Boston Red Sox

Married to the Mets: The Blog Groupie

It was really the Red Sox that got me into blogging and following sports blogs.

True story.  Though it was inspired by the Mets a bit.

In 2004, I needed an outlet.  A place to read, discuss and muse on the Mets.  I was working full time on Wall Street at the time, and the Mets were disappointing me.  It was the Art Howe years, and the Mets were just boring.  A state of ennui.   These years were really the true test of the fans, to go to Shea Stadium at times like those.  Looking back, it was the hey day of baseball games.  You went to games with real fans and not frontrunners like they were in the Bronx.

The Mets had made one of their most famous deadline deals that same year.  Kris Benson joined the team, and then-projected pitching phenom Scott Kazmir was traded for Victor Zambrano in what was called “Black Friday.”  In the previous season, I had become engrossed in New York National League baseball history.  The New York Giants.  Brooklyn Dodgers.  I had devoured Boys of Summer and Bums.   Later in 2003, the Rangers had opened their home season at Madison Square Garden.  That same night, I ran into a friend at the game who wanted to watch the baseball game.

You might know of it.  It’s known in the Yankee (and Red Sox) lexicon as “The Aaron Boone Game.”

I sat at the bar as I was outnumbered by Yankees fans, for sure.  I was told because of my New York National League roots that I was the “Coolest chick in the bar.”  Too bad, because I felt like I was being left alone at the lunch table, while my friend celebrated that Yankee walk-off victory that night.

So fast forward a few months later.  July 31, 2004, came and went, and I was upset.  My team had failed me, again.  Bob Ojeda was on the FAN, talking about how he believed that the Mets organization just had “bad information,” when Zambrano blew his arm out just a few days after the trade.  While Kazmir went on to stupify the Red Sox, who were on their way to making the playoffs a second year in a row.

I spent many hours in the office that year.  Yet, I couldn’t get on chat rooms or forums.  Most of them were blocked in corporate America.  I did find something a bit unusual, while clicking on some story links following the fall out of the Mets season, and following how the Red Sox were doing.

It was called a “blog.”

I found one called Metsblog, and had its own called Always Amazin’.  While clicking on those sites, it brought me to other blogs.  Kranepool Society.  The Metropolitans (where I frequented and probably made my mark as a “blog groupie”).  Metsgeek.  Y2K: Promote the Curse.   Some of these links exist to this day.  Others have gone by the wayside.  Many others have expanded or rebranded.

During the 2004 post season, I found many Red Sox blogs.  Sons of Sam Horn.  Surviving Grady.  Misery Loves Company, which was a Mets/Red Sox joint blog.  I loved the self-deprecating and dark humor of the Old Towne Team’s fans.  The Mets fans were just funny though.  The blogging community was easier to follow, simply because there were fewer blogs to follow. When the Red Sox won the World Series in 2004, it was special.  It was not only special to see the evolution from walking off the field, defeated, just one year prior, but special to see all these blogs serve as a community for these fans to congregate and make the large world smaller and closer.

I was pretty useless at work.  I spent most of the days trying to feed my lust for Mets information, and trying to craft writing styles, and even stealing some jokes that I found at these forums.  Like how I have borrowed “Just Forfeit” or “Fuck these guys, I’m going to Donovan’s” from other fans, some people think they are my own.  I don’t make a habit of stealing material.  But I found that people weren’t hiding behind the screen of the computer by saying daring things that they would never say in the face of these people (though, truth be told, I see plenty of those people now).  I found that sports and especially baseball fans really wore their heart on their sleeves, and bared their souls in the comments and in response to the blogs that were objective in some ways, but came from the fan experience, so there was a lot of soul to the posts.

The Metropolitans was a place I congregated.  From there spawned many spin off blogs, like Frasier to Cheers.  Ed’s Blue & Orange Cafe.  Yes, Joe, It’s Toasted!  The Metropolitans invited me to join my first ever Fantasy Baseball team.  I was the token female, but it took them awhile to realize I was a girl.

In fact, I had chosen the moniker “Coop” so I wouldn’t be “the girl” in the forums.  Most of you follow me or became friends with me because of my writing style, which is how I talk, really.  When I was throwing certain players under the bus or screaming about Willie Randolph, they got me.  There was no male/female dynamic or even worrying that they would think of me different or that I was after a player because he was hot.

In mid-2005, I had gone to a game by myself and had taken score.  Some were surprised that I had been a fan just for the game.  Some were surprised I knew how to keep score.  Nobody would have paid me any mind if I was there with a man, like my dad or my boyfriend.  Meanwhile, my dad had taught me to keep score, and I had gotten my boyfriend into baseball.

