The Mets close out the season with the Washington Nationals and Florida Marlins on the road...then the Washington Nationals and Florida Marlins at home. So the opportunity to close out the season strong stands before the Mets. Whether or not they can looks doubtful at this point.
The bad news is clear. The worse news is that this isn't the first time - last September the Mets stumbled to the end of the season also. The thought has crossed my mind that no matter how well the Mets do, if this happens again next year, Willie Randolph might find himself looking for a job...or at least feeling the heat of a hot seat. Of course, the good news is that the Mets came out of their September funk in a big way last October by beating the Dodgers in the Division Series, before losing to St. Louis. There's always the chance that this year they were again looking ahead to the post-season, and looking past their opponents in the regular season, and will turn it on again once (again, if) they make the playoffs.
If the Mets do make the post-season, though, I have some advice. I remember a big story in 2003, 2004 in Boston was that the Red Sox had some ridiculous, over-the-top celebrations when they won their playoff spot and then when they won a Division Series. At the time, I thought it was much ado about nothing - only 8 teams in the league have something to celebrate at the end of the season...and then just 4....so they might as well do it up good. Well, I'm changing my tune this year.
If the Mets give themselves the opportunity to celebrate, they can not, until they make it to the World Series. Anything short of that this year does not deserve a celebration. Last year the Mets clinched the division, somewhat anti-climactically, at home, after being swept in Pittsburgh with the opportunity to clinch. They partied like they were World Champs. But I didn't mind - I was into it too. Then the Mets partied after beating the Dodgers. I thought, that's nice, but it's only one step closer to the goal. The players all said that, so it seemed like their focus was in the right place - I was OK with the celebration - but I was worried that the next celebration would be too much, leading into the World Series. That celebration, of course, never came.
This year, an NLCS victory would be the only reason to celebrate. I would be downright mad if I see the Mets crack open champagne for clinching the division - that should have happened at the beginning of September...but now they have allowed the Phillies back into the scenario and don't deserve to celebrate. They get to breathe a sigh of relief when (if) they clinch the division, and then shift their focus to whichever lesser National League opponent they will play in the playoffs.
And when (if) they beat that team, it just gets them back to where they should have won last year, and where everyone expected them to be this year. No celebration deserved. Only when the Mets have punched their ticket to the World Series should the corks be popped. Provided they can ever get their magic number from 11 to 0.
THANKS FOR CHECKING BACK: You can tell by the lack of postings that school is back in full swing. The past few weeks have been awesome as far as school goes, but pretty bad for the blog. Thanks for the loyal readers who check in every day to see if I've written. I'll try better the next few weeks, and especially the postseason...if the Mets are playing.