By Mike Steffanos
Yes, I know that it sucks that Orlando Hernandez is out for at least the first round of the playoffs, and the Mets will be going into battle without Pedro Martinez and El Duque. Instead, we will open our first playoff series in six years with John Maine on the mound. I won't lie to you and pretend that it didn't bother me when I first heard the news, but I'm not going to let myself get all hung up on this, and I'm confident the Mets won't, either.
I'm not painting any mindless rosy pictures. You won't read anything here trying to put some sort of bizarre spin on how losing El Duque is somehow a good thing for the Mets, but with all due respect, you won't find me giving into the vultures in the media who are trying to suck the last bit of joy out of Mets fans. Is that the Bergen Record's Bronx Bob writing that "the Mets' aura of invincibility vanished" when El Duque went down? Sorry, Bob, but you told us we lost that when Pedro went down. You can't take that "aura of invincibility" away more than once, my friend.
I understand losing El Duque was a big story, but guys that have been pandering to the fears and insecurities of Mets fans for month should realize that their shtick is starting to get old. I almost laughed today when more than one journalist wrote about the somber mood in the Mets locker room among the players who were still around when they heard the news about El Duque yesterday afternoon. Let any team lose their first game starter the day before and you'll find shocked faces. But if you go in there today, this team has already turned the page with the resilience they have shown all year. Of course, the experts tell us that they're merely "saying the right things" now. Pardon me, but should they be saying the wrong things?
Sorry, but I'm not scared of the Mets losing in the playoffs. If it happens, I'll deal with it, but I'm going to enjoy this all-too-rare experience. I don't need anyone to feign false pity for me, and I'm not going to feel sorry for myself if things go wrong. For the first time in 6 years, the Mets have a chance to win playoff games, and I'm going to root for them. Any sportswriter that has any sort of constructive opinion that he wants to share will have my attention, but lazy, cynical scribes who only want to beat on the same old fears and insecurities can go take a walk.
No brash predictions of glorious victories will appear in this space, but neither will the cringing self-pity those in the media expect from us Mets fans. I freely admit that the task ahead is even more difficult than it was yesterday morning. Doesn't matter. The playoffs are not for the faint of heart. As my late grandmother taught me long ago, anything can happen if you only believe.