(bumped from fanposts. --eric)
We Mets fans are a pessimistic bunch, and with reason. We have suffered a lot of losing, a lot of strange managerial and upper management decisions, organizational dysfunction, late-season chokes, etc. And so this list of the ten worst moments of the decade is a natural exercise in lamentation. But you know what? It hasn't been all bad. In fact, as someone who first started watching baseball in 1984, the Mets didn't win any less than 87 games for the first seven years of my fanship, and they've won more games than they've lost even in this decade. So why not look at some of the positives for a change? After all, it is the season for cheer. So here's my rundown of the top ten moments of the decade, counting down to the best.
10. The almost comeback in 2001. Yeah, it ended badly thanks to Brian Jordan and Armando Benitez, but for a few weeks the Mets gave us the taste of an almost miraculous comeback. The season began with a bang with the Mets actually taking a series in Atlanta, and then beating them again in the first series in New York. Then the Mets pretty much stunk for the next four and a half months of the season. As of August 18 they were 14.5 games behind Atlanta. Then they started to win some games. At first it seemed like too little too late, but they kept winning, and they kept inching up the standings. All this oddly started happening right after I moved from New York to Washington, DC, but I didn't take it personally. After winning six straight games from Philly and Florida in early September, they had moved to within 7 games of first, and with 6 games left with the Braves, the impossible suddenly seemed more possible.
Then the terrorist attacks on 9/11 took place, and everything took a back seat to that. But after the season resumed, the Mets kept winning, and they became the talk of the town. Could this team pull off a miracle to cheer up a city still mourning? Of course we know what happened, and I got to witness in person Brian Jordan's 9th inning blast off of Benitez, but for a couple of weeks, it was a magical ride.
9. John Maine/Johan Santana keep the Mets alive. This is another story that ultimately ended badly. The final weekends of the 2007 and 2008 season played out eerily similar to one another. On the next-to-last deay of each season, the Mets were one game out of a playoff spot, and on both occasions their starting pitcher gave the performance of a lifetime. John Maine took a no-hitter into the 8th inning, but as every Mets pitcher to start a game before him, he ultimately gave up a hit. Still, the win, plus a Phillies loss, meant the Mets were all even after 161. And then there was Santana, on three days rest for the second straight time, one-upping Maine. At least Maine had 13 runs of support. Santana nursed a 2-0 lead, striking out nine, and absolutely dominating the Marlins. Millions of Mets fans collectively held their breath as Cody Ross's deep drive fell in Endy Chavez's glove rather than over the fence to tie it up. And like the year before, the Mets were tied after game 161. It's best to forget 162 for now.
8. Mike Piazza says goodbye - October 2, 2005. I will make no secret that Mike Piazza is my favorite player of all-time, so this might be a bit more personal for me. Plus Matt Cerrone linked to my tribute to Piazza, which at the time I thought was a big deal. Still, it was an emotional sendoff for the best every-day player to put on a Mets uniform (at his peak, so calm down Willie Mays fans).
7. The 8th inning comeback against the Braves - June 30, 2000. Like probably many Mets fans watching at home that Friday night (and what was I doing at home on a Friday night anyway?), I turned the television off at some point during what looked like another Braves romp over the Mets. For some reason though I decided to flip the television back on, and I happened to turn it on just after Zeile singled home Piazza to make it 8-3 with 2 outs in the 8th. Something told me that the game wasn't quite over, though common sense said it was. Then Jay Payton singled, then Agbayani walked to load the bases, then two more walks and it was 8-5. Hmmmm. In comes Terry Mulholland (I remember thinking, he's still in the league?) and Derek Bell (!) walked to make it 8-6. So up comes Edgardo Alfonzo, and he raps a single, and the game is freaking tied, and Shea is going bananas. Piazza strolls the plate, and there probably weren't too many people who didn't know what was going to happen next, including poor Terry Mulholland. Sure enough, Mikey hits a screaming liner that is out in about .5 seconds, and my GOD! The Mets are up 11-8. Benitez closes it out - but not of course before putting the tying runs on base - and I can't believe, what I just saw.
6. Carlos Beltran signs with the Mets during the 2004-5 off-season. Hey, do you remember when the Mets outbid the Yankees on a major free agent signing? I know many people might be inclined to put the Pedro Martinez signing from that same off-season here, and perhaps that did signal a shift indicating that the organization was turning things around. And while the Pedro Martinez signing may have indirectly led to Carlos Beltran signing with the Mets, there are about 119 million other reasons why he chose the Mets over his other suitors. Despite a tumultuous 2005 season, no rational Mets fan (an admitted minority) has ever questioned this deal since, as he has been worth every single penny, and then some.
5. Minaya trades for Santana. Another off-the-field moment, but this was a great day. Sure we give Minaya a lot of beef, and the Mets seemingly were the only major suitors once it seemed the Yanks and Red Sox were no longer interested, but Omar Minaya managed to land the biggest pitching name in the game for a relatively paltry sum of prospects. Considering that this trade went down the same week as the Giants won the Super Bowl, I'd have to rate this as an all-around great time to be alive.
4. Benny Agbayani's walk-off homer, game 3 of the 2000 NLDS. Finally a great moment I got to witness in person. It capped off a great game that witnessed, among other things, Johnny Franco striking out Barry Bonds swinging. (Not to mention the collective mock tomahawk chop that went on once the final score showing the Braves getting eliminated went up). It was the second straight year I personally got to witness a playoff walk-off homer (Pratt, not Ventura), and I just knew after that the Mets were going to the Series. (Side note - did anyone not think both the Mets and Yankees were just going to breeze through their respective LCS?)
3. Mike Piazza's homerun, 9/21/01. Yeah, this one. I actually was back in New York for the first time after moving, but was at my brother's wedding. But I did get to hear the homerun in the car, and I still get chills when I think about it.
2. Mets romp to division crown in 2006. Yeah, it ended badly, but that was one of the most enjoyable seasons ever to be a Mets fan. The final three and a half months were nothing but an extended victory lap. Everything about that team, from the dominant lineup to the, dare I say it, grission on display on a nightly basis, was a joy to behold (even for those of us who had to behold it from 200 miles away). And that's why I maintain that the worse heartbreak was how that season ended, and not 2007 or 2008. Not even close.
1. Mets win 2000 National League pennant. Yeah, it ended badly (a common theme), but how can anything other than the trip to the World Series be the best moment of the decade for this team? I still remember Timo Perez jumping up and down as he caught the final out against the Cards - probably my last fond memory of Timo Perez. In all honesty, the Mets were probably not as good in 2000 as they were in 1999, but that's the team that got to the Series. And it happened in the first year of the decade. Unfortunately, it was all down hill after that.
Hey, I'm a Mets fan, I even have to end my otherwise happy post with a down thought.