A man clad in Phillies red sat down at the table next to us and said to me "I didn't know the Mets still played baseball." Rather than pick a fight, especially since I have no ammunition, I went the self deprecating route and answered "They play, but I don't think what they do can be called baseball."
If you are a baseball fan, this time of the year is very exciting as you look forward to another season filled with hope that this will be the year for your team. I'd say even fans of the Pittsburgh Pirates and Kansas City Royals have hope but who am I to pick on someone else's team when I root for the Mets, who haven't finished higher than fourth the last four seasons and have ended with a losing record each year. They lost 92, 83, 85 and 88 games in those respective seasons.
This year shouldn't be any different as most pre season prognostications have the boys from Flushing(maybe I should have seen this coming when I first realized my favorite baseball team played in a town called Flushing) fighting with the Miami Marlins for the basement of the National League East.
I'm expecting at least 90 losses this season although thats what I was expecting last year and the Mets surprised me by only losing 88 times.
Baseball will be a continuation of what has turned into one of the most depressing sports stretches of my half century plus on the Earth.
It all started last summer amidst the optimism that was Buffalo Bills training camp. Now I wasn't expecting the playoffs but I was expecting to see a franchise take a big step in that direction.
To the surprise of many, the Bills looked like a franchise once again going absolutely nowhere. A struggling, boring offense and a porous defense(record setting bad at times), led to yet another coach being fired and shortly, another new General Manager.
Free agency hasn't really energized anyone and now we await the drafting of quarterback of the future in a year where many of the draft experts are telling us the quarterback crop is nothing special.
Now fast forward to hockey season, which as you remember very well, didn't start on time because owners and players had to fight over who got how much of the billions of dollars generated annually by the NHL.
More than half the season was inexplicably lost but we chose to look at the glass half full and enjoy what would be a tension filled 48 game schedule as the Sabres worked themselves back into the playoffs after a one year absence, thereby helping us forget the miserable football season.
Lo and behold, the Sabres threw gas on the fire. We've gone from "hey, its just a bad start" to "hey maybe it was all Lindy Ruff's fault" to "hey, these guys are really bad." Now we are faced with the possibility of seeing the GM who put this flawed roster together, being entrusted with the responsibility of fixing the mess.
It felt like the misery of the football season never ended and the feelings of hopelessness carried on from September through March.
Don't despair, baseball season is here to pick you up. Unless you happen to be a fan of the New York Mets. Rooting for the Bills, Sabres and Mets right now is basically the sporting equivalent of the movie Groundhog Day. I wake up on what is supposed to be a different days but I suffer the same depressing experiences with my team.
For those of you who aren't fully aware of the Mets history, let me enlighten you.
The Mets were born in 1962, same year as me, although I like to believe I have been slightly more successful. You might argue otherwise, and some of you have, in the comments section of previous articles I have written.
Over 51 seasons, the not so "Amazin Mets" have winning percentage of .478 which leaves them tied for 20th best in Major League Baseball.
Out of those 51 seasons, the Mets have finished with a winning record 23 times and made the playoffs on just seven occasions. There have been four pennants(1969, 1973, 1986 and 2000) and two world series titles(1969 and 1986). I struggle to count that magical 1969 season because I wasn't really into sports yet. When the Mets were sweeping Atlanta in the NLCS and then upsetting the mighty Baltimore Orioles in the series, I was busy playing with my toy train set and my brother's slot cars.
By 1973 however, I was all in as a Mets fan and thoroughly enjoyed their late season rally to a division title which was followed by an NLCS knockout of a Cincinnati Reds team that was known as the Big Red Machine and would win back to back World Championships in 1975 and 76.
Once again though, I missed a sign that maybe I had picked the wrong team. The Mets had a 3-2 lead in the world series but lost games 6 and 7 in Oakland.
I'll always have 1986 Mets, which remains one of the best seasons of my life as a fan. But that team should have won more than one championship. It lost to the Dodgers in the 1988 NLCS and was eventually broken up.
I had to wait eleven more years for the next playoff berth but the Mets were ousted in the NLCS. They came right back in 2000 and made it to the World Series where my worst nightmare came true.
If there was one team I would NEVER,NEVER,NEVER want the Mets to lose to in the series, it would be the team I despise more than any other in this world, the Yankees.
It took a while to get over that one but the organization bounced back and put together a very good team while also throwing around money like the Yankees.
In 2006 my beloved Mets were back in the playoffs but were eliminated in the NLCS by the St. Louis Cardinals, a former hated division rival from the 1980's. In true Mets fashion, the last out of the season came when Carlos Beltran looked at a third strike.
Sure, I was down but the "Metsies" would come back the following season. In 2007 and again in 2008 the Mets looked to have a post season berth locked up but late season collapses doomed them.
Again in true Mets fashion, to make things as painful as possible, they were eliminated from playoff contention in the last game of the season….both years!
Feeling sorry for me and my fellow Mets fans yet?
Only once in the history of the franchise have the Mets made it to the playoffs in back to back seasons.
Only one player in the 51 year history of the Mets has had his number retired, Tom Seaver, the greatest Met ever.
It took more than 50 years and eight thousand games for a Mets pitcher to throw a no hitter. Johan Santana, who has been mostly a disappointment, earned lifelong affection from all Mets fans when he threw a perfect game last June.
The Mets had one of the most exciting players in the game on their roster but Jose Reyes leave via free agency following the 2011 season because the team's owners were in a financial disaster. The Mets had the NL's Cy Young winner last season in R.A. Dickey but traded the former Bison in the off season because they didn't want to pay big bucks to keep him.
It wasn't very long ago, 2009 to be exact, when the Mets opening day payroll was $149 million. When they open next week, the Mets payroll will be around $93 million.
Yet I will still be watching because thats what we do as fans. I will be wondering how former Bisons skipper Terry Collins will be able to get anything out of this team.
I'll be underwhelmed by a starting outfield that could include Lucas Duda, Mike Baxter and Kirk Nieuwenhuis. I'll be hoping it won't be too long before Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler are two of the most dominant pitchers in the National League and, of course, I'll be planning my annual trip to see my beloved baseball team play down in Flushing. It could be worse. They could still be at Shea Stadium. That place was a dump.
Enjoy the baseball season everyone. To my fellow Mets fans, keep the faith because it has to get better, doesn't it? (I know Bills fans, it doesn't necessarily have to get better).
Bills and Sabres and Mets, Oh My!