For Mets fans Monday was an off-day like no other in recent memory. It was gray, dismal, rainy and depressing, when all the defeats of years past come to loom larger, haunting the recesses of the mind. Only Sunday as our ace Matt Harvey took the mound, our hopes seemed so much brighter. Unreasonably brighter, and long-time Mets fanatics could only know that something bad lay in store. We were right.
Yankees fans will never understand the depths of despair that Mets fans must constantly fight to keep at bay, even in the middle of the most improbable streak we’ve ever had. Winning eight games in a row? Being in first place in the National League East? The question that we dare not utter but is on the tip of every tongue: How long will this last?
Because disappointment is almost a team motto. Not like the Cubs, let’s be honest here, but the history of the Mets doesn’t inspire confidence in the long-term. Or even in the short-term, for that matter.
You wanna believe, you gotta believe, but you fear you’re only going to be deceived. Past is prologue. Here’s what a typical Mets fan asks himself before spring training: How much faith will be betrayed this season?
Then the pitchers and catchers show up, the hype machine starts cranking out “promising news,” and soon you swallow it all, hook, line and sinker, and dare to think: “Next year” is now! But then, the unbearable truth rears its ugly head again as the games that matter begin and the highly touted team in March typically falls into the ranks of the mediocre by May. It was ever so, and ever shall be.
Yankees fans, known for their superior disdain of mere mortals who pretend to follow America’s pastime, can always take the long view, even when the men in pinstripes stumble. They know it’s only temporary because they are the Yankees, of course, and another pennant is only 100 games away.
But not this year… This year the gods of baseball had something diabolical in store for Mets fans. They let us watch a team that for the first time in a long, long time, actually had a chance to have a winning record—an unusual achievement in itself, and something that Yankees fans take for granted as if it’s a birthright bestowed by the Bronx Bombers on the faithful.
True Mets fans would never entertain such delusions. Why? Because the words “avoid hubris” are invisibly engraved on our brains. The motto has appeared indelible for decades, with the few glimmers of hope just benchmarks to mark the long intervals of decline. Was it 2000 when Bobby Valentine led the Mets against the Yanks and ended watching their defeat from his home dugout at Shea Stadium? Or 2006 in the National League Championship Series, when Carlos Beltran, now a Yankee himself (and that’s another unbearable storyline, cf. Darryl Strawberry, Al Leiter, et al.), stood dumbstruck as the Cards’ Adam Wainwright struck him out? Mets fans like to debate when the decline began, it’s an entertaining academic exercise, but at least it’s something to talk about when there’s usually nothing but bad news.
For the Yankees, it’s been six years since the team won their last title and only three years since they won their division. Three years! That’s hardly a lifetime! Get a life! Certainly, the Yanks’ dynasty of dominance during the reign of King George Steinbrenner is no more. But here they come again, on April 20, already they’ve reached .500, and have started to trend upward, as is their prevailing tendency, given their propensity for winning.
I wish the Yankees well, but don’t begrudge us Mets fans our fleeting happiness. For us, monstrous misfortune is always bearing down the base paths! Look at the price we’ve already had to pay this spring to get this far. We’ve lost our captain, David Wright, to a pulled hamstring. Then, in Sunday’s fateful seventh inning at Citi Field, our young hot-hitting catcher, Travis d’Arnaud, broke his right hand when it was drilled by a fastball. Our reliable lefty reliever, Jerry Blevins, broke his left forearm after it took a hard shot as he was on the mound. He managed to pick up the ball with his gloved hand and toss it to first base for the second out of the game. But now he’s out for at least a month if not more. These two players join their teammates on the crowded disabled list: pitcher Vic Black with neck and shoulder issues, pitchers Bobby Parnell, Zack Wheeler and Josh Edgin with debilitating elbow problems, and their closer Jenrry Mejia to steroids (his fault).
So the Mets managed to beat the Miami Marlins 7-6 on a sunny day but there was a chill in the air. The victory came at a cost, a price that Mets fans understand they must pay for whatever reason. Maybe the suffering makes us stronger. Maybe it builds character? It certainly has been around long enough to inspire a unique product line. A guy I used to work with had an inflatable figure about three-feet tall standing against a wall in his office, a plastic statue of a young Mets fan permanently wailing, his head buried in his arms so you couldn’t see his face, only his baseball cap and his Mets jersey. My colleague’s understanding wife had presented it to him. She knew how much his misery loved company.
So let us Mets fans cling to our momentary merriment one more day, knowing that we’ll always have April 2015, when our hearts were soaring above Queens like the planes leaving LaGuardia. Let us treasure these last few precious weeks as we face the certainty of more mishaps still to come and amuse ourselves while we can. The joys in Metsville can never be taken for granted. And for that we remain thankful.
Spencer Rumsey is the Mets-loving, globe-trotting Senior Editor of the Long Island Press and author of its blog “Rumsey Punch.” To send him fanmail or simply commiserate, check out his extended bio below and write him at [email protected] To bash on A-rod, reminisce about Jeter or talk any/and all Yankees-related dirt, check out Press staffer Rashed Mian’s “Benchwarmer” sports blog.