The Yankees are known as New York’s number one baseball team. The Bronx has seen 27 World Series titles and has a history of winning. Year after year the Yankees are in the hunt for the playoffs and they always have a shot at winning it all.
But on the other side of the city in Flushing, Queens, the Mets have not had an easy run these past few years. The last time the Mets won a Championship was 1986 and the last time they even came close to a World Championship was 2006. The so-called “Amazin’ Team” made it to the National League Championship Series and pushed the St. Louis Cardinals to a decisive Game Seven.
The Mets played their hearts out in that NLCS. That was evidenced by an incredible catch made by Endy Chavez in the final game. In the top of the sixth, Chavez tracked a fly ball (hit by Scott Rolen) to the left field wall at Shea Stadium. He leaped up, stuck his glove out over the wall, and brought the ball back into the park for an out.
He turned a two-run homer into a spectacular double play.
Tied 1-1 going into the ninth inning, the Cards took the lead. Yadier Molina swung his bat and delivered a tie-breaking two-run home run to give St. Louis a 3-1 lead. The Mets threatened in the bottom of the frame, World Series in sight.
What could have been the Mets’ dream season ended with Carlos Beltran staring blankly at a disgusting breaking ball thrown by Adam Wainwright.
Strike three called. Beltran out. NLCS over. Cardinals win.
From that called strike three and basically losing the pennant by one pitch, it seemed the Mets never recovered – despite a number of attempts to better themselves. The team from Flushing has gone in a downward spiral; a torturous period of bad luck and misfortune. It just seems as if black cloud has followed the team around since Chavez’s catch.
Following the sad ending in the ’06 NLCS, the Mets went out and got the best pitcher on the trading block. Then-General Manager Omar Minaya made an offer to the Minnesota Twins and the Mets gave up some prospects for ace and two-time American League Cy Young Award Winner (2004, 2006) Johan Santana.
As the Mets’ biggest off-season acquisition, Santana did not have a poor year in ’07 (15-13, 3.33 ERA) but he did lead the N.L. in home runs allowed with 33.
But the real story of the year wasn’t Santana. It was what has become known as “The Collapse.”
For most of the year, the Mets dominated the NL Eastern Division. Into the stretch, they played exceptionally well, as they were 21 games over .500 at 83-62 on Sept. 12.
As they say however, objects in the rearview mirror are closer than they appear – and the Phillies were not far behind the Mets.
Leading Philadelphia by seven games in the division – with only 12 games left to play – the Mets folded and lost six of their final seven games. In a deadlock for first place with Philly on the last day of the season, the Mets were beaten 8-1 by the Florida Marlins.
Meanwhile the Phillies beat the Washington Nationals 6-1 to win the NL East – the same NL East the Mets had a firm grasp on earlier that month. The Phillies were heading to the playoffs and the Mets were going home for the winter.
It couldn’t possibly get any worse for the Mets after 2007, right?
Not quite. After the ’07 collapse came the collapse of 2008.
Throughout ’08 the Mets had problems, as they fired manager Willie Randolph mid-season and they let go of Pitching Coach Rick Peterson. Jerry Manuel, a former Manager of the Year, took over. But even he couldn’t guide the bullpen in the right direction, as the Mets’ relievers failed them in big spots.
It once again came down to the Mets and the Marlins on the last day of the season.
If the Milwaukee Brewers lost and the Mets won, New York would have captured the NL Wild Card. If the Brew Crew won and the Mets lost, Milwaukee was in.
Lo and behold, the Mets lost 4-2 to Florida on Sept. 28 and the Brewers won, a tragic way to end the final regular season game at Shea Stadium. When it was all over and the meltdown was complete, the Mets of old came out for a postgame ceremony. Players like Tom Seaver and Dwight Gooden were on hand to send off Shea Stadium in a nice way.
But to the fans, it felt more like a funeral than a celebration. Two years, two chances for a playoff appearance. And both times, the Mets came up just short at the last minute.
Since then there hasn’t been any room for a postseason collapse for the Mets, simply because they haven’t been in a playoff race following the ’08 meltdown. They attempted to fix their scuffling bullpen by signing closer Francisco Rodriguez prior to 2009. Yet even in trying to build the ‘pen, things didn’t work out.
Case in point: June 12, 2009.
Luis Castillo, a second baseman the Mets traded for in 2007, botched a pop-up that cost the Mets a game – and not just any game: a Subway Series game against their cross-town rivals, the Yankees.
With K-Rod on the mound, two outs, and the Mets leading 8-7 with two men on base, Alex Rodriguez swung and batted a popup behind second base. Castillo got underneath the ball and readied himself to catch it.
When the ball came down he closed his glove, only for it to pop right out and fall to the right field grass, like a piece of bread exploding out of a faulty toaster. Castillo, obviously without his wherewithal, failed to get either base runner out, throwing the ball to second base rather than home plate.
The Yankees scored two runs on the error and won the game 9-8.
