By Mike Steffanos
I started writing this blog in August of 2005. The Mets under rookie manager Willie Randolph had treaded water around the .500 mark for most of the season, and then put a little run together in late August to force themselves into the pennant race.
The highlight was the end of the month road trip that featured rookie Mike Jacob's sizzling series in a sweep of the D-backs and a win in the first game of the Giants series. Of course the Mets went on to drop two winnable games and lose that series and then had a disastrous trip through the NL east in early September that exposed them for the pretenders they were.
Still, after the collapse of the 2000 team that went to the Series, the forgettable Art Howe years and the Kazmir debacle, it was wonderful to have one brief moment of excitement and hope -- no matter how short-lived.
For all the excitement of the handful of successful stretch runs I have witnessed in my years of watching this team, September has more often than not been a month that has not been kind for Mets fan. And that was before the gut-kicking cruelty of the past two.
In years like 2005 September has abruptly squashed October hopes of mediocre Mets squads. In 1984 and 1985 cruel September squashed the hopes of far worthier and much more exciting teams.
In 1989 and 1990 September disappointments were the harbingers of a long, cold winter for fans of this franchise.
September of 2007 was a slow-motion car wreck that was punctuated by the absolute futility of Tom Glavine's last inning as a Met -- devastating fans, if not the future Hall of Fame pitcher himself. The following September was easier to see coming, but not easier to take.
This September features not even long-shot hopes of any excitement at all, just a long, slow, futile progression into a winter without baseball.
The Mets were out of it early in September of 2005, but managed to rebound after that to remain competitive and achieve the first winning season since 2001. There was hope for better summers yet to come.
In 2006 September was essentially irrelevant, since that club had virtually locked up a playoff berth before the month had even begun. Still, the day they clinched brought a tear or two to my eye for only the seventh time in my nearly four decades of rooting for them.
The last two seasons featured excitement and hope before the ultimate disappointment. While we will certainly avoid any real anguish this September, we will most certainly avoid the excitement and hope, too. If you've followed this team as long as I have, four decades now, a September without any pennant race feels all too familiar.
Unlike 2005, I don't see a brighter future next year for this team. Oh sure, they'll likely be better than this, but I don't see a legit playoff contender. There are too many holes to be filled to plug in one or two free agents and expect them to take off.
There are too many question marks in all facets of the game for this team, and if management is wise -- and that hasn't been a hallmark of this regime in the last couple of seasons -- they will target a two year plan to contend for the playoffs.
In many respects this team is where they were when Minaya took over. Any momentum from 2006 has long since ebbed away. They need not only an infusion of talent, they actually have to learn how to win again. Frankly, I have my doubts whether Omar Minaya or Jerry Manuel is the right man in the right job for the future of this team right now, but we're likely stuck with both of them -- although I'd be shocked if both survived next season.
My life is still pretty complicated, but I'm going to post as often as possible over the next month and into the off-season. There may be nothing to play for this September, but I agree with my colleague Barry Duchan that this club is at a crossroads, and I'm not feeling any more optimistic than Barry. It might be a lost season, but it's an interesting time to be a Mets blogger. I will attempt to post daily.