The Mets lost today by the score of 8-1, missing the postseason after having led their division by 7 games with 17 to play.
I know this to be true because I was at Shea Stadium to see it. Otherwise, it would be difficult for me to believe that any professional baseball team—let alone one that spent nearly the entire season in first place—could end its year in such spectacularly poor fashion.
This particular game, against the last-place Florida Marlins and with the season on the line, was over before the end of the first inning. Veteran pitcher Tom Glavine, looking old but not crafty, allowed nearly every batter he faced to reach base. When he left the game—after a mere third of an inning, mind you—many of the fans booed. Others seemed too stunned to do anything at all.
By the time the Mets came up to bat, they were down 7-0.
At first, they responded with what looked like real determination, scoring a run in the bottom of the inning and forcing Marlins starter Dontrelle Willis to work his way out of jam.
Over the next two innings, the Mets mounted threats, putting multiple runners on base but failing to drive them in.
Then, against a succession of justly unheralded Florida relievers, nothing.
It’s easy, sitting in the stands, to ascribe motivation—or lack thereof—to underperforming athletes on the field. It must be said, though, that these 2007 Mets looked profoundly indifferent as they crashed and burned, surrendering the division title—and their playoff spot—to the Phillies.
They could at least have had the decency to humor the fans, who stuck around in large numbers, cheering every sniff of a revival, and rooting, pathetically, for the 1 on the scoreboard next to “WAS” to overtake the 3—then 5, then 6—next to “PHI.”
But the Mets looked as listless in the dugout as they did on the field.
Perhaps what was happening was simply unthinkable to them, too. It’s a possibility that is somewhat less unpleasant to consider than other, darker theories about their performance: that battle-tested Tom Glavine had already checked out mentally, mulling a valedictory 2008 season in Atlanta; that thrilling shortstop Jose Reyes, a cornerstone of the team’s plans for the next decade, turns out to be unable to function in the face of perceived adversity; that likeable manager Willie Randolph isn’t actually that good at managing.
By the late innings, the crowd seemed unable to muster the energy to cheer, boo or do much of anything except sit glumly. It was a fitting response, somehow, to a team that didn’t seem to care either.