I didn’t have to explain myself.  Till I did.

One day, in mid-2006, during the Mets tear on the NL East and baseball, I had been a frequent visitor to the site Yankees 2000: Promote the Curse, which was a Mets blog claiming that the Yankees win of the World Series in 2000 on Mets home field was the reason why they hadn’t won since.  (Makes sense, with 20/20 hindsight, since Shea no longer exists).  One of the bloggers called me “Man” or “Hey dude” or “My man Coop.”  I got a kick out of it, but I had to come clean.  I said, “Hey, I’m a chick, for the record.”  The next day, I got a marriage proposal, sight unseen, from one of the co-bloggers.

That same year, Brooklyn Met Fan gave me a whole new family.  There was not only BMF, there was Matt the Met Fan, Blondies Jake, Irish Mike, USMF, Bill L, El Duderino, Ft. Greene Met Fan.  Plenty of women in the forums, and could keep up with the Mets and baseball talk with the boys.  Gender mattered, but it didn’t.  They were always so open and friendly and treated me as an equal.

The Metropolitans was my second home though.  I felt like I was friends with everyone on there.  Toasty Joe’s blog was fun too.  Sort of a Metstradamus-lite, whom I had become friendly with as well.

I had commented so many times on these sites that I thought…maybe I could do a blog of my own.  I had opened an account on Blogger, and I could name it anything that I wanted.  The name, the name, the name…

Since people had told me since I was very young that I looked like Drew Barrymore, I had watched many of her movies.  My favorite around that time was Fever Pitch, the movie centered around the character played by Jimmy Fallon’s fandom of the Red Sox.  I loved the banter between Red Sox fans, I loved how he changed during the baseball season, when he saw all his friends that he missed in the offseason.  And how when after years of darkness, comes light.  As a Mets fan, though we had taken care of some of that dark period by beating the Sox in 1986, Red Sox Nation got over it by slaying the dragon of 1918.

Jimmy Fallon’s character said something at the beginning of the movie.  “This is my summer family.”

And I had my name.  I had reached out to the Mets blogging community in 2007.  They had saved me that year, from myself really.  My long-term relationship had fallen apart, and I had custody of 81 Mets home games in the form of tickets.  I had to find people to go with me.  Bloggers came to my rescue.  I had met Metsgrrl, who saved my Masters completion gift of going to see the Mets play in Milwaukee and Chicago that summer.

I had run into Greg Prince from Faith and Fear in Flushing several times at Shea, and we had become fast friends.  Irony was that the very first time I met him, I was wearing the FAFIF shirt to a game.  It was also the beginning of the end in 2007, against the Phillies.  I met Dana Brand through my work at Flushing University, and I had met a whole new world where people actually asked to see my writing.  Joe D of Metsmerized Online compared me to a cross between Alanis Morrisette and Courtney Love, if they were Mets bloggers.

The bloggers became a secondary family to me, people I enjoyed seeing.  My network expanded and expanded where I was recognized in other cities, like Philly in 2008.  Or when I was at Dodgertown in 2008, and Metstradamus introduced himself to me.   The expansion went into Facebook and Twitter, where I had taken like a fish to water.  With how big the world wide web had expanded, I’ve gotten many haters.  The haters make it worth it for me to love my new friends, my secondary family that the blogging community has provided me.

By the time I retired My Summer Family in 2010, every schmoe had their own blogger or WordPress account, claiming rights to the once tight knit community.  Hey, more power to them.  I stepped away because I wanted to find my most authentic voice again, which was what made My Summer Family special back in 2007.   Maybe it was special to some of the people who followed me.  For me, it became work, tedious and wasn’t unique anymore.

I do sometimes like to look at the site, like it’s a relic from a former era.  It takes me back to how much I loved having my own blog at the beginning, and how I was feeling back then.  Much like a diary or photos from a year gone by, my thoughts on the Mets still appear from time to time.  Much like listening to a song from my childhood, the years 2007 and 2010 on my Mets fandom are still catalogued for me to review.

And if anyone knows what happened to Mike and Benny and everyone else from the Metropolitans, tell them I miss them and wish they’d reappear.

When Did I Become the “Elder?”

Today is the 25th anniversary of the last championship the Mets won.  Today, the Mets blogosphere is saturated with stories of Game Seven, summaries, “What-Was-I-Doing-When…” stories, among others.

