All around the blogging world this time of year you see the rundown of the top stories of the year. Only rarely do the stories that have an impact on my life come up. So, my space, my place to put my stories - here are the top 10 stories (in reverse order) of 2008 from '200 Miles From the Citi', with a link to my initial reaction, and some reasoning:
(#11 - Just missed the countdown - Mets Fire Willie Randolph. The way they did it was really the story, not so much that they did it. Meanwhile, that whole thing seems like a lifetime ago, let alone that it happened this past year.)
#10 - GARY CARTER
A year ago I dubbed 2008 ('08) the year of Gary Carter, who wore number 8. He certainly kept himself in the news. On January 2nd I wrote about his appointment as manager of the Orange County Flyers - a return to his hometown (or close to it). He proceeded to win a championship with Orange County, then he took a job managing the Long Island Ducks, returning to my hometown (or close to it). I suspect we'll be hearing some more from the Hall of Famer in 2009.
#9 - PHILLIES WIN WORLD SERIES
This is probably on a number of year-end highlight countdowns, but it probably doesn't sting as bad on some of the other ones. I actually ended up wanting the Phillies to win (kind of), though I picked against them. I certainly didn't enjoy it when they ended up winning.
#8 - GIANTS END PATRIOTS' UNBEATEN SEASON
The 2008 playoffs were weird for a Jets fan - the Giants got hot, and the Patriots were riding their perfect season...two teams Jets fans don't necessarily love to see be successful. But I've never had a hard time rooting for the Giants, and I like Eli Manning. I picked the Giants to win, which put me in a minority...and I probably did so more with heart than head. When they won, I wasn't as shocked as most, but I was relieved. I haven't written about this much, but it's funny that when the Jets were good this year, the Giants were still much better. The teams I root for always have trouble getting the whole city behind them.
#7 - HELLO, JOHAN SANTANA
You might think I'm ranking this pretty low, but I think it belongs at number 7. Santana could only pitch once every five days, and clearly the move didn't bring about a championship. Still, it was a huge deal - and I was taken by surprise when it happened. Santana had a great season individually, and was fun to watch, but the Mets fell short, so this ended up being kind of bittersweet.
#6 - GOOD-BYE, CHAD
Had you asked me a year ago at this time, I would have told you that I didn't expect Chad Pennington to be back with the Jets for the 2008 season....thought it became more and more likely that he would as the off-season progressed. It wasn't until early August that things fell into place with Brett Favre and Pennington was let go. Of course, the disappointing thing about this story was that he had to go to the Dolphins, and I was forced to root for Miami in a season in which they were right behind the Jets in the standings all season long...until the final week, when they were atop the standings. In retrospect, this might have been the first time since Gary Carter that a favorite athlete of mine left my favorite team with some years left in the tank and I had to root for them in another uniform.
#5 - SHEA'S FINAL DAYS
Early in the season it seemed like the Mets would make the final year at Shea Stadium a waste of everyone's time, a disappointment. Then they made their run and it looked like some of the old magic was back, until the ghosts of 2007 came out. And in the end, Shea closed its doors to a disappointing season. But 2008 still allowed for a year of reflections and memories of a place that I'll miss.
#4 - THE JETS' 2008 SEASON
It's still not over, but the off-season moves, and the cherry on top - Brett Favre - came together to make 2008 a mostly successful season. Something I saw coming just as the 2007 season was coming to its conclusion, I might add. Of course, that NFC West thing didn't work out quite as well as I had hoped....but let's remember - the Jets "backed in" to the playoffs in 2004 when they lost to St. Louis on the final day of the season, but got the help they needed. Maybe they'll get the repeat situation in 2008 - they need to win, coupled with either a Patriots loss or a Ravens loss (I'm not necessarily rooting for them...but I will root for them if they end up in the playoffs).
#3 - JETS ACQUIRE BRETT FAVRE
One of my all-time favorite football players comes to my favorite team. There were mixed feelings about how everything went down, and the fact that it meant saying goodbye to Pennington, but it was a very exciting time, turning around my otherwise lackluster feelings toward the start of the football season.
#2 - THE LAST PLAY AT SHEA
Had it not been for the birth of my second child, this would have easily been the highlight of 2008 for me. My brother got the tickets, and my last visit to Shea was a memorable one. Not only was it a special moment as a fan of both the Mets and Billy Joel, it was the best concert I've been to, capped off by a dramatic appearance by Paul McCartney. I guess, all told, I'd rather have my last event at Shea have been a playoff game, but this was a tremendous night, great memories, and it far exceeded my expectations. A playoff game could have ended with disappointment.
#1 - METS MISS PLAYOFFS (AGAIN)
I hate to end on a down note, but this was definitely the defining moment of 2008 at '200 Miles From the Citi'. I don't spend my summer writing about the Mets expecting them to fall short come September. But that's what's happened two years running now. And I don't think my expectations for 2009 are going to get too high. A year ago, on New Year's, I wrote this:
I'm not here to offer predictions for the baseball season - it's too early for that. I will say that 2008 is looking to me like a must-win season for the Mets. If they don't win this year, I think it might be a while. If they do win this year, I think they might be able to defend a title in their new park.
They didn't win in 2008. I don't think I'm going to argue with myself. I'm afraid I may have been right.