You've followed your team every day for six, nearly seven months. You've sweated one-run games in May, stayed up until 2 a.m. for the 14-inning marathon in July, cursed rainouts in August and finally felt some release come September and October. This has been your life — not their life; your life — for way too long, and now it's all down to one game. Win, and it's a night you'll remember forever. Lose, and you'll never want to speak of it again.
Game 7s are hard. We mean, really hard. We can't believe Mets or Cardinals fans actually have to go to work today. It's just too stressful.
In the spirit of this, we've decided to talk to someone whom we know is going through the exact same thing we are right now: Our friend, Daily Fix co-writer and outstanding Mets blogger Jason Fry, whose documentation of the Mets this year has enriched our appreciation of a team we desperately want to be destroyed tonight. He's our sworn enemy right now, but we thought we'd have a sit-down — DeNiro/Pacino in Heat style — and talk about what the hell's going to happen tonight, how we're feeling right now ... and just how hard this is.
Join us, after the jump.
Hello, sir. We'd like to first ask: How in the world are you dealing with this right now? We just wrote a post about a crazy Bills fan, and we, frankly, couldn't have cared less. Eventually we just decided there was no way we could pretend to care about anything else today and just succumbed to it. It's an all Game 7 day today.
We should probably talk about the game a bit. We don't think this series has been as high in quality as the Astros series a couple of years ago, the last time we had a Game 7. Game 2 was the only real tight one, the one when we didn't know immediately which team was absolutely in control. (That was both our favorite and most terrifying game. The ending was worth it ... but barely. The ideal game involves the Cardinals scoring 10 runs in the first inning, and then the Mets just taking a nap. And we mean a literal nap.) Every other game has been somewhat plodding, and never in doubt. (Game One is a possible exception.) Do you have a best-case and worst-case scenario of how this might go? Any clues as to something being obviously wrong, particularly with Ollie Perez? We know he's had a rough couple years, but we can't forget what he was like two years ago. And what was the reaction to the Suppan game? Remember, he beat Clemens in our last Game 7.
And we guess our main question: What's the general mindset in Mets land? Are they confident about tonight? We don't necessarily mean you; we know you're like us and will make no statements that even betray the slightest bit of confidence, lest you do a reverse jinx or something similarly non-sensical.
Last night on Faith and Fear I posted — or tried to post, seeing how I could barely see — about the utter exhaustion of October. Like every other Met and Cardinal fanatic, I've been a useless employee, spouse and parent for more than two weeks now. You get into work, exhausted and achy and jumpy because you were up until 3 trying to come down from the game and unable to speak because you shredded your voice yelling. If you're very lucky, there's a small, caffeine-enhanced window of relative normalcy. Then sometime in the early afternoon the jitters start, and by 4 or so it's like you've got big glowing letters superimposed on your vision while you're trying to do anything else: 8:19. As in, "Holy God, would 8:19 hurry up and get here?" And sometimes as in, "Oh my God, it's going to be 8:19 soon and I am so not ready."
And then, yep, time slows down as Fox slogs through their preview, which immediately offends you with its ignorance about and/or bias against your team. And of course any graphic suggesting what might happen is a total jinx, and then if your starter starts off by throwing ball one it's immediately obvious that you are doomed, doomed, doomed. And so you're exhausted and half-insane and there's been one pitch thrown and there's still three and a half hours to go.
And now repeat this day after day after day, until everything's this waking dream/nightmare. And you wonder if you can possibly take much more of this, only of course you realize that if the team loses and it's all taken away your heart will pretty much break. So you pray for another day, another week of exhaustion and desperation.
I should take a vow to wean myself off baseball before I turn 55 or so. Because it really will kill me.
No, this series has been a fright — an eye-gouging, nut-grabbing, throat-biting no-rules scrap in the mud. Ugly to watch, beautiful to win. Glavine threw a nice game in Game 1, even though Pujols was right (if stupidly ungracious) that he got pretty lucky. Suppan was lights-out in Game 3. The other four? Sloppy and mucky and nasty in one way or another, without a single classic in the bunch. (So far.)