As Mets fans, we appreciate the history of this team, albeit quirky and riddled with more ennui than excitement.  While I think we tend to romanticize the “down years” a little too much, this date reminds us of how we can all look back with fondness and glee, remembering where you were exactly when the Mets last won a World Series.

Unless, of course, you weren’t born by then or were alive, but do not have vivid memories of their last bombastic year.

When the Mets won in 1986, I was 10 years old.  I was one of the youngest people at the game that night (although I do remember a little boy sitting next to me, who had to have been six).  Now, I’m one of the elders.

How the Hell did that happen?

A lot can happen in 25 years.  A person who was born in 1986 could be a pitcher for the Mets now (as Jonathon Niese is, as well as Pedro Beato), someone who was born after could be married and have children (like Josh Thole)…at the very least, has a license and a Joe Schmoe job like the rest of us if he was not lucky enough to have a talent for baseball and couldn’t get drafted by the Mets.  Yet, in 25 years, I have become a sage, a wise fan who can share the old war stories about 1986.

Again, I ask, how did that happen?

When I was 10, I looked to people like my dad and his friends who all went to games together to tell me about the past, what it was like to see a game at the Polo Grounds (my dad and his best friend were usually taken to the games by their respective older brothers), to tell me about 1969 (my dad skipped school so he could watch it that day), when Tom Seaver was traded (I was in my crib, my dad crying at the television during the evening news), the Hendu Can-Do Walk-Off (which reminds us that even in darkness, there is a light at the end), and then when Keith Hernandez was traded to the Mets (I decided that if my dad liked those guys, then I would like them too).

Over the years, I’ve made lots of my own memories, mostly good, even in the down years.  One of my favorite Mets teams in my older years was in 1999, which defied all logic to go on to the National League Championship Series by sheer determination.  Sometimes, I appreciate that team more than 1986 because we all knew they would win in 1986; 1999 was a lovely surprise.  On the other end of the spectrum, 2006 raised our expectations so high, that we still have not recovered from the disappointing end to that season.

In some ways, 1986 is all we have for our bragging rights, the team that didn’t give a damn about anyone and made New York proud.

So for Mike, and Matt, and the rest of you whipper snappers over at the Stache, I know I have to regale you with stories from Game Seven in ’86.  My dad was in attendance at Game Six, and met some folks who drove from Rhode Island to see what could have potentially been the clinching game for their Red Sox.  Of course, we all know what happened Game Six.  Turns out, these folks had four tickets to a deciding Game Seven, which they could no longer attend (bear in mind, Game Six was on a Saturday, and Game Seven was supposed to be on Sunday…the original “Game Seven” was rained out and scheduled for Monday).  My dad offered to buy the tickets, and went home $400 lighter, but richer in four field level box seats.

I still to this day wonder how my dad pulled that one off.  But if Karma does indeed exist, perhaps we’ve been paying for that ticket in more ways than one today.

I remember the night was one of those humid nights, where there’s a chill in the air but it had rained all day the previous day, so there was haze.  I remember having my palms sweaty, and even crying at one point because the Mets weren’t doing anything (Hey, I was 10…leave me alone).

I remember a nice lady sitting behind me, telling me that they would turn it on the sixth inning. I had to believe her, because I knew, even at 10, that the Mets were not going to lose that game, even when they were losing.  Sid Fernandez saved the day, then Keith Hernandez drove in two runs in the sixth inning.  She was right, and the Mets were on their way.

I remember not sitting THE ENTIRE GAME.  AT. ALL.  No schmoes were yelling at us to sit “down in front” or anything like that.  I don’t remember any Red Sox fans in the area, but I’m sure there had to be some there.  I do remember, however, walking around the concourse in the old field level at Shea, where I saw effigies of burned red socks laying around the corridor (get it??).  I remember the couple next to us singing vulgar songs about how “Boston Sucks.”  I remember trying to look for Bo Fields, the “rolling arms lady” who was featured behind home plate rolling her arms around like a mad woman (I also met her a few years later, I want to say in 1989 or 1990).  I remember a little kid sitting next to me (the six year old boy I referenced earlier) with a WatchMan, and I remember us looking at each other when Darryl Strawberry tried to catch what I believe to became a Dwight Evans home run.  This is where my 25-year old memory as a 10-year old might have tricked me.

I remember not being quiet for the last three innings of the game.  I remember that I didn’t see that lady who warned me about the sixth inning till the end of the game, which may have made her some kind of oracle, a vision who was reassuring me that the Mets would be all right.

