“We never ever do anything nice and easy,” Ike and Tina Turner sang in the opening stanza of their 1971 hit version of “Proud Mary.” The same can be said of the Mets, who once again came up a dollar short and a day late, missing the playoffs on the last day of the season for the second straight year.
The anguished look of David Wright in the Mets clubhouse following Sunday’s game, as well as the normally carefree Jose Reyes, hiding his head in his lap for what seemed to be an eternity, are haunting images that will last a long time.
If your blood pressure was rising and your fingernails were getting shorter every minute that you were watching the Mets struggle through game after game last week, you can take comfort in the fact that the players were experiencing the same symptoms that you were. “It is rough being a spectator at these games,” occasional starter/long reliever Brandon Knight admitted. Rookie outfielder Nick Evans added with a smile, “I have a feeling that we’ve been keeping the paramedics pretty busy.”
Brandon Knight certainly has had a memorable two months as he was on the bronze-medal winning U.S. Olympic Baseball team and he was involved in a gut-wrenching pennant race. Last week when I asked him in which situation he felt greater pressure, Knight did not hesitate. “There is no question that this is far more intense. In addition to just being a big league pennant race, I realize that a lot of New Yorkers are hurting right now because this is the financial capital of the world, and we are in crisis. A winning baseball team can take people’s minds off of their problems for a little while anyhow.” Unfortunately the Mets will not serve as a pleasant October distraction.
The Mets’ chaotic run for a post-season berth overshadowed the imminent closing of Shea Stadium. A few Mets greats took part in a press conference at Shea Stadium last Friday night. Tom Seaver and Bud Harrelson reminisced about the 1969 Miracle Mets. “Even though I’ll miss Shea, Mets fans deserve a modern ballpark such as Citi Field. I’ll be there assuming that I can afford the tickets!” Harrelson said with gallows humor.
Mike Piazza pithily summed up the feelings of a lot of Mets players and fans when he quoted his old teammate, and fellow catcher, Todd Pratt, with a spot-on impersonation. According to Mike, the team bus was returning to Flushing in the late ’90s after a long road trip when Todd got up and addressed his teammates. “Gentlemen, I present to you Shea Stadium. It’s not much, but it’s home!” he said as his colleagues cheered him.
It was very classy of Mets fans to stay and cheer their past heroes at last Sunday’s post-game “Shea Goodbye” ceremonies even though they were bitterly disappointed about how the 2008 season ended. It was wonderful seeing Ron Hunt, Al Jackson, Felix Millan, Edgardo Alfonso, Craig Swan, John Franco, Jerry Koosman, Willie Mays, Yogi Berra and many others line up along the base paths and wave at the crowd. The finale of having the two greatest players in Mets history, Tom Seaver and Mike Piazza, walk slowly from home plate out through the centerfield fence, was brilliant.