Pennant race baseball is simultaneously the best and the worst
For many fans of the orange and blue, the Mets are entering uncharted waters.
For the first time since the 2008 season, seven long, long years ago, the New York Mets are an actual contender. Speaking for myself, this is an area I’m not particularly familiar with.
I have vague memories of the 2006, 2007 and 2008 seasons at this point in my life. I remember some of the good moments, but for me, it’s the bad ones that stick out in my mind. The Yadier Molina home run off of Aaron Heilman in Game 7 in the 2006 NLCS, the Tom Glavine Game 162 meltdown in 2007, the Ryan Church game-tying home run that never was to close down Shea. These three moments ended the Mets final three seasons of relevance, before 2015.
Since Citi Field opened in 2009, it’s been a lot of false hope, trying times and rebuilding. Now, for the first time in this ballpark’s history, this team is not only relevant but they’re the talk of the town. In a week and a half span, the Mets went from trailing the Nationals by three games in the National League East to building a 3.5 game lead over them.
This is what we as Mets fans have wanted for nearly a decade now–pennant race baseball. It’s exciting, it’s electric and it’s full of hope. By most accounts, it’s the best.
In other ways, however, it can also be the worst.
The highs of a pennant race are absolutely incredible, but that makes the lows that much more extreme. Every game, every inning and every pitch is a miniature heart attack in most cases. Even as the Mets have a 3.5 game cushion in the division, as a fan, every moment of this race feels like it’s live-or-die.
Take Tuesday night, for example. The Mets held a comfortable 5-1 lead entering the 9th inning. On all accounts, everything was good in Metsville. In a span of about 15 minutes, though, the complexion completely changed, and I’m not sure anyone had any fingernails left.
The game should have ended as a 5-1 Mets victory, but Lucas Duda was unable step on the first base bag, extending the game with two outs in the 9th inning. After Jeurys Familia followed this up with back-to-back bases loaded walks, the game was 5-3 and the citizens of Metsville were suddenly in panic mode.
Meet the Mets, I suppose.
Every single pitch resulted in a groan or a quiet pump of the fist. Personally speaking, I’m not even sure how much the Manny Machado at-bat I could actually see through my fingers. Even as Familia induced the ground ball to end the game, I didn’t allow myself to take a breath until that ball had reached the back of Duda’s glove at first and the out was called by the umpire.
But this is what pennant race baseball is all about.
When the Mets win, it makes the day brighter. There’s an extra pep in my step and a feeling of camaraderie when you see a fellow Mets fan walking down the street representing the orange and blue. When they lose, or even when there’s the sudden threat of a loss, however, things can be the complete and utter opposite. Sometimes, especially after losses like Wednesday when the Mets held two leads, but their leaky bullpen couldn’t hold the either of them.
This is what we wanted, Mets fans. For better or for worse. It’s exhausting, exciting and sometimes disappointing all in the same day. We are a paranoid group with 2007 and 2008 always casting a shadow over everything good that has happened this season.
That’s the miserable life of the new Mets fan, because it’s all we know.
But maybe the Mets will finally put those two seasons to bed, if they can play their cards right down the stretch of this season. And if they do, all of these daily rollercoasters we are on will be worth it.
Perhaps most important, however, a new precedent for this age of Mets fandom will be set. And it will be centered around winning.