Chicago Cubs

Waiting For That Day

Now everybody’s talking about this new decade…Like you say the magic number…Then just say goodbye to the stupid mistakes you made…Oh, my memory serves me far too well…

I noticed George Michael sings a lot about “waiting.” He teamed up with the queen of soul, Aretha Franklin to claim he knew *you* we’re waiting for *him*. 

While he wanted to heal your pain, he waited for the day to make you his.

But the song that got me as I listened to my George Michael / Wham! mix was a song entitled “Waiting For That Day.”

I listened to this mix on Sunday as I got ready for game five of the World Series that my beloved Mets were playing. Like many of my teams in recent memory, they were on the brink of elimination that night. And since the last out was recorded on Sunday, and the Kansas City Royals were named World Champs, I’ve been waiting myself…waiting for the right words to post here in response to the crazy and zany ride that 2015 was for the New York Mets.

I started to write this post on Monday, as a stream of consciousness.  And with the zaniness of this year (and that’s how I described this year a lot: ZANY.  If you’ve been a Mets fan for several decades like I have, 2015 would have stood out for several other reasons besides the improbable run to the World Series), I’ve had a hard time putting this into words.  Which is difficult for someone who fancies herself as a sports content blogatrix.  I don’t think it got any easier over time, either.
Don’t you know that the years will come and go…Some of us will change our lives, some of us still have nothing to show…Nothing, baby, but memories

Okay, so if you follow me on Twitter, you’ll know that I struggled with this World Series, like, a lot.  Please don’t misinterpret that as I was ungrateful or unhappy that my team made it.  Make no mistake: I was THRILLED that my team was in it.  I know this shit does not happen every day. But as I discussed in my post-traumatic Mets disorder post (which transcended just Mets, since I noticed similarities with my other teams), I went from wanting to scream if someone made a mention of 1986 or wanting to deck someone if they even claimed it was over.  Such is life as a Mets fan.  Believing up to the very end is in our DNA.  But sometimes, reality does like to bite you in ass on your way out.

Why was I so upset about the 1986 references?  For starters, the teams were totally different.  Yes, I do realize people were using it as an example to say, hey, even good teams go down two games to none and can still win the World Series.  But it completely ignored other historical standpoints.  For example, that shit rarely happens.  And I had seen this unfold in front of me not too long ago.  As a Rangers fan, when they lost the first game in the Stanley Cup Final in 2014, I thought, whatever.  They’ll bounce back.  I was upset that the team had the lead and relinquished it at the end.  But I said to myself, meh, the 1994 team lost the first game.  It’s not critical.  Till they repeated that same shit over and over again.

So I rarely like to use past performance as a dictation of future events.  Because towards the end, we really were grasping at straws.  See, the 1986 team was made to dominate.  They had a bunch of boozing and brawling guys who would go to war for one another.  They didn’t have the pitching staff we have today.  For all the emphasis on home grown players, the 1986 team was led by a couple of mercenaries.  They had a break out “career year” by one of their starters whom they traded for in that offseason.  They were not shrinking violets at all.  But if I were to make a comparison of this 2015 Mets team specifically in the World Series, look no further than the 2014 Stanley Cup Final, Rangers vs Kings.  My dad even pointed it out, mostly just how aggravating the losses were.  Because they were all winnable games.

This series though I was pretty pleased with how it was set up.  I knew the Kansas City Royals would be a tough team to beat.  I really had no beef with the way they play the game or any of their players.  It’s not like I was out for blood for a scumbag like Chase Utley or something.  Plus, I was really happy that the Mets played in a series where they wouldn’t be overshadowed by their cross town rivals.  It was nice to just be able to root for the home team, and not have to worry about bragging rights.  Also, I really like KC fans.  They seem like pretty all right people.  I started to follow a few after last year’s run.  A few even congratulated ME on the Mets and said they were not “chumps” at all.  Their fans are not outright jerk offs, like, say, San Francisco (sorry, Tina).

Here’s what gets me.  At the end of the day, we are trained to just say, “Well the better team won and blah blah blah and you just sometimes have to tip your cap.”  But I’ll always be plagued with some ongoing post-traumatic Mets disorder about this one.  As the sayeth goes, this one will sting for awhile.  Because it didn’t have to be that way.  Good teams do find a way to win, and certainly the Royals did just that.

So what now?  My mother even called to check up on me, to see how I was after game five.  To say she doesn’t pay attention to sports is an understatement.  This time, though, I was impressed with the questions she asked me, she asked me about David Wright and his back injury, and how I felt about Daniel Murphy.  I told her that if you put 25 Mets fans in a room, and asked a generic question about Daniel Murphy, you’d probably get 25 different answers.  But mostly, you have the Murphy lovers and the Murphy loathers.  You all know me, as a Murphy lover.