The same night that Pedro Beato and Jonathon Niese were born, I was chanting “We’re Number One! We’re Number One!” after the game had ended, when Rick Aguilera, Bobby Ojeda, Tim Teufel (I think…) and Lenny Dykstra were drinking booze on the mound.  Also, keep in mind that three of those four guys were arrested in Houston for a bar room brawl earlier in the season.

These guys didn’t care about what ANYONE thought of them.  Bobby O even said in Jeff Pearlman’s The Bad Guys Won that these guys would have died in battle with the other, and that’s what made the team so special.  This is the team that has held my heart for so many years, yet has set the standard for disappointment or fallen just short since then.

What is the difference between that team and today’s teams, plural?  This team had the luxury of waiting a few years, getting good draft picks, using picks to get established talent to build up the team and they went on for success, though they only won ONE World Championship.  In some ways, that team also fell short, but there were also outside demons we later found out about, especially with the hopes of the future Dwight Gooden and Darryl Strawberry addictions.  Good luck getting anyone to wait or exercise patience for that.  We certainly see that in today’s “I-Want-It-NOW” fans, no matter the fan base.

Many people knew I was in attendance at Game Seven at Shea Stadium in 1986.  This is one of the first times I’ve shared my stories and memories with a blog in the time I’ve been writing about the team.  I’ve made allusions to it, but I never discussed that night.  There are some nights that I still wish Shea existed, that I could walk around the corridors again, much like that night in October 1986, to get that same feeling washed over me again and I could bask in the glory one more time.

Until we make new memories at CitiField, this will be all we have till then.  So celebrate it and acknowledge it, but I’m looking forward to the day where some kid who was born in 1986 or afterwards can say 25 years after the fact, “Hey, remember when we won in X-year?”  It will be their turn to pass on the memories to the next generation.  I just hope that is sooner rather than later.

#BlameBuckner /sarcasm

Today is the 25th anniversary of a gigantic moment in Mets history, and that’s the celebration of Game Six.

Whether you were alive, a child, a baby, an adult, not even born yet, chances are an elder has sat you down and either played the last inning of the game or has told them the story verbatim.  I like to say that Mets fans are into the history of the team like no other fan base…we celebrate it and love to analyze it more than any other I am aware of (Yankees don’t count since mostly it’s about them winning…we appreciate the losing years a little TOO much at times I feel).  I call Mets history “Mets porn.”  This game is just probably the biggest money shot of them all, with all the ghosts of miracles past coming into play and as one of my dad’s friend put it that night, “God put his hand over Shea Stadium tonight.”

I was at home, watching the game with my mom.  She fell asleep around the time Dave Henderson hit the go-ahead home run in the top of the 10th inning.  I was 10 years old.  My dad, as I alluded above, was at the game.  I know it sounds cliche to say this 25 years after the fact, but at 10 years old, sitting on my mom’s bed watching the game, I wasn’t aware that the Mets *could* lose, that they were allowed to.  I often say that in Dwight Gooden’s rookie year, he lost nine games, and I swear I witnessed four of them live.  I knew the Mets could lose or had the capacity to, but I also didn’t think they would lose THIS game.

This isn’t going to be a retrospective of “What did I do during Game 6,” though Mark Simon from ESPN Mets Blog does that for me today.  It’s how history has rewritten Game Six as a Red Sox loss rather than a Mets win.  Sure, today we have a bunch of warm fuzzies discussing the event in most Mets forums today (after all, it’s much better to look at the past today than the present or at least the very near future), but for the most part if you look at how Game Six is in the lexicon of baseball fans, it’s how the Red Sox, Cursed Team of the North, were one strike away on several different occasions from tying up the win AND the series, but did not.  It’s never been about how the Mets were going on sheet guts and guile to win the game in a dramatic come-from-behind victory.

I’ve also felt bad for Bill Buckner for several years.  Just like how history rewrote the game as a Red Sox loss and not a Mets win, Buckner has gotten his share of the blame for the last play of the game.  Even the documentary Catching Hell discussed how the Red Sox media and fans treated Buckner afterwards.  Certainly, I can understand the power of the scapegoat…I am a Mets fan who has had to deal with the nuclear fallout of Carlos Beltran taking strike three in 2006.

Yet, being an amateur Mets historian as I like to think of myself, it amazes me just how many people think that the Mets actually WON the World Series in that game.  If it was…why was the loss and subsequent comeback so dramatic?  They still have Game 7 to play.  The Red Sox STILL blew a 3-run lead that game.

