This time there was no Adam Wainwright – no Carlos Beltran staring at a 3-2 curve ball called strike to end the 2006 National League Championship Series. Now it was actually Dexter Fowler of the Chicago Cubs who stared at the third strike from New York Mets closer Jeurys Familia, and the 2015 Mets were heading to the World Series.
Watching Familia fall to the grass in front of the pitcher’s mound, raising his hands to the sky and invoking a greater power, I started to shed a few tears. This is because his genuflecting to the baseball gods that have thus far shined on the team in 2015 basically summed up everything Mets fans have been feeling. After all, it has been a long wait for a Mets return to the games that matter most in Major League Baseball – the World Series!
It is difficult for fans in other cities in other states to ever understand the team and Met fan mentality; hey, sometimes it is difficult even for us. That is why emotionally it was problematic to have to face the Cubs – the only other team and set of fans who can feel and know what our pain is like. Still, we have 1969 and 1986, and they have been waiting over a century.
Here in New York to be a Mets fan means to be the underdog, the unwanted little brother, the illegitimate Edmund from King Lear yearning to understand “why bastard” while the so-called legitimate brother Edgar (the Yankees) gets all the love.
As I always say, we Mets fans are born from losing. Our parents – the Brooklyn Dodgers and the New York Giants – left us and ran off to the other coast, but the blood and tears spilled into the sewers and got sent downstream, and eventually we rose from the depths of the Gowanus Canal, an orange and blue spawn of rejection. Still, our parents left a legacy, and despite all the anger and tears, there was love of the Brooklyn Bums and the Giants, and they would be fans forever even though the teams left them all behind, but they stayed true because it was impossible to ever root for the most hated, vile, and despicable Yankees. So there was nothing, a bottomless void, until the first Met reared its orange and blue head in 1962 – followed by lots of other Mets who may not have been able to play the game very well but filled the fans hearts again with that love they had been missing since 1957.
In a few short years the late great Mets announcer Lindsay Nelson would call the players that made up the 1969 World Series team “a new breed of Mets,” but he could never imagine the 2015 team that went well beyond the scope of that. It is truly a feeling that this year’s team evolved, rose from a the smoke and dust of a 52-50 start to finish 90-72 like a Phoenix, the intense flames starting not from combustion but from tears – those of Wilmer Flores, who thought he had been traded for Carlos Gomez.
Up until July 30, 2015, Met fans had every good reason to believe that this was another “Wait until next year” season. But on this night, Flores showed heart and love, not just of the game but of the city where he played. Flores didn’t want to leave and was seen crying on the field, and in a fortuitous twist of fate, the trade for Gomez fell through, and from that moment on the clouds parted and the baseball gods started shining down on the Mets.
A few days before the Crying Game on July 30, the Mets obtained Juan Uribe and Kelly Johnson from the Atlanta Braves. This stoked the embers of hope in the fan base, and then we saw Flores getting all verklempt, and it did something to all of us – the management, the players, the fans, and the city. Even Yankees fans told me that they were moved by what happened with Flores (and usually to move a Yankee fan you need a bulldozer).
Perhaps because of Flores – or in spite of his meltdown – Mets GM Sandy Alderson pulled the trigger on the biggest trade of all – getting Yoenis Cespedes the next day from the Detroit Tigers without giving up any of our big young arms right at the trading deadline. To say Cespedes became the straw to stir the drink is underplaying his impact on the Mets – he became the high-speed blender that turned all the right ingredients into a magic Met run for the pennant.
So we can talk about the young gun arms – Harvey, deGrom, Syndergard, Matz – and Familia the great closer. We can toast Cespedes, Lucas Duda, and Curtis Granderson, all of whom have made a significant impact, and we can even hoist Daniel Murphy on our shoulders for his outstanding playoff run. Most importantly, and even essentially, we have team captain David Wright, who keeps it all together and very real even in the wake of all this excitement.
Wright has been here too long, has suffered too many injuries, and weathered all the detritus of horrible seasons spent at old Shea Stadium and then Citi Field. He was on the bench that night when Beltran kept the bat on his shoulder as a third strike stopped the Mets from going to the 2006 World Series. He, like the team and fans, has learned hard from losing. That is why it is so satisfying now to see Wright on this team – the one he deserved to be on for so long.
I went to Modell’s – a sporting goods store here in the New York area – today and there was a frenzy of customers that I have not seen in years. People were buying up everything with “Mets” written on it. All the Murphy jerseys were gone, and just a few left of the other players when I got there.
The tide is turning and churning, making those still Gowanus Canal waters push the blue and orange upstream and all around the city now. New York is slowly becoming Mets country again, and it’s a long time coming. This is what we Mets fans have been hoping for and we don’t care about how many championships big brother across the river has under his belt, because they matter not at this time.
I have seen a sea of orange and blue today in the streets, in the stores, in the restaurants, and East Side, West Side, all around the town – the Mets fans and the team colors can be seen here, there, and everywhere.
As we wait to see if we are facing the Kansas City Royals or the Toronto Blue Jays in the World Series, the Mets’ story becomes something that will be continued. For now, I walk around the streets and cannot stop smiling, just as I was doing when I saw Jamal, a sidewalk vendor I see every day.
He was wearing a blue Mets cap with orange logo. For the last two years he wore a Yankees cap daily, and we would have friendly discussions about our teams. Now he was wearing orange and blue and I asked him about it. He smiled that great big smile of his and said, “No more Yankees – Mets, Mets, Mets!!!” Maybe it is about all the Met-related T-shirts, hats, mugs, and jackets he is trying to sell, or perhaps it is about something else entirely.
I think Jamal has Mets fever – and from the looks of things it’s very infectious; orange and blue are spreading all around town, and there is no cure and nothing else to say except, “Let’s Go Mets!”
Photo credits: nydaily news, mlb.com, webmets30s-5-web[amazon template=iframe image&asin= 1613217617]