Well folks, we’ve made it to the final week of the season. It’s now officially fall, and for two-thirds of the teams in the majors, the season will end on Sunday. For some Mets fans, the season ended a few days ago when they were officially/mathematically, eliminated from postseason possibilities. Or perhaps, for some Mets fans, the Mets season ended a few weeks ago, when football season began. For other Mets fans, the season ended in late July as the team started selling off some of its more successful, or to be more precise, some of its less unsuccessful, players leading up to the trade deadline. For many Mets fans, the season ended following a 5-win/21-loss June. I suppose this is what prompted a friend of mine to say “Wait, you still follow the Mets?” when I told him they had beaten the Nationals on Sunday.
While I’m sure a simple grin and a shrug would have been a sufficient response, I did feel that some manner of explanation was necessary. However, it took me some time to think of my answer. It’s not that I don’t understand the basis for the question. Much of this season has been painful – from botched lineup cards to botched save opportunities, it’s been a comedy of errors without the comedy. This actually wasn’t the first time in the past few weeks that someone said something like this to me. Another friend of mine, just a few weeks ago, told me that he stopped following the Mets in any way this season because it’s all just too overwhelmingly sad for him. So why am I still following them?
Maybe it’s just an addiction. I’m sure I drink coffee when I’m not actually thirsty for coffee. I know smokers who will unconsciously have a cigarette without any real desire to light up. Perhaps my “why” is “because they’re playing”. And still, I think there’s more to it than that.
Perhaps it’s because they’ve actually been winning lately. The Mets are 41-35 since July 1st. With 6 games remaining in the season, they are guaranteed to have at least a .500 record over the final 3 months in the season. While this was far from the goal coming into the season, it also seemed far from possible on June 30th. Really though, these wins don’t amount to much. In fact, for the more jaded (and still often wise) Mets fans, all these wins do is delay the likelihood that the team will rebuild, and allow the team to think that they can build around the pieces that are already there. I’m not sure where I stand on that, and will explore that during the offseason. Either way, these wins did not help the Mets reach the postseason this year, so what does it matter?
Or maybe it’s because there are some things going on that are really worth watching. Jeff McNeil has now played in 56 major league games and he’s still really good. There’s no way he’ll win the Rookie of the Year award, as the Nats’ Juan Soto and the Braves’ Ronald Acuna Jr. each deserve the prize. Still, he’s having a better rookie campaign than many others who have actually taken home that trophy in years past. It’s been fun to follow. Similarly, Michael Conforto is second in the National League in RBI’s since the All-Star Break, with 50. As I’ve mentioned before, following his freak injury last year, there was some concern that he would never match the player he had started to become. While it may have taken a few months for him to get there, I think those concerns have been quieted. And of course, there’s been the starting pitching, highlighted, by the Cy Young Award candidate, Jacob deGrom.
In the end though, this is a team sport, and while single-player performances can be incredible to experience, It’s the team success that does it for me. When the team is fighting for a playoff spot, a win brings with it incomparable joy. Literally, as much as I enjoy analogies, I can’t think of something that properly conveys that feeling. When they’re dominating, rare as that may be, a Mets win adds a confidence to my day that I don’t find from other sources. And even when they’re having a losing season, a win is sort of like finding a forgotten dollar in a pair of jeans. It’s just a dollar and it can’t really get me far on its own, but it’s a dollar more than I thought I had beforehand, so that’s cool.
I guess that’s what it’s about for me; even when it doesn’t mean much in the big picture, Mets wins are still a good time. I would like them to happen more often, and I appreciate that they don’t happen even less often. As upsetting as this season has been, it’s never crossed my mind to remove the Mets from my life for the rest of the year, not after a dismal June, not after the team became sellers instead of buyers, not even when it was officially impossible for them to play beyond the regular season, and certainly not when football season started.
Then again, I’m also a Jets fan.