The best-case scenario for Game 7? Not to discount Oliver Perez pitching a gem, but he's erratic on four days' rest and starting tonight on three, so it's got to be the Mets putting up a crooked number early — they've seen Suppan already, and they certainly have the lineup to bash their way out of trouble. The worst-case scenario? The opposite. For clues, I'd look at Perez's velocity and his location. He's one of those pitchers who can be "effectively wild," so an early walk or two won't have me climbing the walls (beyond the fact that it's Game 7 and I'll start off clinging to the ceiling like a cartoon cat). But if he's missing badly, pushing the ball or his mechanics look hopelessly out of whack, it's hide-under-the-sofa time. Though Randolph won't wait long with the hook — this isn't going to be a night for lessons or character-building or any of that stuff.
The mindset in Mets land? I think it's a lot better than it was last night. Last night, the calculus looked pretty bleak: First a rookie had to beat the reigning Cy Young Award winner. Then, if that somehow happened, some collection of unimpressive Met pitchers would have to beat the guy who pretty much did surgery on us last weekend. Well, OK, but the first part happened. That doesn't make the second part any easier, but it does make it a lot easier to imagine. You're right that I wouldn't risk offending the baseball gods with a prediction or even a feeling, but honestly, I don't have the faintest idea what to expect anyway. It's Game 7 of a series that's been confounding from start to finish. Your guess is as good as mine.
When you are a fan of a team, you find yourself coming up with moral reasons as to why they should win. Not reasons as to why they're better, not emotional and charitable responses like "Albert Pujols helps kids with Down's Syndrome and Carlos Delgado HATES FREEDOM" types of things. We're thinking more of, "Which franchise's fans need it more?" That is to say: We think Cardinals fans deserve this more. (No offense!)
We know the Mets are long suffering, and we appreciate that. But look at your team. You've got young stars, a payroll that's just gonna get bigger with a new stadium and a solid base from which to build. With the Cardinals, you get the feeling this is probably the last run. Edmonds — who's actually the longest tenured Cardinal, if you can believe that — Suppan and Mulder are all free agents, and their spots are going to be filled by rookies or youngsters ... which you can always count on freaking out LaRussa. And you have to wonder about him, too: People were quite ready for LaRussa to be gone, had the Cardinals actually collapsed late. Would have happened too. You get the sense that this Cardinals run of the last few years is near its end; they're getting older — Rolen's held together by string now — and the pitching is a giant question mark after this season. This could be our last chance. The Mets surely will have plenty more opportunities. So that's our moral reason: It's our last run.
What's the most dramatic possible thing that could happen tonight? Cliff Floyd pulling a Kirk Gibson? David Wright becoming Jeter with bases loaded game-winner in the ninth? And we'll be honest: We thought the whole Pujols thing was ridiculous. Whether you like the guy or not — and we, frankly, don't quite understand not — all he said was, "Tom Glavine didn't have great stuff, and I should have hit him." That's all. And that's the truth. Pujols was just disappointed, because he's a freakishly intense competitor. (He scares us. A lot.) What was he supposed to do? Salute Glavine? Give him a cookie? Pujols was pissed that he didn't hit him, and he said so. People kept acting like Pujols is shielded by the St. Louis media and in real life, he's this monster. Sometimes New York newspapers drive us crazy.
Predictions on guys from each team that might end up doing something amazing? The Aaron Boone? We have a weird thought that Endy Chavez is going to do something crazy; on the St. Louis side, we're feeling Preston Wilson, if just because the Mookie Wilson's stepson subplot has to be the most boring storyline we can remember. Well, jeez, he's rooting for his son over the team he played for 20 years ago (and traded him). Amazing.
There's no doubt that success has come a bit earlier than planned in Flushing — Jeff Wilpon and Omar Minaya have said as much — and the core of young Mets should keep this team in playoff hunts for years to come. (I say "should" because the Mets have an aggravating history of imploding and then being absolutely horrid for years at a stretch.) Why do Met fans need this more than you do? Well, because the Mets play in the shadow of A Team That Must Not Be Named, and over the last decade that team has made the Mets an afterthought in their own town. Now that other team has been spanked and dismissed, this is not only our time but a chance to make this our town again. (Hmm, that could be a sublimely crappy rap song.) It's like our meathead older brother who likes to punch us in the bicep 500 times an hour and pin us on the couch to be farted on got caught smoking pot and sent to his room for a week. And we're in the basement, just minutes away from erasing his high score on the Xbox he never lets us play with, which would let us laugh and laugh and laugh at his pimply ass, only our mom is at the top of the stairs calling more and more insistently.... I mean, imagine if the St. Louis Browns had never left town, and the papers were all about them no matter what you did, and the stores sold 90% their gear and kept yours behind the counter, and out-of-town folk were confused when you explained that no, your hat was not a Browns hat.
