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Revisiting September of 2004

Mike SteffanosMonday, July 17, 2006
By Mike Steffanos

As the Mets came back from the dead with a historic inning to win yesterday's game against the Chicago Cubs, I couldn't help thinking back to the end of the Art Howe era and what has happened to the two clubs in the interim.

The Cubs rolled into New York on Friday, September 24. Those Cubbies were in the driver's seat for the NL wild card going into the final week of the season, and they could hardly be blamed if they felt a little overconfident facing a team that was 19 games under .500 and playing under a lame duck manager. Kris Benson pitched a good game that Friday night, taking a 1-0 lead into the seventh. Aramis Ramirez tied the game with a solo home run, and the game went into the tenth where the Cubs beat Braden Looper with Derek Lee's broken bat single. Just another dreary loss in another dreary season that pushed the record to a dreary 20 games under break-even. Nothing really special there.

Then on the news they played some clips of the Cubs announcers gloating about the Mets misfortunes during the game. I don't remember the specifics of it two years later, but I was somewhat shocked with how obnoxious and unprofessional they were being. They were making fun of all the Mets' missteps in trying to turn things around, and insinuating that the Mets would be bad for a long time, and yucking it up over that. I remember thinking at the time that it was the kind of boorishness that could come back to haunt you.

It didn't take too long to come back on them. The next day, in a nationally televised Saturday afternoon game, the Cubs jumped on Aaron Heilman early and built a 3-0 lead for Mark Prior. Ryan Dempster got the final out for Prior in the eighth, but didn't fare as well in the ninth. He struck out pinch hitter Todd Zeile for the first out, but then issued walks to Eric Valent and Jason Phillips. Closer Latroy Hawkins came in and retired Jeff Keppinger for the second out, and got 2 strikes on Victor Diaz. But Diaz took a 2-2 pitch deep to the opposite field to tie the game and (hopefully) stun a couple of obnoxious announcers. In the bottom of the eleventh, Kent Mercker came into the game and failed to make it through one batter, as Craig Brazell took him deep for a walkoff home run.

The Cubs said all the right things after the game, but that one had to hurt. It hurt even more after the Mets jumped on Kerry Wood for three in the first the next day and held on behind Al Leiter, Mike Stanton, Tyler Yates and Braden Looper for a 3-2 win. The Cubs said all of the right things after that one, too, but they limped out of town into Cincinnati where they won the opener but then dropped the next 3 straight to a bad Reds team, which just about killed them. The Braves took 2 of 3 in the final weekend series to bury the Cubs.

The irony, of course, is the different directions the two teams have headed since that weekend almost 2 years gone by. The majority of the players I mentioned for the Mets aren't here any more. Art Howe and GM Jim Duquette have moved on. The Mets turned their faltering franchise around, while the Cubs are the ones who have made the big missteps in the interim. I don't laugh at the pain of Cubs fans, since we were in that place a short time ago, but I don't extend the same courtesy to the guys in the booth. Who's yucking now, boys? You have to appreciate the irony...

Daily News: The Walking Wounded
Adam Rubin provides updates on Pedro Martinez (drinking coffee again, tossing bullpen), Jose Reyes (says he'll be back tomorrow) and Brian Bannister (pitched in a simulated game Saturday, should start rehab assignment soon).

SI.com: Doesn't look good for Garcia
Jon Heyman bursts a bubble for those that feel the White Sox will be "reasonable" in what they hope to receive in return for one of their starters:

The White Sox asked the Mets for Duaner Sanchez and Mike Pelfrey for Freddy Garcia. No go. The Sox have spoken to several clubs about Garcia and Javier Vazquez but prefer to keep Vazquez since he's contractually tied to the team for three more years. Garcia has told people he wouldn't be devastated to go to New York.

Wow. I thought they'd ask for a lot, but that one surprises me.

Surfing the Mets: Michael Devaney
In this weeks edition of his Minor League Report, Adam Rubin profiles the young pitcher who replaced Mike Pelfrey in Binghamton. Devaney has done nothing but win after being drafted by the Mets, despite his lack of overpowering stuff.

The Baseball Journals: MLB's Blackout Policy
Maury Brown wants you to share your frustration with MLB's blackout policy for an article he is writing for Baseball Prospectus. I know some of my fellow Mets fans in Connecticut are being hurt by this.

Getting Paid To Watch: Doc Gooden
Bob has another excerpt from his book posted. This one details what Dwight Gooden meant to the 1985 Mets.

Hotfoot: A question of faith
I missed it in my own perusal of the news this morning -- apparently David Wright did a commercial in his Mets uniform for some faith healer. Bob Sikes from Getting Paid To Watch also weighed in on this strange story.

More Mets Stories:
SportsSpyder Mets
Pro Sports Daily Mets

Comments (4)

Not only was I at that Saturday Victor Diaz/Craig Brazell game, but I was there as the guest of a Cubs fan up from D.C. for the occasion. He wasn't the only Cubs fan at Shea. For all the talk of Yankee fan infestation of Flushing for Subway Serieses, I had never experienced such an overwhelming enemy infiltration as I did that day. Where did all these Cubs fans come from?

To add a bit of spice, this was the first time I ever met the fellow who was "taking" me to the game. He's the uncle of a friend from Chicago, a friend who said if you have an extra ticket (he did) you should call my friend the Mets fan from Long Island (he did).

Long story short, we got along famously and chatted about baseball and our lives as fans and so forth, but there was an obvious schism. His team needed the game to stay alive. My team needed to go home, but I needed a win for my self-esteem. Still, I figured it was a lost cause and I was being as gracious a loser as I could be. He was a nice guy who'd been watching the Cubs since before I was born and I wouldn't have spited him the chance to go back to the playoffs.

Then Victor hit the home run and I was up on my feet and screaming, my friend's uncle's season being ruined be damned. Conclusion: I'm not that gracious.

Greg, I honestly don't think I could go to a baseball game with a fan of the other team. It's not that I'm a poor loser or a poor winner, but I need to be free to root unencumbered.

I don't think you were unfair to your friend's uncle. I, on the other hand, might have felt compelled to scream "in your face, loser!"

That's "in your face, loser!...and thanks for the ticket!"

I was the uncle's nephew's (nephew-in-law's, technically) guest at Wrigley for a Mets-Cubs doubleheader eight years ago. Mets swept. We were sitting in very good company seats (that is the company that owns the Cubs). I controlled my "YOU SUCK, SOSA!" impulses but I not only cheered virulently for the Mets (the two teams were slugging it out for a Wild Card), but wore my Todd Hundley t-shirt, which won me a special brand of recognition from the North Side faithful.

As it unfolded, I thought Sept. 25, 2004 was karmic payback for my unrestrained glee in 1998. But when it comes to the Cubs and karma, karma long ago hired a collection agency to harass the Cubs.

I'll tell you, Greg, whenever I regret being a Mets fan I remind myself that it could be worse -- I could be a Cubs fan.

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