I went to bed on the evening of Sunday, October 9, feeling sad, broken, and defeated. I woke up on Monday, October 10 feeling angry. That feeling hasn’t really dissipated all that much on the morning of October 13.
There isn’t really one constant emotion that comes with the ending of a Mets season, at least for me. In the years they miss the playoffs altogether, it’s mostly indifference mixed with emptiness at the lack of baseball ahead. At the end of a tough playoff defeat, it’s typically depression and heartbreak. After all, since becoming a Mets fan, their playoff runs have ended like this: walk-off walk to the Braves in 1999, ninth-inning loss to the Yankees in Game 5 in 2000, Yadier bleepin’ Molina in 2006, that twelfth inning against the Royals in 2015, and Connor Gillaspie (who?) in the ninth inning of the 2016 Wild Card game.
One thing all of those games has in common is that the Mets lost in the final frame, giving us little time to realize the end was near before it smacked us right across the face. There’s a certain sudden finality to those losses that don’t allow us to appreciate the season’s coming mortality in the moment. Another thing all those seasons had in common is that, with the exception of 2006, you could reasonably argue the Mets weren’t supposed to win any of those series, or at least they weren’t favored to do so. And with 2006, the intense pain of that loss left me numb, so I didn’t really experience any anger in the moment. Maybe the 2016 Wild Card game against the Giants was one of the Mets should have had, but even then, they were staring down an elite Madison Bumgarner before looking forward to the buzzsaw Cubs if they advanced.
This year felt different. It felt different in just about every way that a Mets season could feel different. The Mets were a juggernaut like we haven’t seen since 2006. They were actively a top-3 or top-4 World Series contender. I never for a moment thought the season would end on October 9. Maybe closer to November 9, following a World Series parade or, at the very least, closer to Halloween than the first day of fall. I didn’t see it coming. Maybe that’s on me, and I should have known better. I did not, at any moment, even begin to consider that the Mets wouldn’t win the NL East and end up in the Wild Card round. That was so outside of my periphery that I considered that a free weekend from baseball up until the moment they were swept by the Atlanta Braves. Then I basically figured the Padres were a mere roadblock on the way to a tough Dodgers series that, again, should have never happened. Again, probably should have known better.
So in Sunday’s loss, the Mets were down 2-0 early, and with the way Joe Musgrove was dealing, it felt over right then and there. That left me in a very weird position. It gave me about two-and-a-half hours to sit there, watch an elimination game whose outcome was very much clear, and consider how the team had blown such a golden opportunity to bring us a championship.
The season began going off the rails in early September, immediately following the Dodgers series, but it felt completely off track in that weekend sweep in Atlanta. That first loss, which came 10 days before the team’s final loss, put them from a top-4 World Series contender to a team that would have to fight just to get into the conversation. It never should have come to that, but it did. Even then, they should have beaten San Diego pretty handily. They did not, and here we are.
Anger is not typically an emotion I feel with the Mets. That might come off as weird, but I’m not a WFAN caller who yells that the team needs to trade half the team after a single lost. I consider myself an optimist, for the most part, and my emotions with the Mets are typically more tied with sadness and longing, with hope sprinkled in. I get emotional at the ends of seasons because I love baseball more deeply than just about anything, despite how much it hurts to be a Mets fan sometimes. As embarrassing as it is to admit, I have cried thinking about this team winning a World Series title, not unlike that MLB 12: The Show commercial featuring the Cubs. So anger usually doesn’t factor so much into the equation.
But the reason why I’m angry isn’t because they lost. They have lost before and they will lose again, a lot! It’s because we’ve learned that these opportunities don’t come around this often. It made me angry thinking about a World Series window that might have shut before it even opened. The Mets will very likely not win 100+ games for the foreseeable future. They might! But it’s far from a guaranteed. They had it right there in front of them, and they let it get away. Over the course of a ten-game span, the Mets went from NL East favorites to going home. They pulled the rug out from under all of us, and it honestly made the entire season feel meaningless. Truth be told, it actually soured a lot of what came before it, despite it being the best regular season I’ve ever experienced.
I’m also angry because this team, which I loved watching so deeply, will never be together in this form again, and the next form will likely be worse. This is not because Billy Eppler is a bad GM (though he is) or because Steve Cohen won’t spend to keep them good (he most definitely will) but because logic and basic baseball economics dictate that it’s almost impossible for the franchise to maintain this exact level of success, between signing the players they have and filling the noticeable gaps that led to an early season exit.
And then there’s the fact that they lost at home, yet again, thus allowing another team to celebrate at Citi Field before the Mets got a chance to. Can you believe the last time the Mets celebrated anything at home was clinching the 2006 NL East title? I should know, I was there. But just in my lifetime, I have watched the Yankees, the Cardinals, the Royals, the Giants, and now the Padres gleefully dance around the Shea Stadium and Citi Field mounds. When’s our right time, Kent?
The Mets will very likely be in the playoff conversation for years to come. Between Cohen’s deep pockets, the expanded postseason, and more than half the league actively trying to lose, there’s no reason they won’t be in the conversation year over year. But the Braves have built a juggernaut on the cheap by signing their young players, and it feels like an uphill battle while carrying a boulder. Years of having to go through this Wild Card round will not be easy.
If the Mets make enough playoff appearances, they will very likely luck into a deep run and maybe even a championship. But these things are far from guaranteed, as we have come to learn. In 2006, we thought it was just the beginning, with a core of David Wright, Carlos Beltran, and Jose Reyes (yuck) leading the way. In 2015, we thought we had the pitching to sustain years of excellence. I don’t want to be caught in the same trap again.
More than anything, I’m angry because I believed so deeply in this team, and they let me down worse than I think I’ve ever been let down. I was too young in 1999, 2000, or 2006 to feel that. But after 25 years of rooting for the team—I know this likely pales in comparison to other people’s stores—I am truly sick of waiting and sick of false starts and empty promises. I truly find it hard to ever see myself believing in a Mets team again, because if you can’t trust a 101 win team to last more than three lousy playoff games, how can you trust a lesser team facing greater odds?
I’m angry because this team proved everyone right who told me it’s still the Mets, and they’ll still break your heart. I told people they were wrong, and this team was different. I spent years arguing this with people who get baseball less than most of us do. In the end, I was proven wrong, and the Mets are still the Mets. Maybe this will change after years of sustained dominance. Who knows.
There’s no right way to react to something like this. Some will cry and be sad. Others will reminisce about the good time and proud at the team’s accomplishments. Others will be angry. All are valid, and I’m not here to tell you any is right or wrong. Heartbreak, big and small, is still heartbreak, even if it’s just a silly sport. But dedicating so much effort into this and coming up so empty is a tough pill to swallow—Kory Powell already eloquently captured his thoughts on daring to believe in this 2022 Mets team.
So here I am, angry at the end of the Mets’ season, and staring down the long offseason abyss up ahead. It’s up to the Mets to prove us wrong and show us this wasn’t a one-year fluke, as it has been so often in our lifetimes. More than anything, I hope with time I’ll be able to appreciate what they did this year, because 101 wins is damn impressive regardless of the end. I just wish it didn’t feel so hollow. More than anything, I want to believe again, but that will be hard after this. And that’s the worst part.