|Photo by Joel Raskin|
Have you been feeling a crispness to the air recently? That’s not unusual, as the book officially closes on summer at 10:49 AM Saturday. Unfortunately, it’s also not unusual that summer ended prematurely for the Mets and their fans for the fourth consecutive season. Not since Shea Stadium’s final days have the Mets still been playing for something other than personal goals once summer turned to fall in late September.
Fans in cities that normally focus on football once the calendar turns to September, such as Baltimore, Pittsburgh and Oakland, are gearing up for the stretch run, as the Orioles, Pirates and A’s are all in the hunt for a postseason berth. Fans in Washington are looking forward to their first trip to the playoffs since 1933, when the Senators won their last American League pennant.
What are Mets fans excited about these days? Well, there’s R.A. Dickey’s quest for a 20-win season and the Cy Young Award. There’s also David Wright’s quest to surpass Ed Kranepool and become the franchise’s all-time leader in hits. To a lesser extent (meaning that this is something only stat geeks such as myself would be salivating over), there’s also Wright and Daniel Murphy both trying to erase Bernard Gilkey’s name atop the single season doubles leaderboard. (For all you non-geeks out there, Bernard Gilkey has held the franchise record for doubles since 1996, when he collected 44 two-base hits. Wright and Murphy have 40 and 37 doubles, respectively.) That is what Mets fans have to look forward to over the final two weeks of the regular season.
Barring a franchise-record 15-game winning streak to end the season, the Mets will finish below .500 for the fourth straight year. The last time they had such a streak of futility, Ruben Tejada was in kindergarten learning his ABCs and 123s (hopefully not learning how to combine the letter “E” with the number “6”). Not since the dark days of 1991-1996 had the Mets gone through at least four seasons without having at least one winning campaign. Fans stayed away in droves then. Now the Mets have to offer free admission to kids under 12 and discounted ducats for fans who bring in Pepsi products to guarantee that the turnstiles will keep a-turnin’.
On Saturday, the seasons will go through their quarterly change. In addition, a number of major league teams with recent histories of losing are also undergoing a change. But the more things change, the more the Mets stay the same. If the people associated with the team - from ownership to the general manager to the manager to the players to Willie the barking hot dog vendor - don’t make a concerted effort to change how they go about doing their jobs, nothing is going to change for the Mets.
While other teams are bringing excitement back to their starving-for-success fan bases, the Mets are just going through the motions. Again. It’s becoming a tired old story around Citi Field these days.