It was October 19, 2006. My 22nd birthday. I was in Boston, back in my college town to celebrate. While stopping at my old school newspaper office, I watched Adam Wainwright hurl a curveball, outside corner, and Carlos Beltran saw it … saw it … saw it … and buckled.
Called strike three.
What a terrible moment. What a heartbreaker. Especially after that Endy Chavez catch. But I’m sure you remained optimistic in your chances at reaching the postseason again. It was October 2006. You had Wright and Reyes, Beltran, Delgado and Lo Duca. And the pitching! Glavine, Pedro, two young studs in John Maine and Oliver Perez, and a bullpen headlined by Pedro Feliciano, Aaron Heilman and the great Billy Wagner. So much talent on one team! Of course you were coasting into 2007 with eyes on the final prize; you had it in the bag!
But we know what happened in 2007. We don’t have to revisit it.
On second thought, let’s.
You had a six-game lead going into a late-August four-game series in Philadelphia. And what happened? Pounded in game one, a Ryan Howard walk off in game two, a Marlon Anderson miscue in game three, and an epic game four where your boy Wagner left the door wide open. Remember when Wagner spoke ill of the Phillies? Remember Pat Burrell slamming a home run off Wagner in game four? Remember Jayson Werth and Tadahito Iguchi stealing bags off ol’ Billy by practically walking?
Karma is a killer.
And yet you guys started winning again! And the Phils started losing! And just like that on Sept. 13 you had a seven-game lead on the Phillies. Seven! And then a weekend series at Shea.
And again you were swept by the Phils!
I was there on Saturday, Sept. 15. Remember that one? Pedro gave you a 3-1 lead in the seventh, and yet you blew it again. Aaron Rowand homered. Hell, Pete LaForest drew a crucial walk. Then Jimmy Rollins struck a ball over Beltran’s head and plated the winning run. Oh, and one day later Greg Dobbs hit a pinch-hit grand slam. Hilarious, right?
And then that final weekend. And that final cold September day. Within 20 minutes you were down 7-0 to the Marlins … the Marlins! And all we needed was a win. So Jamie Moyer did his thing, and Rollins hit his 20th triple of the year, and Howard homered, and our bullpen locked it down, and we made the playoffs. Not you. We.
And then 2008 happened. And hey, you were still confident, as well you should’ve been. Wright was an all-world stud. Reyes was clearly a star. Young pitching looked great. And despite a cool start, you heated up and reached first place by mid-season. Hell, you had a 3.5-game lead on Sept. 10!
But same old story, huh?
Lest we forget the whole firing Willie Randolph in the middle of a west-coast swing thing, right?
Then you opened 2009 in Citi Field. New stadium! New hopes! New dreams!
Boy did you guys suck.
I mean you guys just tanked that one, right? The Phillies went 12-6 against you. You complained about the stadium’s huge dimensions, and yet Chase Utley hit so many homers to the right corner that your lead TV announcer named that part of the stadium after him.
I repeat, there’s a part of your stadium named after a longtime Phillie.
I guess 2010 was better, but let’s be honest, you stunk that year, too. And 2011, oh what a smack to the head. And you kept hearing it. “Next year,” right? You’d get some big bats, some strong arms. Jason Bay, anyone? Then a new manager, a new general manager. Same ownership though … same toxic ownership with financial issues …
Look, it sucks being the doormat. It sucks being the laughing stock. And sure, there were times in 2007, 2008 and even 2009 when we Phillies fans said a little too much, yelled a little too loud, and acted a little too unruly. That’s how it goes, and frankly, I do apologize for that. We can be better than that. But I gotta say, at some point during that 2009 season, when the Phillies were playing well and you just … well … sucked … we stopped worrying, we stopped caring.
Sure we invaded your sparkling new (and beautiful, I should say) ballpark and rooted for the Phillies. Sure we teased a little here and there. But honestly, we moved past being concerned about the Mets. We were more worried about … well … I guess we just waited until the postseason to really be worried. And sure, we choked in some of those playoff rounds. Sure, we wish we had another title or two in our belts. We could’ve won them, really could’ve. But we knew that when a team was below us, we didn’t need to spend our precious time belittling them.
And here’s the thing: We won one. We took it in 2008. And along the way we beat you in crucial, competitive, all-or-nothing baseball. Yeah. We earned it.
So now you’re sitting pretty atop the National League East, 6.5 games up on the Nationals. Frankly, and I say this personally, I’m happy for you. You have a great team built by young starting pitching, supported by experienced hitters who are simply mashing the ball right now. As I said, your ballpark is gorgeous, and you know, you guys deserve this. You’ve been through too much crap. You’ve been heartbroken too long. And especially if you knock out Washington, it’s a well-earned playoff trip for the Metropolitans. Congratulations on the success so far this season.
Now you’ve come into Citizens Bank Park and practically wiped the floor with the Phillies. As you should, because, as I said, you’re a great team. And the Phillies stink right now. We know this. We’re not fools. We’re hoping to build for a better future, and I’m optimistic about that process. Moreover, you’ve invaded our park, just as we once invaded yours. And you’re vocal, you’re cheering. Good. Go for it.
Sure we had a dust-up in the second game of the series. Double standards aside, the Phillies are still trying to be competitive, and Larry Bowa – while unhinged (and that’s putting it lightly) – is looking out for his players.
What I’m saying, Mets fan, is be very, very careful. Be happy for your success – which, by the way, only recently exploded. Not like you have a long track record here. Celebrate the wins. But watch what you say and how you act, especially regarding your old rivals the Phillies.
Right now you’ll have your way with us, but one day – and that day could be sooner than you think – you may find yourself as sad as the guy at Shea Stadium that cold, cold September afternoon in 2007.
Karma. Remember it.
A Phillies Fan