Section 518

Where we endeavor to stay positive about the 2011 Mets…

Posts Tagged ‘Washington Nationals’

133 Days

Posted by JD on October 3, 2010

Season finales have their own unique feel, at least to me. 161 games have been played and a lot of passion has been spent. Second guessing the manager’s (and General Manager’s) decisions became a way of life but now, for one day at least, it becomes irrelevant. If Jerry Manuel wants to use Pedro Feliciano to face Adam Kennedy instead of saving him for Adam Dunn, well, who cares? What’s the point in getting worked up about it if this is the last game he’ll manage for the Mets?

Today’s game reminds me of a similar situation, not that long ago. I was at the final game of the 2004 season (also a Sunday, also October 3rd), when Art Howe was the resident “dead man walking”. GM Jim Duquette was planning on letting Howe finish the season, but word got out that he would be fired (sound familiar?). Duquette was forced to announce Howe’s dismissal on September 16th, and Howe had to manage the final two and a half weeks of the season knowing that he would be out of work.

It was a lost season: the Mets would finish 71-91. Though there were some positives (the Mets swept the Yankees at Yankee Stadium and had a winning record against their cross-town nemesis rival for the first time), it was mostly negative: there was the infamous Scott Kazmir/Victor Zambrano deal as well as the botched experiment with Mike Piazza at first base. By all rights, game 162 should have been a formality, one last exercise in futility. Maybe it was. Maybe I read too much into what I saw that afternoon, but it felt like more than that.

There was a new era on the horizon: the Mets were clearing the decks, preparing for a new beginning (Omar Minaya would be hired shortly). But there was also a lesson, a hidden message for us all…we’ll get to that in a minute.

But first, the game itself. Art Howe wasn’t the only Met who would be leaving: John Franco was appearing in his final game. The writing was on the wall: Franco was done with the Mets, and he knew it. Howe did the right thing: Franco entered the game after a nice video tribute in the top of the eighth, replacing Heath Bell. He pitched a third of an inning, gave up a single to Termel Sledge, and got Ryan Church to fly out to Todd Zeile, who was catching that day for the first time since 1990.

Zeile had announced his retirement earlier in the week and Howe chose to let him go out the way he came in. That was the day that I first heard that Zeile was a movie producer, and it was a day that he’d remember forever. Not only did he record the out on the final pitch that John Franco threw for the Mets, but he hit a three-run home run in his final at-bat in the bottom of the sixth. It really was a special moment, the future producer had a real Hollywood moment.

There were other nice moments for the Mets in that game, too. Joe Hietpas had his Moonlight Graham moment and rookie David Wright hit his 14th home run, a two-run shot off John Patterson in the bottom of the third. It was a generally uplifting game: a negative era in Mets history was ending and the future, though uncertain, looked bright. This was highlighted by the unfortunate fate awaiting their rivals that day: the Montreal Expos.

You see, that was the Expos’ final game. While the Mets were ending a lost season, Montreal fans were mourning the loss of their team. Those of us in attendance knew we were seeing a major league team’s death. The franchise’s fate was sealed: they were shortly to become the Washington Nationals (coincidentally, the Mets’ opponent in today’s finale). Really, we were watching the Expos being taken off of life support.

There was a decent contingent of Expos fans in attendance. They scattered a few “Let’s Go Expos!” chants throughout the game, but there was a moment in the top of the ninth where they rallied one last chant. I can’t speak for the other fans in attendance that day, but I found it a remarkably poignant moment. Here was a group of fans in a foreign stadium, watching the final moments of their favorite team, saluting them for the final time.

That moment remains fresh for me today. While we think about how poorly our team has played this year, we can look forward 133 days till pitchers and catchers report to Port St. Lucie again. We’ll have a new General Manager, a new manager, new players. Our team, no matter how poorly managed, will get another chance to redeem itself. On February 13, 2011, the voluntary reporting date for pitchers and catchers, the Mets will once again take the field. Montreal fans can only wish they could say the same about the Expos.

Bad Mets baseball is better than no Mets baseball, and the 2010 season comes to an end today. Let’s enjoy what we have while we can while looking forward to new memories in the coming season. 2011 begins tonight, but today, let’s enjoy watching David Wright, Jose Reyes, Josh Thole, Ike Davis, Mike Pelfrey, and all the others write the final chapter of the 2010 Mets. Hopefully, they’ll send us off on a positive note.

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Blank Slate

Posted by JD on May 25, 2009

One of the best things about baseball is that the start of a new series always feels like a blank slate. The Mets return to Citi Field to face the Washington Nationals after an up-and-down roadtrip that them finish a very satisfying 5-5. The pitching matchups (via MetsBlog): John Maine vs. John Lannan, Livan Hernandez vs. Craig Stammen, and Johan Santana (I’m a gamer!) vs. Jordan Zimmerman.

I have a lot of respect for John Lannan. Though his won-loss record doesn’t show it (1-4), the Long Beach, LI native has fared pretty well against the Mets. In 27 2/3 innings pitched he’s allowed 16 earned runs (5.20 ERA), but that’s largely due to one bad start last season where he gave up five runs in three innings. He followed up that stinker by throwing seven innings of one-hit ball against the Mets only five days later. Given the small sample size, my respect is probably irrational. But given the fact that he’s sure to be amped up pitching in front of family and friends, I think John Maine is really going to have to bring his “A game” to keep the Mets in it tonight.

Jordan Zimmerman had a solid start against the Mets on April 29, allowing one run on six hits two walks over six innings and striking out five. Zimmerman is also a decent pitcher but he’s facing Santana, who’s a bona-fide Cy Young candidate. It should be an intriguing game, one that I fully expect the Mets to win.

If it seems like I’m overlooking Craig Stammen, that’s because I am. The rookie has one career start, a solid effort against the Pirates that resulted in a Nats win. That had more to do with Ryan Zimmerman and Adam Dunn having clutch at-bats against Tom Gorzelanny (why did John Russell leave him in?) than Stammen, though. Hopefully the Mets will hit him hard, early and often.

I have no right to high expectations considering the inconsistency the Mets have shown this season. But nonetheless, I ‘ll be disappointed with anything less than a sweep.

For a more comprehensive series preview, check out Adam Rubin at Surfing the Mets. An interesting tidbit? Elijah Dukes is on the DL with a left hamstring issue. No misadventures in center for him this series.

As always, Let’s Go Mets!

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