If you're a Mets fan, you're likely, and justifiably, convinced that your team is about to give you every incentive to march on Flushing Meadows with a pitchfork and a flaming torch. As little sympathy as I have for you — letting the Mets get your hopes up is about like letting the Washington Generals do so — I do at least have to commiserate over the lame excuses you'll be offered should your men manage, again, to blow it. Here, then, in the strict interest of preparing you for what you may well be hearing two weeks from now, are 10 excuses the Mets will be able to offer should they — again! — end up out of the money.
Forget what you'll actually hear from the team and focus on these, the real sources of the team's problems. They'll make everything better.
10) Operation Shutdown
In 2000, Derek Bell hit .266 for the Mets, who won the National League pennant. Callously, shamelessly, the team let him walk as a free agent that fall. He signed with Pittsburgh and hit .173 in 2001. When the Pirates had the temerity to suggest he might have to compete for a job in spring training the next year, he summoned the press, threatened to go into "Operation Shutdown," and retreated to his houseboat, from which he was never again summoned to the majors. Not coincidentally, the Mets haven't since won a thing.
9) The curse of good taste
Say what you will about the Mets, but no other team is so tastefully loved. How many other teams have been immortalized in song by bands as good as Belle and Sebastian or Yo La Tengo? About how many other teams has Jonathan Lethem written a book? A collapse here and there would seem a fair price to pay for the aesthetic credibility that comes with donning the blue and orange.
8) Steve Phillips, generally
Millions of people who don't give a toss about the Mets have to suffer the sight of their former general manager bloviating on ESPN's "Baseball Tonight." Surely cosmic balance demands that Mets fans suffer for their role in inflicting this man on normal, decent people in places such as St. Louis and Seattle.
7) The curse of bad taste
One can debate whether the Baha Men's "Who Let The Mets Out" or Shea Stadium's "Our Team, Our Time" ("Pedro Martinez will strike you out! Billy Wagner, coming through with the heat no doubt!") was the worse atrocity, but a collapse here and there would seem a fair corollary to the lack of aesthetic credibility that comes with donning the blue and orange.
Think back to Endy Chavez's iconic catch in the 2006 playoffs. He was splayed right in front of an advertisement for ... American International Group, which as of this writing is threatening to implode in such a spectacular fashion as to leave us all in fallout shelters defending our gold bars and tinned haddock with shotguns. Let's not think about the naming rights to that big, shiny new ballpark in the Shea Stadium parking lot. The Wilpon family should feel free to point this out while discreetly sounding out Barclays and Credit Suisse as to how they'd feel about an investment in the American game.
5) Mike and the Mad Dog
As soon as the local sports talk legends split, it was clear that nothing but pain could follow. The Yankees are, by this point, long dead. How could anyone have expected that the Mets wouldn't follow? Mike Francesca and Chris Russo likely have it in them to avert catastrophe; whether they'll do so may be the only question worth asking as we near the end of this long, benighted season. Omar Minaya should feel free to point this out.
4) Jeff Duncan
In 2003 and 2004, a tidal wave of young talent washed up on the Mets' shores. As legends like Wigginton, Strange, and Snead made their marks on the majors, though, Duncan sadly failed to play up to his potential, hitting .194 as a rookie and .067 in a brief trial the next year. Had he done more, the Mets might not have had to sign Carlos Beltran, which I think speaks for itself.
3) Too much love
At the press conference following the firing of Willie Randolph, Minaya semifamously pointed out that "This ain't about love." Should his team go down, he could rightly point out that they didn't follow this sage advice.
2) That black cat from 1969
In 1969, the Mets lorded as the Chicago Cubs suffered one of the all-time collapses. Thirty-nine years later, the North Siders are riding high, and they'll have a chance to kick the Mets' teeth in next week. Should they do so, and keep the Mets out of the playoffs, one could just write it off as a balancing of the karmic scales, no?
1) David Wright — not good enough
Let's not split hairs here — Wright's notable failures to hit .360 or drive in 130 runs can't just be written off. As one goes over the Mets' season, the signs of creeping Duncan-ism are clear. Bloggers and stats geeks can tout Wright all they like, but the stink of failure is on him, and I'm personally putting him right up there with the Baha Men and Jonathan Lethem atop the blame charts. If Minaya and the Wilpons have a lick of sense, they'll do the same. It might even keep them clear of the pitchforks.