Buckner misplayed the “little roller along first,” but in order for the Mets to win, they had to have tied it at that point, right?  Furthermore, the dynamic changer of that inning was not the bunch of singles that got the Mets’ juices flowing, but it was Bob Stanley’s wild pitch. I’ve often said that no one was happier about Buckner letting the ball go through his legs than Stanley, who had allowed a run to score from third on the play.

Yes, even the good times in Mets lore have been marred by backhanded compliments, and ways to discredit their victory.  The biggest discredit of them all is blaming Buckner.  I’d like to hope that people don’t blame him or look at the bigger picture.  I know that five years after the fact, people still blame Beltran for all the Mets woes to this day (I, personally, blame Duaner Sanchez for getting hungry on July 30, 2006, in Miami).  Did you know, as a “for instance,” that then-Red Sox manager John McNamara usually replaced Buckner defensively in later innings but opted to keep him in the game so he could “celebrate?”  Where’s the ire towards him for putting the proverbial cart before the horse?

Today is a significant day in Mets culture.  There is no question about it.  However, I hope it doesn’t take another 25 years before people see the bigger picture of what really happened here…and that the Mets earned this victory by sheer determination, hard work and grit: something really lacking in today’s game.

Chicken N’ Beer

What came first– the wins…or clubhouse chemistry?

Back in 2006, the Mets had gone on an improbable run, all the way to Game Seven of the NLCS.  People attributed the wins to a combination of talent and that ever-elusive “Clubhouse Chemistry.”  Remember the title article on Sports Illustrated, “Captain Red Ass and the Intrepid Mets?”

With players like Julio Franco (seriously?), Carlos Delgado (f’ing shocker) and Pedro Martinez (who wasn’t around nearly enough in the next few years to contribute to chemistry), it was hard to argue that there was something going on behind the scenes there. However, if you remember, the year before, Carlos Delgado had turned down more money to play in Florida “because he had a better chance of winning there” (meanwhile, I argued that had he signed with the Mets originally, they probably would have gone further in 2005 AND further than the Marlins, as evidenced that year), and although the Mets finished over .500, it was hard to get a good “read” on it because Mr. Stoic Carlos Beltran and Mike Piazza, himself a quiet clubhouse presence, even though he was rounding out his seven years in New York at the time, weren’t letting on there was any.  In 2006, they were shouting it from the mountaintops.

I was inspired by a few things today that caused me to analyze this type of chemistry.  See, I thought about the 2011 Mets, and their take on chemistry.  Look at RA Dickey and Justin Turner, to name a few.  Dickey was officially and unofficially “the man” whether he was on the mound or hanging out in the clubhouse.  His teammates loved him, went to bat for him (though usually, just not in games when it mattered) and even when he joined Twitter, interacted with fans on a level that they all fell in love with his gigantic personality even more.  Turner inspired us to make a “Justin Turner Facts” page on Facebook, and caused the team to play with a common purpose.  It was evident what the Mets lacked this year to prohibit them from winning, and it certainly wasn’t chemistry…it was clear that these guys love each other.  Even Carlos Beltran, who was traded midseason to the San Francisco Giants, caused a few tears to be shed when he left.  A guy that a good percentage of fans were not all that warm about.  Clearly, chemistry wasn’t enough of an X-factor to propel the Mets to even a winning season, let alone make the playoffs.

Yet, today, an article on that very topic, clubhouse chemistry, appeared while discussing the Boston Red Sox.  There is massive upheaval in New England, with Terry Francona stepping away (though it was an option non-exercise, he had an option to return, the team and he decided to part ways), and today it was announced that General Manager Theo Epstein is leaving the Red Sox to join the Chicago Cubs, a team as “cursed” with lack of pennants as the Sox were when he joined.

A lot of this was knee-jerk.  Epstein’s good work certainly outweighed his bad, though there could always be the argument that a managerial change could be good for the chemistry of the clubhouse.  Blah blah blah.  As someone brought up on Twitter, if Epstein brought Francona over to manage the Cubs and they win there, chances are, Boston will kick themselves for letting go of two guys who could make a difference on a team, although they aren’t actually playing games on the field, they’re certainly as integral to the operations of the team as any player.

The other side to the argument though is not clubhouse chemistry but the actual clubhouse, a tangible item that is viewed daily.  People in Boston are still trying to figure out what went wrong, when the reality is…there were a ton of things.  When the Mets collapsed in 2007, people easily pointed to Tom Glavine and his last game performance.  The reality was, there were plenty of games the team SHOULD HAVE won and COULD HAVE won earlier in the season, and we wouldn’t even be discussing him getting blown out of the water in less than inning in his last start.  There was a definitive power-decline in Carlos Delgado all season, Beltran was injured, Martinez only made a handful of starts in the last month of the year, that goddamn rainout made up in September (the Joel Pineiro game) that I am convinced would have been a W if they had played in June…Ah, but I digress.

