It's incredible how quickly a narrative can change. Look back to Sunday, when the Mets dropped their second walk-off loss to the lowly Marlins in three days. Mets fans were busy wringing their hands about another collapse while the Nationals were busy steamrolling the already-flattened Braves for four games. The story was that the Nationals were heating up, that they were finally going to go on that big streak everyone expected of them. That the Nationals parade to the NL East crown would start on Monday against those Mets, who were downtrodden after not only a bad series against the Marlins but after having to deal with the weekend drama of Matt Harvey's innings limit. This is what's going to take them down, thought Mets fans.
Three days have since passed and the mere thought of that seems pretty silly, doesn't it?
Welcome back to September baseball, Mets fans. More importantly, welcome back to meaningful September baseball, borrowing from the words of Fred Wilpon. We haven't been here in a long time and the last time we were there, we were left badly scarred, but this is what we've all been waiting for. We sat through it all – through the rebuild, through the departures of popular veterans, through the growing pains and injury pains of young players and old players trying to establish themselves as key pieces for a contending Mets team of the future. It took time but we're finally here, we made it. Now it's time for you, Mets fans, to let yourselves truly enjoy it.
Thinking back to that fateful night in October 2006, when the Mets got their last momentary glimpse of playoff baseball in the form of a devastating Adam Wainwright curveball, I can remember my prevailing thoughts pretty clearly. Of course, the immediate thoughts were a swirl of anger, disappointment, and disbelief that the team that dominated the National League all season could lose to an 83-win Cardinals team. Once all of that got sorted out, however, the one thought that remained in my head was actually one of hope: "we'll be back". I recall thinking that days, weeks, and even months after the season had ended.
It was simple and at the time, I think we all believed it. Certainly I did, thinking about that team's talented core. In the moment, the pain hurt but once that sting goes away, it's time to think of the next year and in the moment, the future appeared bright.
As we all know, that year never really came, in spite of the slogan the Mets chose for the next season. Thinking back on that experience, however, I was able to pull out a lesson for myself and it's one I've tried following throughout this crazy ride over the past two months. The lesson was to enjoy it. Enjoy having a competitive, exciting baseball team. Enjoy watching September baseball games that actually mean something in the standings. Enjoy the wins and if you choose, celebrate them however you'd like without fear of "jinxing it". Those things don't exist and in reality, only hold you back from fully enjoying the moment. That's what this, for me, is all about.
If you think about baseball and sports in general, it's pretty cruel the way a season ends. Thirty teams in Major League Baseball start the year with high hopes and on the last day, only one of them gets to hold up the trophy. That means 29 teams go home unhappy, disappointed in some way, and have to sit and wait six months to start the next journey. If you're one of the lucky ones, your team will go home just a little bit later than the others, most likely still without the big trophy. That's the reality of the game and if you've been a fan for a while, you've experienced it. Whether it's in the World Series, the NLCS, or on the last day of September like the teams of Mets past, it's more than likely to happen. My advice to you is to really take the time to enjoy the ride all the way to the end, wherever it ends. Embrace and enjoy this now because you just never know when the ride might end.