Embrace the Collapse

The Underdog MetsA long, long time ago … I think it was in late May (feels like centuries ago) … it didn’t feel “right” when the Mets were on top of the NL East by five games over the Braves, and looking like they were going to run away with it again.

That’s because being a Mets fan is the exact opposite of being a Yankees fan — we don’t EXPECT to be in first place, we don’t EXPECT to make the postseason every year, and we don’t EXPECT to beat every team we face. To be a Mets fan is to be the follower of the underdog, of David vs. Goliath, to hope against hope that somehow, some way, our team will pull off a miracle with their “Mets Magic”.

So instead of looking back on the last 105 games — during which the Mets have gone 52-53 — with disgust, and instead of looking at the 7-game lead disappearing in two weeks with disdain and disappointment, EMBRACE the collapse. Because by free-falling into near oblivion, the Mets have put themselves back into their proper position as underdogs.

Look at the momentum of the Philadelphia Phillies — they’re on a roll and it looks like nothing is going to stop them. Read the headlines, listen to the shock jocks on sports talk radio, read the pundits and the bloggers online, and what do you see and hear? The Mets’ season is effectively over. With their loss after loss after loss — against terrible teams, at home, no less — the Mets are now expected to fall flat on their faces this weekend and concede the NL East flag to the Phillies. Jimmy Rollins and his big mouth were right, back in March, when he proclaimed that the Phillies were the team to beat. Consider it, and almost believe it — it’s crucial to your state of mind as a Mets fan.

In other words, be thankful that everyone has written off the Mets, and that it looks like the Mets have no chance to get into the postseason now. Because then the Mets will be the underdogs — their proper place in baseball history.

In 1969, the Mets were coming off an 8th place finish and had no business ending up in 6th, much less the 6th game of the World Series. In 1973, the team lost 80 games and didn’t have a player with more than 76 RBI — yet they made it into the World Series. In 1986, when they dominated the rest of the NL during the regular season, they had to fall behind in both the NLCS and the World Series in order to rediscover their mojo as underdogs — it was the only way to win. Last year, the Mets dominated the NL again, but were underdogs in the NLDS because El Duque and Pedro were unavailable. The only reason they couldn’t get past the Cardinals was because the Cards were even MORE of an underdog.

The Mets need to be the underdog — it’s the only way they can be truly endearing. Blowing through the NL and winning the East by 10 games would have been nice, and we’d have taken it, but it wouldn’t have felt completely satisfying — not to a true Mets fan. For us, it’s not about our team being all-powerful and dominating — it’s about cheering on the lovable losers, and having them surprise us by overcoming the odds stacked heavily against them.

Their backs were already slammed to the wall, and they’re now lying against it, barely breathing, with little hope of the season surviving past this weekend. They’ve recaptured the role of underdog, and now as Mets fans it is our duty to run to Queens and provide our form of mouth to mouth resuscitation …

LET’S GO METS !
LET’S GO METS !
LET’S GO METS !

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. isuzudude September 28, 2007 at 5:25 pm
    How many different viewpoints can we take on the last month of the Mets season before we realize the team is an utter failure and is about to complete a collapse of monumental proportions?

    Despair…Hope…Frustration…Reverse Psychology…Disgust…now Embracement…

    Lack of Fundamentals…Lack of a Good Bullpen…Lack of Clutch Hitters…Lack of Competent Management…Lack of Passion…Lack of Energy…Lack of Intelligence…

    Get swept/feel like shit…sweep the Braves/okay we’re back…roll through the Reds and Astros/no one can stop us…get swept again by the Phillies at home/we can beat everyone but them…play like shit at Washington/team has no heart…win 3 of 4 at Florida/team is back on track…get swept by the Nats/team is back off track…lose to Cardinals and lose possession of 1st place/now we’re f*cked.

    …and when all else fails, blame Willie.

    The Met fan is as over-worked and beleaguered as the team’s bullpen. And I think there comes a point where you, as a fan, have to step back and say, “Am I cheering for the players on my team, or just the uniform?” Other than Pedro and Alou, and for the most part Wright, no one else on this team DESERVES our admiration our applause. They are severely underachieving and showing no pride in representing us – THEIR FANS. And so, if the players give you no reason to cheer for them, it becomes an issue of simply rooting for a bunch of blue and orange stripes with interlocking N’s and Y’s. It doesn’t matter if Adolf Hitler, Fidel Castro, OJ Simpson, Charlie Manson, Chris Benoit, Ted Bundy, Osama Bin Laden, and Saddam Hussein made up your everyday lineup…if they were wearing a Mets uniform, you’d be cheering for them. Not me. These players show no heart, no will to win, no pride in being a Met. And until they play like they are capable, I am no fan of this “team.”

    And don’t feed me the “we don’t expect to be in 1st place” nonsense. Maybe that applied back in 1993. But when we are a top-5 spender in MLB, and have been preditced to finish in first – in the division and in the league – by all the pundits, experts, and critics this season, we certainly EXPECT to finish in 1st. Anything less is a failure, especially missing the postseason.

  2. joe September 28, 2007 at 11:21 pm
    Hey, at least congratulate me for being creative! Do you know how long it took me to come up with some kind of an optimistic point of view?

    Ah well … it’s all but over now. Someone please pull the plug, quickly.

  3. isuzudude September 28, 2007 at 11:59 pm
    I’ll provide you with a glimmer of hope. If anything, this catastrophic meltdown and eventual dismissal from the playoffs with force management to tip their hand to the world and finally admit that their plans don’t equal a successful franchise. That means the following realizations will occur…

    For Omar:
    1. Trading talented prospects with no room to advance in the organization for scrap metal is bad.
    2. Not stock-piling your organization with lots and lots of arms is bad.
    3. Focusing on recruiting and acquiring only Latin players is bad.
    4. The team desperately needs starting pitching help more than offense this offseason

    For ownership:
    1. Tell Omar that money in free agency will be spend solely on pitching.
    2. Don’t be afraid to open up the pursebook for a stud starting pitcher.
    3. Make the fans aware that the team was a complete and utter disappointment and they let the team down, and in 2008 things are going to change.

