The Mets are playing like the .500 team many expected them to be, so why haven’t I watched?
Confession time. My name is Shai Kushner, and I’m a devoted Mets fan who hasn’t watched a full game in a couple weeks.
Those who know me well, or even kind of well, or even those who’ve met me just once, can probably tell you that I’m a dedicated Mets fan. Truthfully, there are some people who know how closely I follow the Mets even before they know that I have two children. I’ve been a fan when they’ve been amazing and when they’ve been amazingly awful, and everywhere in between. And I’ve always watched the games. Even when they’ve been mathematically eliminated, I’ve cheered them on. Even when they’ve been emotionally eliminated (sometimes as early as May), I’ve rooted for them. So here they are, a true “around .500” team, beating up on the teams below them, losing to the teams ahead of them, and I’m not watching.
This has been a strange season, hasn’t it? In early May, Mets players started dropping like a 9th-inning pop-up to Luis Castillo (yeah, I know, it’s been 12 years, I still haven’t gotten over it), and fans collectively put their heads down and thought “if we can just tough this out until the starters return, we can do this.” Then when they collectively picked their heads back up, they noticed that the team was in first place in the NL East despite the seemingly never-ending run of injuries. They went 17-9 that month, their first winning month since September 2019, and their most successful month of baseball since April 2016. Suddenly, fans weren’t waiting for the starters to come back and save the day; fans were anticipating their return to propel the team into the postseason. So, even when June was only a .500 month, it was easy to view it as nothing more than a bump in the road. The other teams in the NL East were going through their own issues, so there was some room for the Mets to go from playing great to playing just fine.
Then, while some of the players did return, others went down. Suddenly it became clear that the “full strength” version of the Mets may not come to fruition until late in the summer, if at all. Now, every loss brought with it that “imposter syndrome” feeling. What if the Mets don’t really deserve to be in first place, and other teams realize this? At some point before the All-Star break, I had hoped that the Mets would build a big enough lead in the division that by the time the trade deadline arrived, the Phillies, Braves, and Nationals would decide that leveraging their future to improve this season wouldn’t be worthwhile. Instead, as the end of July approached and the Phillies and Braves both made significant moves to fill gaping holes on their respective rosters, I found myself feeling a worry that just a few weeks earlier I thought I’d be able to avoid.
At the beginning of the summer, things were going swimmingly. Then the Mets were treading water. Suddenly, August began and the Mets started drowning while the Braves and Phillies were dumping water on them on their way up the standings. At least the Nats took themselves out of the picture.
Still, none of this should be enough to keep me from watching. Sure, I could watch through fingers “covering” my eyes, like a kid watching a horror movie, but still, I should be watching these games. And I’m not. A couple weeks ago Pete Alonso pleaded with Mets fans, acknowledging that the team is aware that they’ve been struggling, and promising that they were better than what we’ve seen. Some criticized him. I didn’t. I appreciated where he was coming from; I like the “rah rah” part of his game, so I was ready to join in the those vibes. And still, nothing.
Now, I haven’t abandoned ship entirely. I do follow the game on the MLB app on my phone sometimes. And I do receive simultaneous alerts from at least 3 different sports apps, and when they don’t provide consistent information, I quickly research to see which one is accurate.
Side note – It’s 2021. We have apps that can tell us the quality of our sleep, the name of a song we think we heard, or how bad the traffic is on the Belt Parkway in real time. How are there sports apps that are still regularly getting live information wrong? I could only stare at my phone exasperated when I was informed that the Mets were beating the New Orleans Pelicans by a touchdown.
Anyway, even though I am following the Mets and will continue to follow the Mets until the very last play of the season, I am having trouble watching this team because it’s the same thing almost every day (fortunately, every once in a while they do have a “this is what it could be like” game). So many fruitless rallies. So many meaningless late-game home runs. So many strikeouts with the bases loaded. So few runs. So few wins.
My younger daughter likes to listen to a station on SiriusXM that plays kid-friendly versions of current pop songs, sung by kids. If you’ve never listened to it, then just know that it’s worse than whatever you’re imagining. If you have listened, then you know the struggle is real. There are probably hundreds of songs on the station’s playlist although after listening for a couple hours in the car, I swear I only heard 12 tunes played over and over again. This is not that far removed from the Mets fan experience so far in August. The Mets haven’t only lost, it just feels like it. That’s probably why I haven’t looked at the standings in a few weeks. I know they’re not in first, and that’s sad enough for now.
It’s not simply about the roster. As I wrote when the season began, this is the most excited I’ve been about a Mets roster in years. It’s not simply about the injuries, as every team has dealt with significant injuries this year. There are so many key players on this team that just haven’t gotten going. So I find it hard to believe that the team needs a rebuild or anything along those lines. It might be simple to say that they should get rid of the manager or some coaches, although I don’t know who’s to blame right now, or if that even matters.
And, the funny thing is, I’m not done watching this season. I don’t believe the Mets will go on playing like this. I’m not predicting anything huge, I’m just suggesting that it’s not over yet. Maybe I am saying that because I haven’t actually seen how bad it’s been. Or maybe, like me, the Mets have lost some of the steam that they had earlier in the season, and they still have one good strong run in them. At the very least, they seem to have the Pelicans’ number.