|Mets: Echoes of September Past|
Written by Jonathan Leshanski (Contact & Archive) on September 07, 2008
The Mets began the weekend with a three game lead in the NL East going into a three game set with the Phillies. Winning all three or even two out of three could have let them all but put the Philadelphia nine away. Losing that same amount would give rise to the ghosts and nightmares of last September’s dramatic collapse and that seems to be exactly what is happening.
As I put the final touches on this piece, the Mets have just dropped the first two games of the series with the second game of this doubleheader scheduled for just a few hours from now.
While fans are sweating it out at home, the mood in the Mets’ clubhouse has to range somewhere between somber and desperate. Certainly those that survived last season’s collapse have to be looking at each other and wondering just what is going on. How can this be on the verge of happening again?
This time the blame can’t just be laid on the bullpen, although they have managed to blow plenty of games this season - enough perhaps that the Mets lead coming into this series might have been as many as 7 or 8 games. This year there is plenty of blame to go around, starting with offensive failures in the early season, injuries to key players, starting pitching that has been inconsistent all season and just plain old bad days, like the 3-0 loss the Mets suffered on Friday.
Even if they don’t lose the second game today the pressure is really on. With 20 games left to go the Mets will be anywhere from 2 games up, to tied with the Phillies, for the division with the Phillies having a marginally better schedule the rest of the way (the Phillies have a four game set with the Brewers, while the Mets have four against the Cubs), and that’s got New Yorkers tearing their hair out.
But these aren’t Willie Randolph’s Mets, they are a different team, with a different attitude and a belief that they can win and that they can, at least for a time play great baseball. That’s what Jerry Manuel wants them to do and if they fail it might well be his swan song as a manager in the organization. There will be plenty of excuses, injuries, the fact the team was hovering at just about .500 when he took over, and more. The fall wouldn’t be quite as dramatic. The Mets never had a big lead this season nor will many people be surprised because this squad never fully seemed to come together for more than a handful of games at a time.
Yet Manuel had the team believing in itself and headed in the right direction going into this series. This was their chance to lay the ghosts of last season to rest. It didn’t and now the Mets will face a last stretch of the season where they’ll have to face all the doubts as well as all the people that said they couldn’t handle the pressure.
On the television, radio, and internet the echoes of 2007 will linger until the Mets win a division, no matter how many seasons that might take. If they are lucky and they play well this might only be a 20 game race they can win.