It didn’t get any better for the Mets from there, as they ended their first season in Citi Field with a record of 70-92, good for fourth place in the NL East behind Philadelphia, Florida, and Atlanta.
After 2009 the Mets once again tried to land a big-name free agent. Left fielder Jason Bay, coming off a good year playing for the Boston Red Sox, was available and on Minaya’s radar. They signed him to be a power hitter in the middle of the lineup, hoping he would produce and drive in over 100 runs for the season.
Bay did anything but that.
He finished 2010 with a batting average of .259 and only hit six homers with 47 RBIs. It wasn’t exactly what the Mets had in mind, as he had hit 36 home runs with 119 RBIs in Boston the year before. He was also sidelined for a good portion of the year, as he sustained a concussion in a game against the Los Angeles Dodgers. The unlucky outfielder smacked his head against the outfield wall while tracking down a fly ball.
Bay only played 95 games last year and began this season on the disabled list with a rib injury.
Beltran, who was another big-ticket free agent the Mets acquired, has also had a rash of injuries. He had surgery on his knee in January of 2010 and it sparked controversy. The Mets’ organization said the procedure was done without their consent and they stressed their disappointment in Beltran about not consulting them about it first.
Before the Mets signed Beltran before the 2005 season, he gave them – and every other team in baseball – a good reason to seek him out. The centerfielder had slugged 38 homers in ’04 for Kansas City and Houston, and put on quite a hitting show in the 2004 NLCS, which the Astros played against the Cardinals. In that NLCS, he crushed four homers, knocked in five runs, and hit .417.
In his first season with the Mets Beltran hit 16 homers, recorded 78 RBIs, and he averaged .266.
Not a bad season by any means, but certainly not what the Mets had hoped for. Beltran had one outstanding season for the Mets in 2006 – ironically the only season in recent years the Mets have been any good. In ’06 he clobbered 41 homers, registered 116 RBIs, and hit .275.
Statistically, Beltran’s power numbers have declined every year since ’06.
The offense has not been the only facet of the Mets’ game that has been suffering. Their pitching – namely the hurlers they signed to get the job done – have also betrayed them.
Like Beltran, Santana has had one standout year (2008; 16-7, 2.53 ERA) but other than that season, he has been rather ineffective. He has been hurt for three straight years going back to 2009 and at the end of last year he left his Sept. 2 start early and was ultimately shut down. Later that month he had surgery on his pitching shoulder.
This year Santana has yet to pitch and will not begin the 2011 season until end of June or early July.
K-Rod, who had set the all-time saves record in a single season (62 in 2008) before going to Flushing, has not done anything close to what he did while playing for the Los Angeles Angels. Rodriguez went 3-6 in his first year with the Mets and blew seven saves (35 saves in 42 opportunities). He also had a back injury in 2009, once again an unfortunate happening for a player the Mets put a lot of stock into.
This year K-Rod already has one blown save, but one win. Against the Marlins on Saturday, he blew what would have been his first save of the year. However the Mets rallied and bailed him out, scoring three runs in the tenth to beat the fish 6-4.
The day before on Opening Day, the Mets suffered their first loss of the year, a 6-2 defeat at the hands of the Marlins. A person who works for SNY, the Mets’ cable network, played a clip from the TV show “Family Guy” that poked fun at how poor the Mets have played these past few years.
With all of the collapsing, the breaking down, the failure year after year, the injuries to the big stars, the question has to be asked: if you sign with the Mets, are you committing career suicide? No matter what they do, will they ever be contenders again? Is the team, which has basically been reduced to nothing more than a laughingstock, going to eventually turn things around?
This year, probably not. The Mets just do not have the pitching to go toe-to-toe with the Phillies and some of the other teams in the division, such as the Braves. Combine that with the lackluster run production the Mets showcase, they do not stand a chance.
Even though the Mets are failing, Stewie Griffin is poking fun at them, and the state of the team is seemingly in a state of flux, one thing remains constant: the fans.
Mets fans are very loyal. They know that they are doomed to watch their team fall down and never garner enough energy to pick themselves back up. Yet they still go out to Citi Field, and still root for players like Beltran, Santana, Bay, and K-Rod, and others like David Wright, Ike Davis, and Jose Reyes.
I don’t know how they put up with losing, but they do. I tip my (Yankee) cap to them all.
Wow. It was yet another great day at a Yankee game and another great win for the Bronx Bombers in the new house today. This afternoon the Yankees beat their cross-town rivals, the New York Mets, by a score of 4-0.
I had a blast today at Yankee Stadium, going to my second game in five days. My seats were actually in the same exact section I was in Tuesday night vs. the Phillies, just a couple of rows back. And today I went to the game with my older sister, not my dad.
It probably would have made sense to go to the game with my dad today, it being Father’s Day and all, but…it’s kind of hard to explain. My dad got the tickets for me on Tuesday while my sister got the tickets for today. So I went to the game with my dad on my birthday and my sister today.
