I love the New York Mets.
In fact, I am watching the Mets bash the Detroit Tigers right now…and it is making me sick.
The Mets broke my heart in 2007. They stomped it so bad, I haven’t watched baseball the same way since.
A year prior, Carlos Beltran watched a bending Adam Wainwright curveball nestle into Yadier Molina’s glove and that was that – the Cardinals won the World Series two weeks later and the Mets have spiraled back into a national joke. The epic September collapse, then another collapse, then two seasons of bottoming out in embarrassing fashion.
It has been an ugly few years to be a Mets fan. Maybe not as bad as being a Royals or Pirates fan, but bad nonetheless.
So I made a promise to myself: I would stop caring so much about the Mets, for the sake of my own mental health.
I still watched them on TV, still checked box scores and read stories and checked the indispensible MetsBlog.com, but I promised myself at the beginning of each season that I would not get emotionally invested in this team. Rooting for the Mets was like rooting for an old time flying machine: just when it looks like it may take off, it explodes into a million wood chips.
Of course, every year I get sucked back in, and this year is no different.
They have lost in some shameful ways this season, but all of the sudden a team of spare parts and castoffs and oft-injured veterans is putting it together. Jose Reyes is one of the best players in baseball right now, if not THE best. Carlos Beltran is having a resurgence playing right field. Young guys Dillon Gee and Justin Turner and Daniel Murphy are raking, and all of this is happening with David Wright, Johan Santana, and last year’s bright spot Ike Davis on the DL.
This current road trip had a make-or-break feel for the Mets, with swings through some of the AL’s power teams, and so far they have exceeded expectations. The Mets have scored 14 or more runs three times in their last four games. They have won three consecutive series on the road.
They are tearing the cover off the ball: in the month of June, the Mets lead the NL in average, runs, RBIs, triples, stolen bases and on-base percentage. All of this is in spite of their two best power hitters out of the lineup and their $66 million left fielder Jason Bay in the midst of a two-year funk. Perhaps Bay is still upset about the Canucks losing the Stanley Cup?
Of course, as a fatalistic Mets fan, this winning streak could not be worse. The club as it is currently constructed is simply not capable of winning World Series, the NL East, or even the Wild Card. They are capable of playing good baseball, even great baseball, for stretches. They are not capable of winning a playoff series.
Make no mistake – I am glad the Mets are playing well right now. It is incredibly satisfying to watch a baseball team on a hot streak, perhaps more satisfying than in any other sport. With the way the MLB season slogs towards the finish, any momentary crescendo is gratifying. But if the Mets are five or six games over .500 come the end of July, and they decide to hold on to Beltran and Reyes and Francisco Rodriguez and try to win the inevitable dogfight for the last playoff spot in the NL, they will absolutely destroy their chances for 2012 and beyond.
I want with all my heart for Jose Reyes to come back next year. By the same token, I pray the Mets do not offer him the “Carl Crawford money” most analysts think he will command. I pray the Mets do not rush Santana back from his massive shoulder injury and get stuck with a $70+ million Mike Hampton redux. I pray they trade Beltran while his value is sky high and pick up arms and bats to restock a fairly uninspiring list of prospects.
In a strange way, I pray the Mets start to lose – only because I love them so much. They need to bottom out à la the Tampa Bay Rays and build from the bottom up, not throw good money after bad in a misguided attempt to stay afloat. In a strange way, staying competitive this year is the absolute worst thing the Mets could possibly do.
Wait – Angel Pagan just doubled home two more runs.
Forget what I said – this is our year!
For discussion: do you ever root for your team to lose in the short term because you think it is best for their long-term interests?
* – Jose Reyes photo credit: DrJays.com