Then my mom asked me how I felt about sweeping the Chicago Cubs in the National League Championship Series…well, first, I was massively impressed that she even paid that much attention.  But also, she seemed to also know that the Cubs had the Mets’ number in the regular season.  I said, “You know what, Mom?  That’s baseball.”

That’s baseball.  A. Bartlett Giamatti said the game is designed to break your heart.  I said right before game five of the NLDS, that no matter what happened that night, I knew they left everything on the field.  And when they won, I was pleasantly surprised.

And when they swept the Cubs, I was again pleasantly surprised.  Mostly because as I told my mom, the Cubs “kicked our ass” in the regular season.  I also knew (rather, thought) they’d be a tough team to beat.  Guess what?  The Mets fucking swept them.

When they won, I didn’t want a fucking participation trophy anymore.  The National League pennant, sure it’s nice.  I’m glad the Mets are the National League Champs of 2015.  But it was then, and only then, that I had allowed myself to truly believe that this could happen.  How could it not?

And I will never stop believing that 2015 was our year.  It should’ve been.  And as the above “tweetster” said, Mets gift-wrapping something to the Royals made them the fucking World Champions.  That’s what was disappointing to me.  This one is going to sting for awhile, I’m sure.

I can’t complain about how good teams take advantage of other team’s mistakes.  That’s what happened here.  I’m sure if that shit had happened to the Mets, I wouldn’t mind.

Here’s the thing.  It’s never our fucking year.  It’s never our fucking time.  And it was then I had asked myself, is getting a pat on the back for making it there when no one believed they would make it all “okay?”

The only thing making it “okay” for me right now is the future.  The Mets’ arms…have me giddy for the future.  These guys embrace the spotlight.  They understand that baseball is show-biz.

So in a way, the good parts of the ’80s that had melted away due to the excesses of the time are finally arising from those ashes.  That’s a good thing.

But once again, we find ourselves at a crossroads.  Today, the Mets had extended a qualifying offer for Daniel Murphy.  While I don’t necessarily think that if he walks, that would be a bad thing.  I would be incredibly sad.  But if he stays, I can cheer on one of my all-time favorite Mets for at least another year.

Without committed ownership to improving the team, we may be back at square one in April.  Meaning, potential squandering of opportunities of the young studly pitching staff.

And I came around to this conclusion about how I felt about 2015:  this is my fear.  This is why I didn’t want to piss away chances in the World Series.  The 2016 Mets could very well be the 2015 Royals.  I wouldn’t complain.  Let the idea of staying hungry and having unfinished business keep them feisty.  Or they could fade away and waste opportunities like the ’80s teams.

Because I have seen this story unfold several times with my teams.

The Mets have brought me a lot of heartache over the years, but they've also brought me such great happiness, along with my partner in crime

The Mets have brought me a lot of heartache over the years, but they’ve also brought me such great happiness, along with my partner in crime.

Seems to me the peace I search to find ain’t gonna be mine until you say you will…Don’t you keep me waiting for that day
I know, you hear these words that I say
I know, you can’t always get what you want…

I haven’t worn any Mets gear since.  That’s how much this has affected me.  I just don’t feel like talking about it, let alone having total strangers comment on them.  I’m sure when the smoke clears, I will be active on Twitter again.  I’ll threaten to give up sports for knitting during the football playoffs.  I’ll curse up a storm watching the Rangers this year. And before I know it, pitchers and catchers will report.

At the end of that song “Waiting For That Day,” George Michael repeats a familiar refrain.  “You can’t always get what you want….You can’t always get what you want…”

It’s another year of waiting.  It’s another year to think about what ifs and how to get that elusive hardware.  Sometimes, we can’t always get what we want.  I’m pretty sure though, we got what we needed this year with a successful Mets team that went far into the playoffs and went neck and neck with the best and gave us some of the fondest memories we’ve had in years.

Until that day, whenever it will be, we will wait.  Wait, because we have no other choice.  Wait, because we know nothing else.  Wait, because we will stare out that window and look for spring to come.

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Made of Stone

Sometimes I fantasize
When the streets are cold and lonely
And the cars, they burn below me
Don’t these times
Fill your eyes
When the streets are cold and lonely
And the cars, they burn below me
Are you all alone?
Are you made of stone

~ Made of Stone, Stone Roses

For a team whose motto is “Ya Gotta Believe,” I have to admit, I had a hard time believing what was happening in front of my eyes recently.

