Can't say they broke my heart this year, the Mets. I never expected them to come as close to the play-offs as they did. You don't get to the post-season with one good, healthy starter and a bullpen full of batting practice pitchers. Only reason they were in the chase at all for the Wild Card spot was Milwaukee forgot how to win there for a while, and the Phillies were just that much better than them all year and weren't going to simply step aside to let the Mets take the division. Last year's collapse was tough. This year's quiet petering-out rated only mild annoyance. Watching them give it up was like watching a car you know ran out of gas miles back but has been traveling downhill on fumes finally coast to a stop. Even though I wasn't surprised, I was still kind of pissed at them for making me think going into the weekend that inertia alone would carry them across the finish line.
I feel a little bad for Carlos Delgado. He had one of those beautiful and heroic late-career resurgences that signal the end is really near. Great players his age can do that, through sheer grit and muscle memory they can recapture, for a while, some of the glory of their prime. There was a week or so there when he was responsible all by himself for keeping the Mets in contention. But I suspect he used himself up doing it and hasn't got anything left, at least not enough for the Mets to want to risk keeping him around. I'm sure he's not through. Somebody will pick him up. Maybe Toronto will take him back for old times' sake. But from here on out it's a farewell tour.
Too bad. He's Oliver Mannion's favorite player. Has been for since Oliver was four or five. The Syracuse Skychiefs were the Blue Jays' Triple A club and one day back when we lived in Syracuse the Mannions were at a game in which Delgado was playing on a rehab assignment. When Carlos came to the plate, I said to Oliver, "Watch this guy. He's a good player."
"How good?" asked Oliver.
Delgado picked that moment to park one. He swung and drove it over the right field fence on a line. It cleared the tents set up out there for picnickers. That was no short right field fence either. A 450 foot homer, easy.
"That good," I said.
Oliver's been a Delgado fan, and a Blue Jays fan, from that moment. His loyalty to the Blue Jays didn't get transferred to the Marlins or to the Mets when Toronto traded Carlos. He's more of a Cardinals fan now, though. It has something to do with birds. Funny how team loyalties come about.
So the Mets are done for the year, and Shea Stadium's done for all time. No last post season games will be played there. Can't say I'm heartbroken about that either. Dump should have been torn down years ago. 1965, say. (Note to non-fans: Shea opened in 1964.) Longtime Met fan that I've been, I got to Shea very few times and the last time I was there Lee Mazzilli, the poor man's Bobby Murcer, was in the line-up. The first time I went was when I was a little kid and I had a great time but even then I noticed the Mets were not playing in anything like a real ballpark, and I hadn't been inside Yankee Stadium, Fenway Park, or Wrigley Field yet. Aesthetically, Shea wasn't even minimalist. It was barely even there. It was just a lot of bright blue plastic seats hung none too solidly on some concrete and steel scaffolding with a great view of its own parking lot. I'm sure if I'd gone to more games, if I'd grown up in and around the park, I might have more nostalgic memories and the imminent razing of the stadium might have me misting up a bit. Like Carl, of Simply Left Behind, known in the comment section in these parts as actor212. Carl'll be sorry to see the old eyesore go, as he says in his post Goodbye, Old Friend:
Shea is undoubtedly one of the ugliest stadiums ever built. Conceived for two sports, designed for neither, and hurriedly built to open in time with the 1964 World's Fair, Shea exuded the early Sixties optimism for technology and minimalist architecture: get it up and get it built.
No, really, Carl's fond of the place. With good reasons. Go read the rest of the post.
As for me the only thing I'll miss about Shea is the name. The new ballpark's an architectural delight and all, reminiscent of Ebbett's Field and with all the swankiest new amenities. But who wants to sit and watch baseball in a stadium named after one of the last banks standing after the financial collapse?
How long will that last? Anybody done the study yet? How fast a corporation goes under or gets bought up after it sticks its name on a sports arena?