This is all very strange. The Mets are usually the team that comes back - they're not the team that totally collapses. Sure, sometimes they don't complete the comeback, for whatever reason, but it never happens that they're that far ahead, and then it's all gone. They might make it exciting, and closer than it should be - whether that's over the course of the season, or in an individual game...but there's never been anything like this - and on nowhere near as grand a scale.
There's plenty of blame to go around - and you really have to look no further than Jose Reyes' .197 average in September...or, of course, Tom Glavine's implosion on Sunday. (Or for that matter, his last three starts, in which the Mets were 0-3, he had an ERA of 16.55, and gave up 25 hits in 10 and a third innings against the Nationals once and the Marlins twice.) (By the way, I know it sounds like I'm scapegoating...but that's because that's exactly what I'm doing. It's not my fault that the Mets lost this division lead.) I don't put a huge amount of blame on Willie Randolph, but he factors more towards 'guilty' on the blame scale than 'not guilty'. Rick Peterson tilts the scale big time. Carlos Beltran and Carlos Delgado are somewhere in the middle - but their seeming indifference is unsettling.
The people in the clear, as far as I'm concerned, are David Wright, who carried this team as much as one person possibly could (and for the second time in his career finished with 42 doubles, two off the team record), John Maine, who had an outstanding first half, and a decent enough second half, and came up huge in a situation where almost everyone else came up short, Moises Alou, who I'm shocked I'm ending the season speaking positively about, Luis Castillo, who always gave 100% (and the man to his right on the infield could learn a thing or two about that), and Lastings Milledge, whose maturity, as I've mentioned before, was notable this season. He appeared to be a good teammate also. I've also got to say this - I've had about enough of Billy Wagner's mouth - search for his comments to a magazine (I know -real sketchy details here) - either the New York Times Magazine, or the New Yorker. He burned bridges on his way out of Philadelphia, and he's not going to be making any friends in New York with comments like that (although they were about Rick Peterson, who should be on their way out).
I hate to sound like my dad, master conspiracy theorist, but I have a couple of thoughts on why the Mets didn't seal the deal:
One is a total, absolute conjecture - I think that in a few weeks, we're going to hear about huge off-the-field issues with this team. I don't know whether they'll be personal problems, or in-house fighting - but this was a team with a bunch of individuals - not a team atmosphere like last year. That could have been because most of the last part of the season was surrounded by so many losses, but it appeared that there was never unity. There were whispers that Julio Franco was to blame early on, but it seemed to continue when he was gone. It's hard to imagine huge personal issues going unnoticed in New York, after what happened last year with Paul LoDuca, but I think there might have been a couple of things that were under the radar that affected everyone's play. Or maybe a bunch of Mets got wind that they're significantly involved in the steroids mess.
Two, not totally unrelated to my first theory - Remember the first day back from the All Star Break, the Mets released Julio Franco and fired Rick Down, then hired Rickey Henderson? At the All Star Break, the Mets were 48-39. Since then, 40-35. It's not much of a difference, but the Mets just played differently, and looked less inspired. They were more prone to long losing streaks, longer stretches of uninspired ball. At least it seemed that way. If my dad would have mentioned this, I would have laughed, or gotten angry. But I think his thinking is rubbing off on me - what kind of a coach could a guy like Henderson, who dogged it a lot, be? He probably affected the outlook Jose Reyes had on the game...or maybe the team rebelled after Franco was released. Or maybe Howard Johnson is not a good coach. I don't know. I'm grasping at straws here. But I'm just throwing those couple of things out there.
I hate that the 2007 Mets will always come up now when collapses are brought up. It's probably how Yankees fans feel about the 2004 post-season...and the 3-0 series lead. And I hate that there will be events that will make this season stand out - Tom Glavine's 300th win, Moises Alou setting a team record for hitting streak with 30. I hate that the Mets still haven't won back-to-back division titles. I hate that Jimmy Rollins turned out to be right.
What now? Well, for one, I'll be rooting against the Phillies. I can't root for a quicker exit from the post-season (some say root for the team that beat you, so you can say you were beaten by the best. I say misery loves company.). I like the play-in game that's happening as I write this - I'm going to go watch that. And then I'll just root for new matchups - that's why I like the Diamondbacks, Padres, and Rockies all possibly coming out of the National League. I'll try to update a couple of times during the post-season. Or maybe pretty often - who knows? I do know that the other part of yesterday, the Jets' loss to Buffalo, signaled the fact that I won't have much interest in football season this year.