Day: January 25, 2013

Post-Traumatic Mets Disorder: We Remember

tom_lasordaDid you know that all-time great Dodger manager Tom Lasorda is, like, BFFs with Mike Piazza’s dad, and serves as godfather to one of Piazza’s brothers? True story.

When Piazza broke the catching home run record in 2004, Lasorda came to Shea Stadium to say a few words for his BFF’s son, on a night the Mets honored him.

When Lasorda wobbled his way (he didn’t walk) to the podium, I clapped.  I mean, he’s not a former Met or even a manager for the team, but show some respect for the guy.

Not to Uncle Gene.  He bellows a big BOOOOO and yells in cupped hands, “WE REMEMBER EIGHTY-EIGHT!!”

I probably cringed.  But 1988 was the first known chain of events that led to my chronic post-traumatic Mets disorder.

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The year was 1988.  I was in my fifth year of being a Mets fan.  I first started to pay attention to baseball in 1983, when my dad couldn’t stop talking about some guy named Keith.  In 1984, I had attended my first three games.  In 1985, I felt like I went to Shea every Sunday game.

By 1986, I had punched my Mets loyalist card, by attending game seven of the 1986 World Series.

In 1987, the Mets had become a form of escapism.  I had talked about that year in a previous series, when I realized that the end was nigh for my parents as a couple.

If 1987 was the test for me learning that the Mets wouldn’t win the World Series (or even win the division) every year, 1988 renewed my faith in being a Mets fan.  They were not just good, they were dominant.  Again.  So dominant that Darryl Strawberry and Kevin McReynolds canceled votes from each other in the MVP voting that year.  A budding young pitcher by the name of David Cone won 20 games.

Their opponent in the NLCS that year was the Los Angeles Dodgers.  A Dodger team, I’d like to add, they beat 10 out of 11 times that year.

This was the first playoff series that I remember watching mostly with my dad.  I do have some warm fuzzies associated with it, mostly, namely when my hero Bart Giamatti tossed Jay Howell out of Game Three for his tar-ball.

There was no doubt in my mind that the Mets would win the series and go onto the World Series again.

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I often wonder what it would have been like had the Mets won that series and went to the World Series.  I wonder if they would have dropped to the Oakland A’s, like they did in 1973, or would they be a two-time champion in the 1980s?

Alas, that would have meant a series win in the NLCS.  Just one more win in the series would have made the difference.

And to that I say, FUCK MIKE SCIOSCIA.

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I begged my dad to take me to Game Four.  I truly believed they would win the National League Championship in Game Five.  But I wanted to be there for a playoff game.  We went, with just one ticket.  Not sure what we would have done had I not been able to get in.  But I did.  It was, of course, the ’80s.

Who knew that a home run would be not just a game changer, but a series changer?

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about Davey Johnson’s Mets management legacy, is that he was a very emotional manager.  He was emotionally attached to his “guys.”  Guys like Doc and Darryl, Keith and Ronnie.  Mostly, these same guys would call Davey a “player’s manager.”  Yet, sometimes the manager needs to be the grown-up, the adult in the room, and make the big boy decisions.  That wasn’t done in this instance.

True, Doc looked good.  He had only given up two runs at that point.  Pitch counts weren’t nearly as critical as they are in today’s game.  Yet he had thrown well over 100 pitches by the time he faced Mike Scioscia, with one runner on.

I guess it’s sort of like the captain of the Titanic.  Years of experience would trump all.  Whatever fate was for the Mets, Johnson as manager was certain to face in due time.

In a way, I wonder if 1986 World Series Game Six was somehow a blessing and a curse.  A blessing in that the Mets won and they lived to play another day, and ended up winning the series.  A curse in that, I guess they truly believed that somehow, they’d always emerge victorious.

But Doc was Davey’s “guy.”  Doc, up to that point, hadn’t a win in any postseason game as a Met.  Probably against reasonable judgment, there Doc stayed.

I was diligently taking score during the game, as I was wont to do in those days.  I was so excited…two outs away from being up 3-1 in the series!!  This was gonna be awe….

Shit.

Mike Scioscia hits a game tying home run.  TWO FUCKING OUTS AWAY FROM WINNING GAME FOUR.  Unfuckingbelievable.

And yes, I believe at age 12, I was saying those exact words.

When you are a Mets fan, you have nothing else but to believe.  I think we all believed, at that point, the Mets would not win that game.

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I sometimes like to imagine a world where Scioscia didn’t hit his home run.  Maybe Doc had pulled through and officially won his first postseason game, or maybe Davey put in a reliever for the 9th inning who went 1-2-3.  Mike Scioscia was never a huge home run hitter.  This was easily the most clutch in his career.

That home run doesn’t get hit, they go up in the series 3-1.  They win Game Five on the momentum at home.

kirk_gibsonKevin McReynolds has his Kirk Gibson Moment during the World Series, endearing himself to Mets fans forever.  But then, we would never know a Kirk Gibson Moment.  Because had the Mets won that series against the Dodgers, we’d never see him limping around the bases.

Shit.  The Mike Scioscia home run changed baseball COMPLETELY.

Perhaps he would have struck out in embarrassing fashion.  Never to be seen again after this series.  Scioscia would then never get the tutelage of Lasorda and wouldn’t have become a well-respected manager for the “I’m Calling Them California” Angels.

Perhaps Kirk Gibson wouldn’t be the manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks.

You just don’t know.  Baseball is a game of chances and odds.  What are the odds that Scioscia doesn’t hit that home run?  The odds were against him for sure.

And this has led to several years of post-traumatic Mets disorder for not just this Mets fan, but several.  Metstradamus still shudders when he hears Scioscia’s name.

I think to that night.  I was a pre-teen taking score at a game that I was sure the Mets would win.  It was the first time I learned that my team could break my heart.  Sure, I lived through 1987.  The team wasn’t the same.  The 1988 team though looked like a rebirth.  Like they would rise from the ashes and be the dominant team that Frank Cashen had set out to make.

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As a baseball fan second, I will always respect and admire both Tom Lasorda and Mike Scioscia for what they’ve done and accomplished as major league managers.  But as Uncle Gene said at that game in 2004, we’ll always remember what happened in 1988.

A little part of me died that night, as a fan.  I’m sure most Mets fans in attendance thought that, still think it.  The Mets after that night were never the same.   They never quite rebounded.

I learned what it truly meant to be a Mets fan.