My wife and I saw a preview of the new Farrelly brothers' movie "The Heartbreak Kid" Thursday night, starring Ben Stiller and some girl who looks like, but isn't, Cameron Diaz. No real spoilers here, although the film was mildly amusing at best. The premise is the 40 year old unlucky in love guy who chances to meet a hottie, falls in love, gets married, and realizes quickly (on their honeymoon) that he's made a terrible, terrible mistake. He finds out along the way that she's a former coke addict; her impressive research job isn't a job at all, it's volunteer work; she's a bi-polar schizophrenic. Worst of all, she sings every song she hears on the radio. Out loud. Badly. She's still a hottie, but that baggage kind of gets in the way. Predictably, he then meets the "girl of his dreams" while they're on their honeymoon in Cabo. Madcap romantic comedy hilarity ensues; you know the rest.
That cinematic epiphany came to Stiller's character Thursday night just about the same time as the Mets' limp-wristed hold on first place was wrestled away by those Phillies. I faced the fact for the first time all year that we've made a terrible, terrible mistake to put our hearts into these guys. I'd been avoiding posting here on Mike's Mets of late, only because I didn't have much to add to the conversation. Yes, the Mets suck lately. Yup, their pitching is a shambles, just like all the pundits said it'd be way back in March. That's right, Willie has no clue how to motivate this team. Been there, read that, dozens of times. What else can I do but pile on?
But my own epiphany came last night in the car on the way home from the theatre. Some anonymous radio network sports update guy said to me, "The Phillies are tied for first place in the NL East. How does that feel, New York?". Honestly, it doesn't feel like anything at all.
Every season for every team has its ups and downs, and in our heart of hearts, we have to acknowledge that, through Memorial Day 2007, the Mets were simply playing their 2006A season. There was no reason to think this year would be anything less than last year, in spite of some untimely injuries. From that point on, though, these Mets have been, well, the Florida Marlins.
I thank the 2007 Mets for one thing. The New York Observer article brought to my attention by our friends over at FAFIF earlier this week brought me to this realization. If three of the most talented Mets admit to the press that they're so talented, they get bored sometimes, then what reason do any of us have to live and die with the results of their efforts (or lack of same) each night? The 2007 Mets are Charlene Casiano. She was the cheerleader hottie in eighth grade whose best friend told me she liked me. Me, NostraDennis, the geeky kid in the back of the room. It took two days of tittering in science class and a whispered aside from a friend for me to realize she was just messing with me. I harbor the hope, to this day, that she now weighs 250 pounds and lives in a double-wide somewhere. It was mean of her to play with my emotions, and it's similarly mean for these Mets to play with so little emotion at all.
This Vulcan lack of emotional investment at first reminded me of Kevin McReynolds, one of my least favorite Mets all-time. Really good hitter; decent outfielder, but said that sometimes he'd rather be huntin' in Arkansas than playing baseball. The attitude of these Mets is even worse. McReynolds never claimed boredom thanks to his God-given ability to smack a baseball over a fence. He just admitted baseball was not his favorite thing in the world to do. These Mets are playing a childrens' game, and the poorest among them is being paid handsomely for that privilege. Yet they yawn.
I thank the 2007 Mets, at least the three quoted in the Observer, for helping me put a finger on what's been wrong all along. As Mike has noted here throughout the year, something has been just a tad off with our love for the 2007 Mets for some time now. Something we couldn't put our finger on, some disturbance in the Force. Now we know. To paraphrase Greg Behrendt, they're just not that into themselves, and neither are we.
I love a lot of individual elements of this team. I love watching Jose Reyes edge off first, eyeing the pitcher intently, knowing that in a few seconds he'll be brushing the dust off his jersey ninety feet away. I love watching the stolen base king whispering into the ear of the man who could be the next stolen base king. I love the fire in Paul LoDuca's belly, even when it spills over onto the occasional umpire. I love seeing David Wright snag a hot one-hop liner behind third, straighten, and make the flawless throw to first. I love when the big guys, the Carloses, take turns banging, and I love it even more on the rare occasion when they do it in the same game. I love when the little guys come up big unexpectedly -- Marlon Anderson, Ruben Gotay, Joe Smith. I even like it when Scott Schoeneweis, who I devoted an entire post to earlier in the season, rights his own personal Titanic and pitches well enough to earn two saves in three days. I just don't love the sum of their parts.
I'll always love baseball. I'll always root for the Mets. I'll always disdain the Braves and the Yankees, and perhaps the Phillies as well (though it sure looks like they're all having fun over there, doesn't it?). When these Mets have given way to the next Mets, and the Mets after that, and they change stadiums and managers and GM's, I'll still be a Mets fan.
So much in my life unrelated to baseball will flavored by future memory of 2007 - my wife's cancer scare; my daughter turning 21 and getting ready to finish her college career; my other daughter going through tenth grade and all its challenges; the radio stations I work for, where you can be the top billing station in the market, and be hundreds of thousands a month ahead of the next best station, but still be under budget; our co-ed softball team, which suffered its first loss of the year Tuesday night to drop out of a tie for first place. I've been more emotionally invested in any or all of these things than I have been in the Mets for some time now.
I wonder what I'll think years from now when someone mentions 2007 to me. I imagine I'll be a bit sad and wistful, but not devastated. Not 1986 Red Sox devastated, or 2004 Yankees devastated. I'll always be happy when they win, and disappointed when they lose. If they beat the Marlins Friday night, I'll smile a little, secure in the knowledge that though the Mets have not yet been mathematically eliminated, they've been emotionally eliminated from any sniff at October baseball. These Mets are the hottie, and worse yet, they know it. We're Ben Stiller, the schlemiel. The girl we get in the end might be the 2008 Mets. We might spend years, even decades, grasping for the next girl of our dreams. But it won't be this girl.