Dare We Dream?
Recent summers have not been kind to NY Mets fans like myself. All too often springtime hopes and early season performance fade leaving us with little more than vague hopes for the following year. And truth be told, 2015 seemed headed in the same direction. A brief flirtation with first place soon turned into an extended stretch of mediocrity. While the Mets young frontline pitchers generated excitement (as did the ancient Bartolo Colon), the team could muster little or no offensive punch. New York’s roster was thin, the bullpen suspect, and its captain and leading hitter, David Wright, injured and out of the lineup. Meanwhile there were the Washington Nationals, a team picked by experts as most likely to succeed in the National League pennant race.
But the Mets didn’t fade and the Nationals didn’t run away from the pack. My boys hung in there. They weren’t hitting, but their pitchers sure could pitch. NY fans, myself included, began clamoring for a trade or two that could fortify the team and turn it into a legitimate contender. And Sandy Alderson, Mets general manager, listened. Just before the trading deadline he engineered transfers and swaps that brought in Michael Conforto, Yoenis Cespedes, Juan Uribe, Tyler Clippard and Kelly Johnson (and most fortuitously retained Wilmer Flores). The result is a team now playing as if on steroids (excuse the indiscretion), a team now firmly in first place.
So, how are such wondrous developments affecting Mets fans? They’ve surfaced in droves, are filling up Citi Field, heating up the Sports Talk airwaves while tuning in and paying close attention to Mets broadcasts. Judging from the Mets fans who are close to me, especially my daughter Deborah, my grandson Drew and my circle of friends, euphoria reigns. All are in “seventh heaven”, joyously immersed in Met success, “happy to be alive” and eager to discuss the details of every game. It’s no exaggeration to claim that the Mets success has, for the time being, become for them a “life changing” event – a much deserved payoff for the loyalty they’ve displayed over the years. Eleven-year-old Drew stays up as late as he can every night to follow the games, while Deborah, despite having two young children and a full-time job in Manhattan, rushes to make dinner and get the kids off to sleep so she can catch as much of the action as possible (and if she does fall asleep, wakes up for an update). My son Seth’s interest in the Mets has been rekindled despite his having migrated to California years ago. As for me, my night times are fully booked – play-by-play for hour after hour.
But, of course we fans know Mets history, are still scarred by years of disappointment and haunted by the awful memory of the 2007 season when the team, ahead by seven games with but seventeen to play imploded and failed to make the playoffs. Could it happen again? Such grim thoughts are not easily swept aside. As a consequence I hear plenty of fans cautioning that while these days are to be savored, we should not go overboard. Baseball has a way of evening the score, of seeing teams fall back to earth, of critical injuries upsetting expectations, of streaks collapsing (remember, the Mets still have five games left with the Nationals, three with the Yankees).
But there are just as many who refuse to temper their enthusiasm, cannot contain their emotions. And why not? It’s been years since they’ve had reason to cheer. Why not revel in the fact that the Mets have become a complete team, loaded with exceptional starting pitchers and potent hitters. These fans are already sizing up the Dodgers likely rivals when the playoffs begin. L.A. pitchers Kershaw and Greinke cannot be taken lightly.
So, here we are in early September, less than three dozen games to play and feeling real good about our Mets. Indeed, having seen our team out ahead is simply intoxicating, actually makes the world appear more promising, the future, for the moment brighter.