Thursday, May 19, 2011

How Satisfying Would It Be?

The following is not going to be a post that discusses the Mets' chances of reaching the 2011 Postseason, and it's certainly not going to be a post that claims the Mets are likely to reach the 2011 Postseason. Rather, it will be a post that asks what if?

The Mets are 21-22, a robust 16-9 since their awful start. They sit 4 games out of the Wild Card (behind Florida). That awful start seemed like a bit of an anomaly then - the starting pitching and the bullpen alternated between being terrible, resulting in the majority of those losses. Since the pitching has come around, so has the team (despite the short term losses of both Ike Davis and David Wright).

As I stated above, I don't expect the Mets to make the Playoffs in 2011. I expect (as I've stated since Spring Training) for the team to win somewhere between 84 and 88 games, which would likely leave them a few games short. However, what if?

Back in 2006, the Mets waltzed through the regular season. Making the Playoffs was never in question, the only question was how far they would go once they got in. Most people conveniently forget that the 2006 squad was dealt two major blows right before the NLDS against Los Angeles began (losing Orlando Hernandez and Pedro Martinez for the year), after losing Duaner Sanchez in late July. They entered the Playoffs undermanned, and bowed out in 7 games to a flawed Cardinals team that won 83 games during the regular season. There's no doubt in my mind that a full strength 2006 Mets team makes the World Series, and likely wins it. But they weren't full strength, and they didn't make it.

I remember the feeling of jubilation I had at Shea when the Mets clinched the Division, the elation and explosion that I felt when they clinched a trip to the NLCS after closing out the Dodgers. And I remember standing in Shea, as if I was experiencing some kind of out of body experience, half expecting the Upper Deck to collapse after Endy's catch. It was an incredible feeling each time, but not one that was borne out of surprise.

Since 2006, everyone knows what's befallen this team. The actual collapse of 2007, the Wagner-less collapse of 2008, the injury riddled misery that was 2009, and the mediocre year that was 2010. Fairly or not, the Mets have been made out to be a laughingstock, even though they're not one. They've been spat upon, disrespected, and snickered at. Before the 2011 season, they were left for dead by the local and national media. After they started 5-13, some in the media wondered if they'd lose 100 games.

I'm sure if the 2006 Mets made it to the World Series, I would've gone absolutely insane - along with the rest of the fans who've been waiting for this for a hell of a long time. Seeing them in the Playoffs in 2007 and/or 2008 would've been great. But to make the Playoffs this year? After being disrespected by everyone, after getting asked by strangers why you're wearing a Mets hat, after dealing with pompous Yankee fans who have basically the same record as the Mets with a Payroll that's $80 million dollars higher? That'd be a feeling that would have to be experienced to realize the potential magnitude of it.

Again, this is not about expectations. It's not about making a crazy boast regarding a 21-22 team. It's simply about imagining it. If nothing else, a Playoff run by the 2011 Mets would ensure that Jose Reyes remains a Met through the end of the season - and likely re-signs. It would take the focus off the ridiculously overblown Madoff issue. It would allow us to enjoy Carlos Beltran for at least a few more months. It would shut up every local and national writer who can't wait to type that next article bashing the Mets, no matter how absurd or out of line that article is. Think about it: We've seen articles this year claiming that Jose Reyes was to blame for being incorrectly called out at 3rd base because he slid. That's how absurd the coverage of this team has become.

Imagine the 2011 Mets clinching a Playoff spot at Citi Field on September 28th against the Reds, or any day before that. Think about how sweet it would be, how satisfying it would be, to see this team go absolutely berserk on the field after the way the last 4 years have played out. After the way they were talked about before the 2011 season began. In order for that to be a possibility, they'll have to get Ike Davis and David Wright back when they're supposed to (about a week and change from now). If those two are out long-term, regardless of how gritty the fill-ins have played, the team is probably screwed. But Davis and Wright should be back soon.

Ever since the Mets moved from Shea Stadium to Citi Field, there hasn't been one single game where the crowd energy was even close to how it was at Shea. Maybe it's because the fans are constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop, maybe it's the acoustics of the new place, perhaps it's the fact that so many fans are always walking around and not paying attention to the game - or some combination of all three. I can guarantee one thing, though. If the first Playoff game at Citi Field is this season - whether it's Game 1 or Game 3 - the Shea noise will be there. The electricity will be there.

The fans who stuck with this team after pretty much everyone was telling them they were crazy for doing so will be in those seats. Personally, the Mets making the Playoffs in 2011 would be more satisfying than a 2006 World Championship would've been. Simply because of what the team and the fans have been through, and what rising up and making it all the way back this season would mean to them and us. I yearn for a cool September afteroon or night where David and Jose once again puff away on their victory cigars, while dumping champagne on each-other and the fans. It's why I keep watching, why I keep going. I know the team has it in them. Just imagine what it would feel like if they made it happen.

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