    I am not including Willie in the list because I’m still out to lunch as to whether he comes back. Have the Mets been a winning ballclub since his takeover? Yes. Has he deserved to get fired for some of his lame brain decisions? Yes. I wouldn’t be against having him come back for one more year, but then again, I wouldn’t be heartbroken to see him get canned.

    What’s in all mean? Simple. The Mets are going to learn from this year’s mistakes and apply it to next season. No more “some games are less important than others” nonsense. No more “let’s march the same tired-ass bullpen to the mound all year desite their 5.50 ERAs” crap. It means they’ll be pissed off and determined not to become the pathetic trainwreck they’ve become this September. It means the players now know they have to EARN success, not have it handed to them in the spring training prediction columns. It means we indirectly sacrificed 2007 for a brighter 2008. This year may be over, but we will win again. And if we don’t, God help the Mets.

  4. joe September 29, 2007 at 12:56 am
    I’ve been thinking about exactly the same things while sitting on the #7 on my way home tonight. Seeing Lindstrom was a huge reminder of the biggest mistakes made in the offseason.

    I’m working on a full article, but in short:

    1. At the time, it made sense to exchange Lindstrom, Owens, Bell, and Ring for younger arms (& Ben Johnson) because we KNEW that Willie would NEVER trust any of those four in an MLB game.

    2. Hindsight is 20-20, and in hindsight, the Mets could easily have used any or all of those four.

    3. The Mets are pretty much the only team in MLB to use the same 4-5 guys exclusively in the “bridge” roles (Heilman, Feliciano, The Show, Mota, Smith) from games 1-162. Sosa was a “too little, too late” addition. Nearly all other teams have used at least 6-7 in those roles, and sprinkled in other arms along the way. It should be no surprise that the Mets’ pen has nothing left — they’re the most overworked in MLB.

    4. For next year / learning from mistakes: a) Willie MUST give young arms a chance; b) Omar must stockpile the arms, not give them away (as you alluded to). Problem is, the minors are pretty dry at this point.

    The only point you bring up that I have to question is in regard to signing a free agent stud starter — because I don’t think any will be available. I mean, who do you want? Bartolo Colon? Livan Hernandez? Kyle Lohse? There isn’t a legit ace out there.

    However, if I’m Omar, I’m going HARD after Carlos Silva. He may not be anywhere near top-of-the-rotation, but he would be a very solid middle-rotation guy — and could benefit from being in the NL.

  5. sincekindergarten September 29, 2007 at 9:04 am
    What does he throw–pitchwise? And, what could he be had at? Judging from his stats, he would need a decent infield. Also, who do you exclude from the rotation?

    I think you know who I’d want, but it would cost a few of the young guys.

    Mota sould be launched from a catapult, or trebuchet, to either Japan or one of the Mexican leagues ASAP.

    Ya know something? We could have used Livan’s innings this year. Maybe he would have taken a bit of heat off of the pen in August.

  6. joe September 29, 2007 at 9:28 am
    I’ve been clamoring for the Mets to get Livan for two years now — i agree, he’d have been an ideal innings-eater. My point was that he’s no ace.

    Silva could be a Livan-type. He throws sinkers, sinkers, and more sinkers. Nothing spectacular, just strikes. He once pitched 188 innings and allowed only 9 walks. After watching the walk-a-thons of Perez, Maine, the bullpen, etc., do you know how much I love that? I would hope he’d come cheap but after the ridiculous deals given schleps like Suppan and Marquis, who knows?

  7. Micalpalyn September 29, 2007 at 11:45 am
    Pitcher: AJ Burnett (for Pelfrey or Humber). toronto will take the first live body for him.

    New manager: clint hurdle (former mets AAA coach), who knows how to develop young talent , platoon players and use a bullpen. 2nd choice; Giradi and Carter

  8. Micalpalyn September 29, 2007 at 11:50 am
    Joe: This collapse was ALL Willie randolph. His inability to judge players, ingame strategy, when to hook not to hook, how to platoon, double switch…………..

    Jose Reyes is too tired right now to swing a bat, as Vina said getting players to focus after game 160, with 500ABs under belt….and these players are getting tired of Willie even if its not in the press (ala the SP days)

  9. joe September 29, 2007 at 12:08 pm
    I’ve always liked AJ, despite being a perpetual enigma … but there is hope, since Kelvim Escobar finally figured it out.

    Hurdle? No way. The guy’s been a loser for ten years and has been rewarded for it — and besides the Rockies love him. He also might be a bit too Christian. And his personality is about as suited to the NYC media as Art Howe.

    Girardi? Yes, unequivocally. But I don’t see the Mets dumping Willie.

    The bullpen management is the biggest issue. Omar built the team on the premise of relying heavily on the ‘pen, and it was grossly mismanaged. But Omar also didn’t have enough enough arms available — mostly because we were counting on Duaner and possibly Padilla coming back.

  10. sincekindergarten September 29, 2007 at 12:34 pm
    There’s two names I haven’t heard in a while (Padilla and Sanchez). Maybe we can cut Mota . . .
  11. Micalpalyn September 29, 2007 at 6:43 pm
    Ahh but yes we did.

    Sele remained a bench jockey for absurd stretches, while mota pitched multiple innings (badly). and on

    And this ‘collapse’ has come with collazzo, and humber ready to pich in relief.