happen.

So, it could be worse as we know. But with the sort of nightmares listed above, there came some success first. So hopefully, we may be good enough again to even be in position to have those kind of heartaches.

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