A Season to Boo
A season that began with hope and optimism brought on by big offensive and pitching free agent signings; the hiring of a new manager with a winning pedigree and a general manager known for making the correct move; and a new slogan that promised a new team has all declined into a mid-September sloth ride that has lead to the bottom and has turned the old fans, who have been suffering despite their place in a great baseball city, against this year’s version of the “New Mets.”
The threat of stormy weather may have turned a few fans away from Shea Stadium, on Wednesday night but with 71 wins and 73 losses, in last place in the National League East, 11.5 games behind the front running Atlanta Braves and with a payroll higher than every team in the majors except the Boston Red Sox and the cross town rival New York Yankees, the Mets may have turned away a few fans themselves.
On a night when the 60th Anniversary of the end of World War II was celebrated at Shea and those who served and gave their life in the war were remembered, the Mets, who two weeks ago were in the thick of the playoff hunt, tried not to collect their 14th loss in 17 attempts.
Like the United States’ involvement in World War II, the game did not start the way the Mets would have hoped. Right handed starter Kris Benson, trying to win for the first time since August 16th, began the game with a walk, which lead to a run on a sharp single off of the bat of former Yankee Nick Johnson.
Those fans that had been caught up in the excitement and potential of an early fall evening at the ballpark and cheered the home team with great enthusiasm earlier in the inning, quickly turned ugly, perhaps realizing the 2005 season was not an illusion and their team has many faults; many faults that are hard to forgive.
The next batter reached on an infield single, which was a generous call for third baseman David Wright, leading to more boos. A walk eventually loaded the bases and after three straight balls by Benson, the setting was ripe for a mass blowing off of the accumulated season of frustration by the eager fans. Being a stubborn lot, Benson and the Mets wouldn’t even give into their fans’ demands for failure, as they coaxed Gary Bennett to fly out to center, ending the inning.
The Mets gamely tied it in the bottom of the first on a triple to right center by this season’s poster child of fan angst, Kazuo Matsui, who scored on a single by his brother in burden, Carlos Beltran. However, with their leading RBI man up and two outs in the inning, Beltran’s attempted of steal third was unsuccessful. Ending the inning and providing a mid-September summary of the Mets and Beltran’s season.
After the game Beltran said of his questionable base running, “Sometimes when you steal you don’t steal because you try to get to third. You steal because you try to open a hole.”
Beltran, the Mets’ $119 million man, did have a few more hits as he makes a late attempt to send the fans into the off season with positive memories of what has generally been a disappointing season for the center fielder.
Benson’s pitch total for the game was at 59 before retiring a batter in the third inning, an inning in which he was lucky to give up only two runs. But, on a night when the Mets’ pitcher Tom Glavine was honored by the home crowd as the teams’ 2005 nominee to receive the Roberto Clemente Award, bestowed to the player for “civic involvement, community endeavors and, in general, caring about his fellow man,” it was the Nationals’ Jose Guillen, one of the most troubled individuals and uncivil players ever to put on a major league uniform, who inspired his teammates.
Guillen, called out looking on a Bensen curve ball, claimed after the game that a lot of the umpires “think the fans come out to see them” and not the players. So, from the dugout, as Johnson stood in the batter’s box, a helmet flew onto the field. Johnson stepped out of the box and the home plate umpire removed his mask as both men stood and waited patiently for the inevitable continuation of the outburst. Bats flew next from the dugout, followed by a shin guard before Guillen disappeared from sight.
Many sensed this was the end. With their opponents’ best offensive player gone from the game, there is no way the Mets will win. And they were right.
The Nationals responded to the tantrum with back to back home runs by Preston Wilson and Vinny Castilla. That was all that was needed. On a night when the Mets wore their socks high and unity and their star off season acquisition showed signs of life, they could not overcome who they are – another disjointed Mets team.
Throughout the game the sparse crowd attempted to distract itself by creating its own entertainment hoping not to let another night under the airplanes be wasted in the misery of another Mets’ loss. They attempted the wave, but there were too few fans. So they turned to drinking and eating ice cream, but there is only so much one can consume at the ballpark before the wallet dries up. So, they turned to letting the home team have it with a series of boos.
The post game locker room mood was dim. The feel was dark. They are 17 games away from going their separate ways and once gone, some won’t be back. Mike Piazza, Mr. Met, has to go. If he wants to play, with the offensive production being vastly outweighed by his defensive liabilities, he should look to the American League. Tom Glavine has to go too, especially if he wants any chance of winning number 300. Doug Mientkiewicz, with his quotes and ball collection, has to go far away to a team that can afford to carry a weak hitting first baseman, if one still exists.
On September 14th, 2005, when the final out was made, the Mets’ fans halted their booing and returned to cheering as they acknowledge that the 2005 season, once filled with the hopes and dreams that the roster should have provided, it is over like too many before it.