Yeah. I think that about sums it up.
When we arrived at the Stadium this afternoon, TV cameras were all over the field. Tyler Pennington was filming his show “Extreme Makeover Home Edition.” He used the new house for a scene for his show. A whole bunch of his crew members came onto the field and I guess they are going to help someone, as they always do.
In another pre-game ceremony, the reigning Super Bowl M.V.P. Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints was behind home plate. He brought his son with him and Mark Teixeira eventually came out and shook his hand. Brees threw out the honorary first pitch and not long after that the game began.
David Wright led off the first with a single off Yankees’ starter CC Sabathia. I wasn’t surrounded by Mets fans, but their presence sure was felt. There were quite a few of them scattered throughout our section. I was worried that Sabathia wasn’t going to be on his game today, or nearly as sharp as he was when I saw him Tuesday night.
But Sabathia came back and got out of the frame with no harm done.
Johan Santana, the starter for the Mets, was just as brilliant out of the gate. Santana sat down the Yankees in order in the first, not allowing a hit. “This could be a legitimate pitcher’s duel,” I said to my sister. “CC and Johan were both set on cruise control in the first!”
Santana was equally as effective in the second as he was in the first, but ran into a brick wall in the third. He loaded the bases with Teixeira coming to the plate and nobody out. Dan Warthen, the Mets’ pitching coach, came out to talk to Santana. It was then I knew something was going to happen.
“Tex is going to do something here,” I said. “I know it…” I had a funny feeling; it’s hard to explain. The bases were loaded and for some reason I knew he was going to come up big in this spot.
And that he did.
Teixeira, batting from the right side of the plate, pulled a long fly ball to left field. Jason Bay ran, ran, and ran some more. Like the rest of us, he looked up and watched the ball fly out of Yankee Stadium for a grand slam home run, his 12th homer of the year.
“OHHHHH!!! GRAND SLAM! A GRAND SLAM!!! MARK TEIXEIRA!” I boisterously cheered. I couldn’t contain my excitement. It was the first time I had seen a Yankee hit a grand slam in-person since Enrique Wilson did it back on Aug. 7, 2003. Obviously it was a special moment, so I had the right to go a little crazy. I high-fived my sister and all of the other Yankee fans in our section.
As us Yankee fans celebrated the granny, the Mets fans suddenly went silent.
In the fourth inning, something amazing almost happened–almost. Derek Jeter was batting and he fouled off a pitch to his right. The ball popped up foul and it was heading directly for me and I mean DIRECTLY FOR ME.
I swear to God, I thought the ball was going to hit me in the face!
I stood up, got ready to catch it, and at the last second it hooked to my right. It landed about three seats over to my right and rolled underneath our row of seats and into the row in front of us. A man sitting right in front of my sister retrieved the foul ball. It was probably the closest I have ever gotten to a foul ball in a Major League Baseball game.
It would have been nice to get it, but…I fell just short of it. Maybe next time.
Sabathia continued to mow down the Mets into the seventh inning. He got through the seventh with relative ease and went on to complete the eighth. Right as the Mets were coming off the field after the top of the frame, the rains came. My sister actually ran to the concession stand to get me ice cream (in the little Yankee helmet!) and I wound up meeting her in the upper concourse.
I was getting drenched! Yankee Stadium, out of nowhere, became a site of torrential rain.
A lot of fans fled the Stadium but my sister and I wanted to stay. We weren’t going to let the rain ruin the rest of our day, so we stuck through the 22-minute rain delay and moved down to the main level concourse. During the delay they played highlights from 2009 season and postseason.
So while we were in the delay, we were at least entertained by the clips from the 2009 World Series Championship season. It was fun to watch that video with a bunch of Mets fans standing around. It makes me appreciate it so much more; I mean, I wasn’t even born the last time they won the World Series!
The ninth inning eventually came and the Yanks brought in Mariano Rivera to slam the door. Rivera got Reyes, Wright, and Ike Davis out to end the game–a 4-0 win over the Mets on the strength of a genius outing by Sabathia and visit to granny by Teixeira. And not just a 4-0 win, but a Subway Series victory over the Mets as well.
Another visit to the new house for me and another win.
Doing a lot of thinking on the way home, I came up with some statistics in terms of me attending games these last few years. I have noticed that the Yankees have won a lot of the games I have been to in recent times.
Maybe I should go to the games more often!
- Dating back to 2007, the Yankees have won 12 of the last 12 games I have attended.
- In games I have been to at the new Yankee Stadium, the Yankees are 7-0. Three of those seven wins featured pie at the end of the game.
- In Subway Series games I have been to in my life, the Yankees are now 2-2.
- The last time the Yankees lost a game I attended: July 7, 2007; it was Old Timer’s Day and they lost 2-1 to the LA Angels in 13 innings.
Please do not ask me for L/R or Day/Night splits. :p
And on one last note: Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there. Hope you guys had a wonderful and relaxing day!