For those of you who follow this blog, you would know that in the last few years, I’ve had lots of disappointments in my life, not just sports-related, but in general.  And in early 2014, some fortunes began to change.  At least, sports-wise.  I saw a team that I had genuinely fallen in love with win a Super Bowl title, their franchise’s first ever.  In 2014, I had seen a hockey team win by guts and guile all the way to game five of the Stanley Cup Final.  Early on in 2015, though, it seemed to universe wanted to knock me down a few notches.  Oh hey, that football team you care about? Yeah, fuck you.  That hockey team you’ve been jonesing to see win a championship?  Yeah, they’re gonna fizzle.

And it never occurred to me that the Mets would even be a glimpse of my sports happiness, where I have been gleaning much of my happiness these days.  I still thought, probably like many others, that there may be a time in the near future I’d see them in a World Series…just not this year.

I tease my husband and many others for thinking about magic numbers and playoff options in April. For me, if I worried about all that shit, it would take away from my fandom, not add anything to it. I would barely be able to enjoy the season and how it unfolded. And boy did it.  I was on a podcast the day before the trade deadline.  The Mets had lost that day.  I said, look, I would not be surprised if the Mets stayed put at the deadline.  Once the Carlos Gomez deal was kaput, I didn’t think they’d make any move, and certainly not a move that got a player like Yoenis Cespedes. I was back on that podcast on Monday.  I said that it wouldn’t be like the Cubs (a team that owned the Mets in the regular season) to just roll over and not put up a fight.  Except that’s exactly what they did do. And after the last out was recorded and HOLY SHIT WE ARE GOING TO THE WORLD SERIES, I stood at the television.  I held one of my Mets bears (Iggy, for those of you who know them), and I smiled. I remember in January 2014, my husband and I watched the Seahawks play the 49ers in the NFC Championship game.  Once that game was won, I expected Ed to be breakdancing or something.  After 30+ years of being a 12, and going to the Super Bowl for the second time in their franchise history, I’ll never forget how he looked.  He held his hands together, as he stood, with a big ass smile on his face. I felt like that would be my reaction for the Mets, and it was.  Maybe it was because for the very first time in my Mets fandom life, there was literally zero drama in this series.  The Cubs never even had a **lead** in the series, and the closest they got was tying the game in Game Three.  Jeurys Familia was the “Anti-Benitez” (h/t to Metstradamus for that one).  The closest we came to any kind of drama was the potential third out in the ninth inning got on base, and we had to wait for it.  OH SHUDDER THE THOUGHT! And I mean, it was all good drama, the type of shit we see happening to the Mets all the time (that **one** player killing you, see: Victorino, Shane or Burrell, Pat) is now happening to other teams.  I’ve always believed in Daniel Murphy and will probably cry if he’s no longer a Met after this year.  Yet now the whole world knows who he is, and quite frankly, I can’t be more pleased about it.

And let us not forget how bad ass Jacob deGrom is

And let us not forget how bad ass Jacob deGrom is

How this team transformed itself in a few years…it’s really amazing once you think about it.  When Frank Cashen took over at Mets GM in the 80s, he had some very good drafts, but one of his defining watermarks was the trade that sent fan favorite Lee Mazzilli to Texas for pitching prospects Walt Terrell and Ron Darling.  Terrell was traded for Mets fan favorite Howard Johnson.  Darling is still calling games for the Mets and is a part of the Mets lexicon.  What the trade was for the 86 team was probably what we will look at for trading R.A. Dickey at his peak value for Noah Syndergaard and Travis d’Arnaud: the batter of the future.  Yes, I’m quite well aware that there were other players involved in that deal.  But who cares?! Those were the names, and those are the players that people come to me…Yankees fans, mind you…and are like, “Holy.  Shit. Who IS that Syndergaard kid?”

As for me?  I truly believed this NLCS would go at least six games, and that they’d bring the series back to CitiField.  I believed this so much so that my husband and I made the joint decision to sell the first two games of the NLCS (I also had a scheduling conflict…I will get to that in a minute).  But in a year where they clinched the NL East on the road and advanced to the NLDS as the road team, why did I think that was a possibility?