Chances are, it’s never just one person or one thing or even one game.  This is a team sport, but it’s certainly easy to forget that when your team is losing and doesn’t seem to care.

Bob Hohler of the Boston Globe has a post today of why the Sox season turned out the way it did.  It’s hard not to agree with it, since he doesn’t just outright blame the management, the front office or the players.  Yet, he does single out certain players, for better or worse.  Normally, I don’t give much credence to “anonymous sources” in the clubhouse, and this isn’t exactly an endorsement.  The article did make me think, however, about multiple-failures leading to such a visible collapse, especially of a big market team that was supposedly destined for such greatness.

Some of the accusations are as follows:

  • The starting trio of Josh Beckett, John Lackey and Jon Lester were more concerned with relaxing, eating fast food fried chicken and drinking beer before games, rather than preparation.  If true, not surprising with Lackey, but Beckett and Lester were part of previous winning teams in Boston.  Perhaps experience got the better of Beckett and Lester: they figured the Sox would find a way to win games at the end.
  • Terry Francona lost the ability to make himself heard and accountable in the clubhouse, due to marital woes (something Lackey is familiar with himself) and living out of a suitcase.  I call BS on the upheaval in Francona’s life, he’s a former ballplayer, he’s used to living life out of a suitcase.  Yet, I can see how he might have lost his voice there, and lost support of certain vets.  I mean, it happens to the best of managers (or the worst: looking at YOU Willie Randolph).
  • David Ortiz and Jason Varitek, known as the “heart and soul” of the team, were losing their effectiveness on the clubhouse as well.  Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia, as examples, had a hard time getting heard in the clubhouse, and I can understand that.  This is almost the David Wright and Jose Reyes syndrome here in NYC: they were “protected” by veteran presences, and when it came time to make it “their team,” their faces of the franchise status is synonymous with losing.
  • Some players dedicated, some not.  Others taking batting practice, others not.  I usually have no issues with that, since these are professional players, who practice what works for them.
  • Front office and clubhouse celebrity death match.  Hohler related the story of how the players came down hard on the front office for caring more about making money than wins, when pushing for a doubleheader after a particularly grueling stretch.  It’s easy to see the team faltering down the stretch after that.  I can’t say I agree with it, but for a team with such high expectations, the onus is on them to win fucking games.
  • Being famous has its perks, like free beer.  Some Red Sox pitchers were featured in a video called “Hell Yeah I Like Beer,” and subsequently were some of the same guys who were not showing support in their clubhouse as the team was losing.  Well, that really sucks if it’s really true.  I can certainly understand when one player (Carlos Delgado) or one pitcher (Pedro Martinez) doesn’t take their sucking or conditioning seriously, and it hurts the team.

Perhaps at the end of the day, Francona did lose the clubhouse, which is understandable when or if he would try to get them to not participate in things that they once were able to, because of the circumstances. Then again, they are big boys and know that winning is important, since they’ve all been around the good and bad of baseball.

Something else that the article doesn’t focus on, but it’s one worth exploring: the fact that the Sox lost several critical games to the Tampa Bay Rays, the team that won the wild card, and while owning the Yankees at the earlier part of the season, dropped several games down the stretch to them.  At the end of the day, wins and losses are what causes a team to falter.  Yet, the Sox and the area writers and their fans are trying to figure out what went wrong. It’s never just ONE thing…at the root of it all, if a lack of winning, and sometimes  you need to just chalk it up to it simply wasn’t their year.

I feel for Red Sox fans: after all, they are kind of like our brother-from-another-mother, the enemy of my enemy, etc etc.  And it’s not like I’ve not been through this before: I have been, several times over in my tenure as a Mets fan.  I’d like to tell them “It Gets Better,” but I can honestly say, it hasn’t gotten better for us.  Then again, our problems are different, and has to do with more of an inept and bumbling front office than anything else.

Maybe some things will turn around.  Maybe they can trade Lackey, and Carl Crawford will have a bounce back year and be the player they thought he’d be.  Perhaps change IS good, and will get players motivated to perform and be more dedicated to the team.  Yet, to 2011, I can say that winning games matters, whenever they happen.  As Francona said, no one said jack when the team went 80-41 from April to August, after starting the year slowly, then finishing slowly.  It’s that old saying, all teams will win 50 games, all teams will lose 50 games…it’s what they do with the other 62 that matters.

