I’ve been a Mets fan since 1969. Lest you figure me for a front-runner, I was eight at the time; the Miracle coincided with—and maybe was responsible for—my discovery of baseball as a spectator sport.
Of course, I was to suffer for my choice. In the years to come, for every Seaver and Koosman, there was an endless supply of Bombacks and Falcones. For every play-off appearance, there were dozens of seasons lost to ineptitude … on the field and in the front office. Fans of other franchises might have had it worse (God help Cubs fans), but I’m quite sure we Mets fans have suffered more than our share.
’86 is forever ago, and 2000 seems a lost memory. Mediocrity is the default position of the Mets, and has been ever since Wilpon bought-out Doubleday and started making noise about "meaningful games in September."
"Meaningful games in September." Not pennants. Not World Series Championships. The implication is that it’s enough to sniff the Wild Card—to take it down to the season’s last week before being mathematically eliminated. That’s enough for Fred and Jeff, apparently, or they would’ve cleaned house after the collapses of ’07 and ’08. Those Mets teams played meaningful games right up until the last day of the regular season. Sure, they choked in consecutive Games 162, but they were in it to the last. That should be enough, or so we’re to infer.
But as I sit through another season of ineptitude, watching this team slog through the summer at a win-one/lose-one pace, all the while trying to convince themselves and the fan-base that "meaningful games in September" are right around the corner, I’m coming to the conclusion that it isn’t enough, not by a long shot. I’ve been to hundreds of Mets games over the years-watched thousands on TV, and listened to as many on the radio. I’ve devoted more hours following and caring-about this franchise than anything else in my life outside of my wife and kids. My devotion has been rewarded by mismanagement, an eye on the bottom line by ownership that precludes making the team a real contender, and a clueless Chief Operating Officer who won his position in a birth lottery.
I’ve seen them spend money lavishly but foolishly, finding themselves in a position where they either refuse to (or simply cannot) swallow their mistakes. I’ve watched as the owners fired Davey Johnson and replaced him with Bud Harrelson (and Jeff Torborg and Dallas Green); Joe McIlvaine and replaced him with Steve Phillips; Bobby Valentine and replaced him with Art Howe, Willie Randolph, and Jerry Manuel. For every good management hire—and there haven’t been many—this ownership as thrice-as-many horrible ones, which are inevitably followed by bad signings, incompetent field leadership, and season after season of disappointment.
The last Mets game I attended in person was the next-to-last game at Shea, when Johan Santana willed himself and the team to a remarkable win that kept them alive ‘til the season’s final day. Of course, they lost that final game. The next season, they opened Ebbets Field II, doubled and tripled their ticket prices, and put an inferior product (even by the Mets’ degraded standards) on the field. I vowed not to attend another Mets game until the product on the field justified the price of the tickets. That has yet to happen. It may never happen.
I’ve still followed the team, watched SNY, read the blogs and papers. Lately, however, even that seems more than the franchise deserves. I’m starting to think that three hours-a-night I waste watching this abomination of a team might be better spent doing something else. Rooting for another team is out; I’m too old to make a new emotional connection. But I can simply start caring about other things. After all, the frustration I feel night-after-night, summer-after-summer can’t be healthy. This organization obviously puts the good faith of its fans far beneath other considerations. Maybe it’s time I return the favor, for my own good.