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The Cruelest Time

Mike SteffanosSunday, August 28, 2005
By Mike Steffanos


Giants 2 - Mets 1

I'm not going to kill myself over yesterday's loss. I can't second guess any of Willie's moves. The simple fact of the matter is that the Mets had an opportunity -- a Phillies loss, a well-pitched game by Glavine and chances to get the runs to win this game. They didn't.

There are 33 games left in the season now, and opportunities at this time of year are a little more precious, a little sadder when they slip away. With apologies to T.S. Eliot, in baseball September is really the cruelest month, especially when you are involved in a race with multiple teams. Each game is a war, and all that counts is the result.

For the most part, the Mets have spared us loyal fans this cruelty. Going back the last 15 years, we haven't had much to sweat about:

YearWL%GB
20047191.43825.0
20036695.41034.5
20027586.46626.5
20018280.5066.0
20009468.5801.0
19999766.5956.5
19988874.54318.0
19978874.54313.0
19967191.43825.0
19956975.47921.0
19945558.48718.5
199359103.36438.0
19927290.44424.0
19917784.47820.5
19909171.5624.0

In the 36 years that I have rooted for the Mets prior to this year I figure they have been in true September pennant races about a dozen times. 10-year-old me first jumped on the bandwagon during the '69 miracle season. Since then they have made the playoffs five freaking times, which if nothing else proves I'm not the front runner I seemed to be back when.

Point being: the "new Mets" won the first five games of this trip and injected themselves into this year's race. Pardon me if I feel a little greedy and want to see them hang around for a while. We need to change the culture of sleepy Septembers, and give Wright, Reyes and the rest of the kids their first look at what I hope will be a not uncommon experience in future years.

The whipping post

If there is one criticism of Willie I've heard from yesterday's game, it was in starting Matsui over Cairo. Forgive me if I missed something here, but Cairo hasn't been setting the world on fire lately, has he? He's not hitting, and he never walks. I think he's proven to be what everyone thought he was: an excellent bench player and a great teammate. I really like him, and I hope he's still here next year, but not as the starting second baseman.

As for Kaz, I think Willie sees him as a player that might get hot for a while and give him something. Probably ain't gonna happen, but a worthwhile try. The Mets made a huge mistake with Matsui - first in moving Reyes to accommodate him and then over-hyping him during a dreary off-season. I think Kaz has actually gotten to the point where he is a decent second baseman. I don't hold my breath every time a ball is hit to him anymore. If he could produce offensively like he did last year he would actually be a decent contributor, but I think it's just too late.

Unlike a lot of fans, I don't blame Kaz for this whole debacle, I blame the Mets, who let their farm system disintegrate to the point where they were forced to overreach for a player like Matsui just to try to get some talent on the field and some off-season buzz.

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