I say, eat all the fried chicken and drink all the beer you want.  If you are winning games, people will want to join you.  Just be careful when you lose, that you are not getting a haircut or playing cards or drinking beer.  You’ll get batteries thrown at you, some verbal, some real.

The Greatest Game(s) Ever Played

I usually get all warm and mushy for the last game of the season.  This year was weird.  Typically, the baseball season ends on a Sunday, and I get all weepy and nostalgic the last weekend.  Since the Mets’ season ended on a Wednesday, the last weekend didn’t hold the same feelings of sadness and longing as in previous years.

The Mets finished their season around 3:30 pm on Wednesday.  Little did I know, that the last day of baseball had yet to begin.

The greatest thing about baseball are the different subthemes in each game.  Every game has a story.  This year, we had four stories to watch.  The starring roles were to be played by: the Tampa Bay Rays and the New York Yankees; the Baltimore Orioles and the Boston Red Sox; the St. Louis Cardinals and the Houston Astros; and the Philadelphia Phillies and Atlanta Braves.

To say that this Mets fan had a vested interest in these games was an understatement.  I have a thing for the Red Sox, as in the “enemy of the enemy is my friend,” etc etc.  Although I have to say, I wouldn’t have minded them not making the playoffs; after all, they were pretty much anointed the World Series Champs with the signing of Carl Crawford in the offseason and trading for Adrian Gonzalez.  I like the Orioles too; I had just spent a day at Camden Yards with a Yankee fan that we called the “Bird Bowl” (as the Blue Jays were their opponent), and she even chronicled that trip in this column (follow Amanda on Twitter @amandarykoff…she is a good Yankee fan and super cool).


I also happened to fall in love with Robert Andino that day…they have this great mid-inning entertainment clip called “Andino at the Movies,” where he regales us with movie reviews.  Trust me, it’s comedy in its highest form.

Did I like the way the Yankees just laid down for the Rays?  No.  But I did like the Rays’ team (although they were eliminated from their amazing late-season run earlier today).  I certainly would have liked them to make the Wild Card over the Red Sox, but I guess that’s because the Sox have become a more “moneyball” version of the Yanks (which I guess makes no sense, but I guess if you follow baseball, you get it).

I certainly wanted to see the Cardinals make the postseason over the Braves.  Which meant a win by the Cards and a loss by the Braves.

There was something else eating at me too here.  The fact that if the Sox and the Braves both lost their playoff bids, this would mean I wouldn’t have to hear about the Mets “choking” in September anymore.  I mean, talk about losing their playoff bid on the last day of the season.

Yet, I couldn’t even script how Game 162 would end for these teams.  I thought for sure we’d see some Game 163s going on.  No, these teams decided to take care of business the traditional way: backs against the wall and no shortage of drama.

At the beginning of the day, I’d thought the only dramatic thing I’d be watching was whether Ryan Braun would go 3-for-4 and Jose Reyes’ bunt single in his only at-bat on Wednesday would be for naught.  For Mets fans who wanted something cheer, we got it, and Braun was a non-entity. But hey, his team had already been decided to go to the playoffs, plus he’s almost as close to a lock for MVP if there ever was one.

On a night like this, I can thank goodness for MLB Network.  This gave us the opportunity to keep tabs on all the results.  Since it was technically the last game of the season, I didn’t realize just how glued to my TV I would be.

I was.

I guess the easiest game of the night was the Cardinals.  They won, fair and square, and the only thing they had to do was wait for the Braves to win or lose.  Braves win, they’d play the next day.  Braves lose, Cards were going to play the Phillies in the NLDS.

The real drama occurred over the AL East though.  It looked like the Yankees forgot they were trying to do their part in trying to eliminate their Boston rivals.  Pretty soon though, Rays’ late inning heroics shined through, and they scored seven runs to tie the game up.  I thought for sure the Yankees were throwing meatballs to the Rays to will them to win.  Think what you want, but it was suspect they didn’t bring in their lights-out arms in the bullpen at this juncture.  Then again, the Yankees really didn’t have anything to play for except make Boston suffer.  I’d say they succeeded.

Then the unthinkable happened.  It might not have been that outlandish, but seeing Jonathan Papelbon blow another late inning save wasn’t that story.  It was the fact that Robert Andino is going to haunt Red Sox fans’ dreams (or nightmares).  My friend @2131 and Beyond (an Orioles focused blogger) calls this night “The Curse of the Andino.”  I hope he knows, I do plan to use that one.

