2017: A Microcosm of the Mets History

Amed Rosario could lead the Mets back into contention in the not so distant future. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

The New York Mets are finishing off a disappointing season that began with high expectations. But due to injuries and poor performances, there’s little reason to watch the team in September. Sounds familiar, right?

That’s because this isn’t the first time Mets fans have had to endure a season like this. In fact, those of us who were fans before 2015 can just shake our heads and say “guess we’re back to this, again.”

This year has been special in a kind of bizarre and hilarious way that only the Mets are capable of. We’ve seen Noah Syndergaard refuse to take an MRI and then leave his next start against the Washington Nationals on April 30 with a lat tear that has kept him out since then. We can’t forget the team tweeting a picture of T.J. Rivera in the clubhouse, not aware of the fact that there was a dildo placed in the background. Then there’s my personal favorite incident of Mr. Met getting caught on video flipping off some Citi Field goers. It’s been an entertaining season in the worst possible way.

But every awful Mets season has its lowlights. In 2009 we had Luis Castillo dropping a pop up against the New York Yankees that would’ve won the game had he caught it, but instead gave the Bronx Bombers the win. The “Worst Team Money Could Buy” 1993 Mets had Vince Coleman injuring teammate Dwight Gooden by swinging a golf club in the clubhouse, before he threw firecrackers into a crowd of fans at Dodger Stadium. Then there’s the “Midnight Massacre” in 1977, when management traded Tom “The Franchise” Seaver to the Cincinnati Reds for what amounted to the equivalent of Shaquille O’Neal’s rap career.

It’s those Mets teams from the early ‘60s that are by far the worst and you could write a book on the amount of embarrassing moments they had. Arguably the most famous story is centerfielder Richie Ashburn constantly colliding with shortstop Elio Chacon on pop ups because Chacon only spoke Spanish and didn’t understand the phrase “I’ve got it.” So, Ashburn learned to say “Yo la tengo,” which is a rough translation of “I’ve got it” in Spanish, and the team agreed he should start saying that phrase so Chacon knew to let Ashburn handle the ball. Later, there was a game where a pop up was hit into shallow center field, and instead of saying “I’ve got it,” Ashburn said “Yo la tengo” to ensure that Chacon would understand him. But the left fielder Frank Thomas, who didn’t understand Spanish, missed the team meeting where this strategy was put into place, so he collided with Ashburn instead of Chacon. Thomas’ response was simply “What the hell is a Yellow Tango?” This tale is so infamous in Mets lore that the band Yo La Tengo named themselves after the incident.

However, this is all part of what it means to be a Mets fan. We embrace our embarrassments in ways that other sports fans can’t even imagine. There’s a mentality that we’ll be witness to more bad than good, and the bad is going to be inexplicably bad. Maybe we do it because it’s better to be entertaining and bad than to be irrelevant and bad, or maybe it’s just going to make it all the sweeter when the Mets finally win another World Series. Through every sneaky dildo and awful firecracker, we stick with this team. There are not many other fanbases out there that can compare to our loyalty.

The one bright side of 2017 is that general manager Sandy Alderson understood this wasn’t the team’s year and started preparing for 2018 early. It was tough to see players like Curtis Granderson and Lucas Duda, who were part of the magical 2015 team, be traded away, but it took a lot of money off the books for the upcoming offseason. There’s work that needs to be done, and having the money to acquire free agents is crucial to getting back into contention.

There’s also a solid group of young players that have shown potential this season. Amed Rosario and Dominic Smith are already starting on a daily basis, and Michael Conforto was having a breakout season before (surprise, surprise) a shoulder injury ended his year early. It may take significant time for Conforto to come back, but it’s not an impossibility that he comes back and produces at a high level. Then of course there is the much talked about pitching staff. All of the Mets talented starting pitchers are never going to be healthy at the same time, but if even half of them can be relatively healthy for a full season, then this team can be a contender.

But this is all speculation, and who’s to say that 2018 won’t be another disappointing season. Even if that turns out to be the case, don’t expect Mets fans to go anywhere. We’ve experienced it all and haven’t left yet. Whenever this team is good again, be it 2018 or a decade from now, it’s just going to be all the more special because of the hardships we’ve endured. So keep watching the team this month even though there’s practically no reason to, it just comes with being part of one of the most special fanbases in sports.