This year, 2015, has been a year of change for me.  Ed and I moved to a new neighborhood, and things have been getting better each day.  I got a new job as a full time pet caretaker and dog walker.  As an introvert, this is really the best job.  You deal with animals all day, and you communicate via text messaging.  And I can travel to each job and listen to my iPod as much as I want.  This is also my 40th year.  I came of age in the 80s, and I listen to a lot of new wave and British pop music from the 1980s and 1990s.  Walking the streets of New York City at different times of the day makes me very much in awe of my life.  Sometimes, the disappointments can be unbearable and the type that make you not want to get out of bed.  Then sometimes I want to slap myself and say, “COME ON! You’ve always wanted to live in New York City, and you fucking made that shit happen.  Get over yourself!”

Ruby watches the NLDS with me

Ruby watches the NLDS with me

And the scheduling conflict I had?  I had a client leave town for over a week and needed someone to stay with his dog.  Which in and of itself is not a bad thing.  It just meant that the Mets didn’t consult my calendar to see if I would be able to attend to these games.  Fret not, my schedule is ALL clear for the Series.  However, I’ve been spending a lot of time with a pit bull named Ruby who is just a mush whom I love very dearly.  And we spend a lot of time walking the streets of the Upper West Side of Manhattan.

We get up early in the morning and cross Amsterdam or Columbus or even Broadway, depending on where I decide to walk her that day.  And I’m always just amazed that in a city where there’s hustle and bustle, that the streets can be totally free of vehicles and cars.  It’s like being of clear mind, which is incredibly difficult to do in Manhattan.

And after game five of the NLDS, I met with Ed (I’m staying only a few blocks away with Ruby), and we saw many other Mets fans walking down the streets and we stopped to give them high fives.

Yet, here we go.  Even at midnight, walking the streets of Manhattan, they may not be busy, but there are people.  And most of all, there are people who think like you do and care like you do too.

Like the Stone Roses song, I’ve felt as though I was made of stone this postseason.  Because I was prepared for the Mets to let me down, like so many others have, like so many of my teams have…and especially because 2015 was as big of a shit sandwich as I’d ever seen with any of my teams.  It was different this time.  I was okay with the Mets not advancing to the NLCS because I knew they played their heart out and left everything on the field.  I knew that the Cubs would be a tough opponent so if they didn’t win game one, I’d be okay with that.  Except I realized something: I was constantly underestimating the Mets, like many others have this year.  I did have zero to little expectations this year.  Now it seems I will underestimate them all the way to the Commissioner’s Trophy.

If you told me that when I bought a small bottle of Prosecco back in January that I thought I’d be opening for the Super Bowl championship, that I could be using it for the Mets instead, I’d have laughed in your face.  But truly the last laugh is on me, and I can finally watch and relax with this team.  And I know I’m not alone in this one.

On Paper

I’m not a person who blogs to “report” on shit.  Seems self-defeating right?  But not to me.  Quite frankly, I’m not going to write about something that you can get information on from like 500 different sites at the time it happens.  And they all tell you the same thing.

Plus, I’m an observer.  I like to think and mull things over before making an opinion or even an informed decision.  So when crazy contracts were being doled out back in December like free ice creams cone day at Ben & Jerry’s, I wasn’t going to weigh in right away.

But I can now.

Being a Mets fan, I’ve had my share of winning in the offseason versus the actual winning games on the field happen.  More often than I care to admit.  The Mets were also in the thick of things during the winter meetings and hot stove happenings, but mostly on the “wrong” side of them, simply by not dishing out a six-year contract to Jose Reyes.  My friend Sully from Sully Baseball even said that he didn’t think it was the end of the world for the Mets and I agreed with him.  I don’t have to like it, but I’m not going to jump off a bridge.

Besides, what are the odds that the Miami Marlins will actually hold onto Reyes for the duration of his contract?  Slim and none, and slim’s out of town, right?

There were many more moves besides Reyes.  There was Albert Pujols and CJ Wilson to the I’m-Calling-Them-California Angels, Prince Fielder to Detroit Tigers and Mark Buehrle and Heath Bell to the Marlins as well.

Until this little nugget of turd came out from the Sporting News, and I really had to analyze where they were going.  Basically, the gist of it is, if your team signed overpriced and payroll-choking talent that has had its hey-day (as Sully put it, paying for John Travolta’s Saturday Night Fever years when you might get at least one year of Pulp Fiction if you’re lucky), you got an A.

The rest of your teams, though.  You’re all fucked.

Seriously, how fucking hard is it to definitively identify where a team’s strengths and weaknesses are.  Let me throw out the Mets for a second.  I’m not expecting much here.  Yet, Sandy Alderson has to make do with what he has, which is basically a bucket of shit.  There’s no mention in this piece about the trades he had to make, like Angel Pagan and then signing bullpen help to short-term deals with little risk and very high rewards.  He has very little wiggle room.  Do I expect much from this team this year?  No, but at least there’s some flexibility now.  It’s like this piece didn’t even address what the Mets had to work with.

