Today’s the day, that day we’ve all been waiting for. Today, Oliver Perez was cut by the Mets. After all of the good times, all of the bad, after all of the drama and anxiety and animosity, the odyssey is complete. He is finally gone. Hooray! Cut the ticker tape, rouse the elephants, this calls for a joyous celebration. Except there’s just one problem: I don’t feel quite like celebrating.
What the hell is wrong with me? Oliver Perez is gone! (pause) Nope, still nothing. None of the feelings of jubilation or joy that I’d anticipated lo these many years. None of the excitement I was expecting when that bubble inevitably burst. In their place I’m feeling something else, something less joyful. Instead of happiness, all I can seem to muster is disappointment and a twinge of sadness. Strange. But upon further analysis, I think I know the reason why. It’s because instead of a burst this feels more like the last few deflated wisps escaping from a balloon that never quite blew up.
A couple weeks back XM re-aired the 2006 All-Star Game in Pittsburgh. Being the consummate baseball nerd that I am, I listened (in my defense I was on a semi-long car ride). For those who don’t remember this was a good one for the Mets. To start, they were represented by six players on the NL roster, including four starters (Wright, Beltran & Lo Duca all started, Reyes was replaced due to a hand injury, Glavine and Pedro made six). And before the first pitch was even thrown Mets fans already had good reason to celebrate thanks to David Wright’s impressive showing in the Home Run Derby the night before. Fast forward to the second inning of the ASG and Wright knocked another ball over the fence. Not to be outdone, Beltran played all nine innings, went 2-for-4 with a double and scored the leading run after essentially stealing second, third and home.
The NL would go on to lose the game but the important take-away for our purposes was an eighth inning, sideline interview with David Wright. When asked for his take on the all star experience, David, of course, started by thanking the fans then went on to discuss the success of the ’06 season so far. But his main point was not ’06 nor was it the day’s festivities; it was the future. Wright went on to describe how the Mets impressive turnout symbolized more than just a strong season, it illustrated what this team was primed to do over the next few years. He stated, plain and simple, that the Mets franchise was riding high, they were going to do damage, get used to it.
Cut back to March 2011, sitting in my car. After weathering these last few seasons, after walking out of the turnstiles at Shea Stadium having witnessed three consecutive gut-wrenching last-game-of-the-seasons, after watching the team’s front office self-destruct like it was an airship over New Jersey, listening to that brief snippet from Wright circa ’06 was tough. Nearly as tough as when I re-listened to the XM re-air of the NLCS Game 7 from later that season (mental note, stop listening to these stupid things). Nonetheless, the limitless potential in the voice of a younger, more innocent David Wright, that same potential which he didn’t yet know would go criminally unfulfilled, stung like a dagger.
Enter Oliver Perez, the embodiment of all that is, was and ever will be potential unfulfilled. Poetic justice then that Perez came to join that undeniably talented yet star-crossed team in the one, singularly de-railing moment of 2006 (and perhaps beyond): The Duaner Sanchez Injury. The moment Duaner felt those first hunger pangs for a Cuban sandwich the die was cast; from then on Sanchez, Perez and the entire Mets organization were all on a collision course that would reach far beyond just a single taxi cab riding along South Beach late in the Miami night.
Perez literally became a Met by accident. And rightly so; who better to represent the late 2000’s Mets and their underlying theme of wasted promise than Perez? Not Wright, nor Reyes; Mets fans pray this won’t be their legacy. There were certainly accomplices (Maine, Heilman, Schoeneweis, etc) but none of them quite as culpable as Ollie. There were still others that pitched in (
LMillz Church Frenchy) but they were passerbys at best. There’s even a stock scapegoat in Beltran, but enlightened fans know that this isn’t his cross to bear either. There is no player that symbolizes the upside, the injuries, the dollar signs, the theater and ultimately the failure of the most recent incarnation of the New York Mets like Oliver Perez. If the Omar Minaya-era Mets were a university, Perez would be the mascot.
So hold that ticker tape, tell the elephants to relax. Cancel the parade because if I’m being completely honest, I just don’t feel like a party. Instead, let’s take this as a sign. Better yet, let’s take it as a signal, from the new and improved Mets front office that the Mets have entered into a new age and change is coming. And eventually, perhaps sometime soon, we’ll really have something to celebrate about.