I felt bad for friends like Sully, who is as die hard for Boston as they come.  I also know how much they irk Yankees fans.  But to me, the collapse was redemption for me, as a Mets fan, who has been the butt of so many jokes since 2007.  Kranepool Society said “It gets better” to Red Sox fans, but I disagree.  Things have gotten progressively worse for us Mets fans, but I can hope that since other teams have taken the pressure off, perhaps we can all move on.

Same for the Braves.  I think most Mets fans dislike Chipper Jones, but respect the hell out of him.  I know I do.  Some folks were upset that they wouldn’t play in another postseason.  Why, so they won’t make it out of the first round?  I think the Cardinals are certainly more worthy, they worked very hard to get there.

The best part was watching the Rays game unfold.  I said on Twitter that I was going to call it, that the Rays would win it right after the Red Sox lost.

And they did.  Evan Longoria continued to build up his rep with a walk-off home run.  I’d like to think they won that game on pure guts, but I’m pretty sure they were gifted that win.

But who cares?  You might have been able to script these games the way we wanted to, or you might not have.  The thing is, each team kept us guessing to the very end.  Some people might argue that there is nothing more dramatic than a Game 163 or a Game 7 situation.  I’d disagree.  Game 162 2011 version was potentially one of the best nights of baseball I have ever witnessed in my many decades as a fan.  I may recognize October heartbreak, I may not have seen my team win anything in recent years and be humiliated.  That does not mean I have not seen the best that this game can give me.

This is my song for the 2011 season.  The Mets may have not finished where I wanted them to…but I wouldn’t have wanted the season to finish any other way.

Wins Count No Matter When They Happen

I am about to hit the bricks for the evening, but I have one thing to say to Red Sox fans and to a lesser extent Braves fans.  Actually, I could give a shit about Braves fans.  I guess I feel for Red Sox fans more, you know, the enemy of my enemy, etc.

Remember at the beginning of the season, the Mets got off to a very slow start with 5-13 record. Remember all that hullabaloo?  Around the same time, Fred Wilpon conducted an interview with the New Yorker and made a comment about how shitty the team was?

Around the same time, a team with much higher expectations, the Red Sox (who orchestrated a trade for Adrian Gonzalez and signed the most coveted Carl Crawford in the offseason) started with a 2-10 record.

Many of the common refrains we hear at those times include: Oh, it’s only April.  Oh, there’s plenty of baseball to be played.  Oh, we’ll get our act together.  Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.  I’m beginning to think it’s a rationalization of worse times to come.

The reality is, I think the Red Sox clearly understand the importance of winning games early on in the season.

I speak from experience.  Actually, my friend Steve Keane at Kranepool Society made a comment on Twitter about how it “will get better” for Red Sox fans.  Well, I think Mets fans can attest…it has NOT gotten any better, in fact, things have gotten progressively WORSE since the Mets ended the 2007 season 5-12 in the last 17 games (when they had a fucking SEVEN GAME LEAD at the time over the hated Phillies, who went 13-4 in that same stretch.  Assholes).  Anyway, I remember telling people, who thought I was crazy, that when the Mets weren’t winning critical games midseason, that they weren’t leaving a margin of error for the playoff run.  I guess at the time, they figured the playoffs were within reach and I was nuts for even venturing to think the Mets would collapse.  Well, they did and now we are on the verge of finishing our third consecutive fourth place finish.  Behind the Nationals.  THE NATIONALS!

The Red Sox probably wish they won some of the games they SHOULD have won now.  I spent a weekend in Boston early on in the season where they lost a game to the Seattle Mariners, and it was very close.  This was an example of a game they should have dominated.  They did not.  See my point?

People are making such a big deal about their epic collapse, specifically now that the Rays are playing the Yankees, and it seems like the Yankees are deliberately blowing the games so the Red Sox have to play much harder.  My philosophy is, it shouldn’t have even come to this.

In 2007, people point to the last game of the season that Tom Glavine started for the Mets, but the reality is there were plenty of games they SHOULD HAVE won but DID NOT before that.  Including that week.  The same goes for the Sox now.

I will always have these seasons in mind provided the Red Sox completely implode, or even if they don’t, it’s something to argue.  Wins count no matter when they occur.  Just something to bear in mind when your team with high expectations comes to a slow start.

Oh and for the record.  I don’t want to hear anything about 2007 ever again.  EVER.  If the Braves and the Red Sox don’t make the playoffs, nobody ever say BOO about it.  Kthxbye.