What I love most though is the emphasis on the free agent signings.  Marlins and Angels get A+++++++ because they dished out more money than a sailor on leave in Amsterdam’s red light district.  What it doesn’t tell me, though, is what these deals are going to do to these teams long term.  You know, like prohibit them from making other moves and then being underwater with these contracts in two-three years.  Because trust me, this is going to happen.

Then there’s the obligatory Yankee ballwashing.  They made a good trade though and if they can trade AJ Burnett for a breathing human, I’d say it was a coup.  Yet, here’s what gets me: the Yankees always make these under the radar moves (like Curtis Granderson a few years back) to make them loss-proof in the playoffs.  Has that happened yet?  No.

The next best teams in the offseason were Detroit and the Boston Red Sox.  The Red Sox gets brownie points for getting a good manager.  Now, they neglect to address one very small item: their team hasn’t changed all that dramatically except for the managerial spot, which was the least of their problems last season.  Terry Francona essentially stepped down for trying to do a good job.  He walked away because of unrealistic expectations put on a team that WON ON PAPER last offseason.  Remember how that panned out?  Oh yeah, they lost Game 162 to a team with absolutely nothing to play for since like MAY of that year.

As for Detroit, I have no idea how Prince Fielder makes them a 162-0 team, but hey, more power to them I guess.

I could go on and on, but I’ll address one more team on this list: the Washington Nationals.  The Nats are an intriguing team to me for a few reasons, but they also added the tutelage of Davey Johnson (whom you all should know I love), but they added former Oakland A’s-fan fave Gio Gonzalez via trade.  Now here’s the thing: when this trade went down, there were two factions.  One which thought Billy Beane was fleecing the Nationals for the four prospects he obtained in the trade, the other which went crazy when Gio left the Bay Area.  Neither one of those sides I’ve mentioned seems to think to the extent that this deal might actually work out in the Nationals benefit.  Sure, they might actually finish over .500 this year.  And I agree that maybe the deal does give them a “B” offseason.  Is this the type of deal that might hinder them long-term?  Perhaps.  I mean, it’s not like they’re making a bunch of moves that’s going to put them on a sustained path to a championship.

In fact, that’s not something I’m reading about ANY of these deals.  I see these deals working out like most long-term/high-dollar deals or trading the future for maybe one-to-two good years of a talent before they themselves become a free agent, like, never.

So that brings me back to my position as a Mets fan.  Could the offseason been any better?  Oh, absolutely, it could have.  As much as I hate to admit it, I don’t like the idea of not having Jose Reyes on our side, and feel that as a big market team they could have, under better circumstances, kept him around and it wouldn’t have been such a huge commitment, even six years.  The deal is what it is, and I’ve already let it go.

Then again, look at the deals that the team that did land him made.  Heath Bell: 3yr/$27mm.  Mark Buehrle: 4yr/$58mm.  The piece de resistance was the Carlos Zambrano trade.  I know from my fan base that Mets fans thought it might have been a good deal to swing, especially with the amount of money that the Chicago Cubs paid to essentially have him play for another team.  The Cubs didn’t make out too badly.  Theo Epstein, fresh off his revamping and rebranding the Boston Red Sox image over the past several years, got a once highly-touted prospect.  They might have eaten a lot of a bad contract but the idea is that this prospect could be a low-risk/high-reward type.

Yet, Zambrano is a known head-case.  I mean, this should go down as some must-see TV between Zambrano, new manager Ozzie Guillen and Marlins sandwich-short-of-a-picnic owner Jeffrey Loria.  Meanwhile, if someone like Alderson pulled off a deal like that, he would have been vilified by the fan base for trading away any prospect for Carlos Z with his known issues.  Damned is he does, etc etc.

This leads me to my conclusion.  As a Mets fan, I’m not unaware that their issues are more deeply rooted than not making the moves they should make to make the team better.  On the same point though I feel like they could be an exciting team to watch since I do believe that if we’re gonna lose, might as well do it with the young guys.

I suppose this rant is about my expectation level for a publication called “The Sporting News” to provide maybe a bit of detailed sporting analysis as to WHY these deals should work for these teams instead of just saying, “This team spent a lot of money this offseason, therefore they are going to rule.”  Maybe this year, but no one is addressing the pink elephant in the room, and how after year one, the majority of these deals simply won’t work in the team’s favor, just the players’.

Clearly, The Worst Team Money Could Buy was not required reading in their Sports Journalism 101 class.