More positively, the Mets are just plain fun. Jose Reyes has more fun playing baseball than anyone I've ever seen, when Lo Duca flies into a rage he's like a cartoon character, Delgado and Beltran have these million-watt smiles. The cast is this intriguing band of raw kids and steely-eyed vets and reclamation projects and bit players, and as far as anyone can tell they all get along beautifully. This Met team is already going to be beloved for years; now they have a chance to get thrown up there with the '69 and '86 team in the pantheon. Baseball oughta be fun, dammit. Watching Albert Pujols scowl his way through another ballgame? Not that much fun. (Eckstein would be fun if his every move didn't turn McCarver and Buck into quivering schoolgirls. Not that that's his fault.)
I agree the Pujols thing was ridiculous — heck, it was kind of refreshing hearing an athlete say something that was vaguely unscripted — but the person who really made it ridiculous was La Russa, not the New York media. Not content with, say, the intricacies of lefty-righty matchups when up or down 10 runs, La Russa had to try and micromanage the media too, proposing a cooling-off period or whatever the hell it was. What is this man's problem? Remember how last year he wouldn't let the Cardinals celebrate because if they lost the last 14 games and the Astros won the last 14 (crazy idea, that), the two teams would be co-champions — even though that would have changed nothing for the playoffs? Who does he think he is, Emily Postseason? (Sorry — I like or at least don't mind most of the Cardinals and really like their fans, but I hate La Russa. And what's with the sunglasses at night?)
Anyway, a couple of questions for you: As with Oliver Perez, what should we look for from Suppan? We beat him back in May, but I confess I had to look that up — I didn't remember the game, and don't have much sense of him after all those years in the AL. Will seeing the Mets for the second time in a week change anything?
I was glad to read this morning that you'd been treated fairly decently at the Big DMV so far this postseason. Have you been wearing the ANKIEL jersey? When I've known we're both at the game, I've been keeping one ear cocked for fear of hearing some boozed-up Met yahoo say, "Can you believe that guy wore an ANKIEL jersey to our park? For a Cardinals fan, he sure was lousy at flying."
Of all the answers to the "why we need to win" question, we have to admit: "Because of the Yankees" is probably our least favorite. (No offense again!) That's Red Sox talk, man, and you don't want that, do you? We Cardinals have a perfectly healthy and fiery rivalry with the Cubs, but neither team defines the other one. Heck, the Royals don't define themselves through another team! Surely, there has to be more to it than that, yes? We mean, can't you guys take care of that next year? Or some other time? Well, we suppose you can't, because, 1986 be damned, we've lived in NYC for seven years now and we don't imagine a possible way, new stadium or no, that the Mets are ever going to catch the Yankees in terms of popular support. Take this as a positive thing. Trying to catch the Yankees tormented the Red Sox for decades. We agree: The Mets are morally superior to the Yankees (until they get rid of that sweetheart Gary Sheffield, anyway). But today, as we approach Game 7 and a trip to the World Series ... you're still thinking about the Yankees? Sad, man: SAD.
It's impossible not to love Reyes, though: He's almost certainly our favorite non-Cardinal in this series. We loved it when he tried to drop the line drive the other night to get the double play. That's just charming. And Pujols isn't scowling: It's just difficult to smile when every second of your life, you are consumed with crushing a baseball. Pujols has no spare thoughts in his brain. You know how dogs think about food, or teenagers think about masturbating? That's how Pujols is about hitting. He's not scowling; he's just trying not to bite off his tongue.
Tony LaRussa wears sunglasses at night because he all vegetarian lawyer baseball managers are required to do so. You actually have to register with the state. We don't share the hatred of LaRussa that a lot of people — Cardinals fans included — do. He makes some odd decisions that seem specificially designed to remind people how difficult the life of a manager is, but any Cardinals fan paying attention this postseason has to admit that every button he has pushed has worked. We don't think that makes him a great manager, just like we don't think it makes him a terrible manager when he has lost series in the past. We're basically just saying managers don't matter that much.
(Note: Of all the statements in this exchange, we suspect this is the one we will most want take back about 11:30 this evening.)
Hey, shouldn't you like Ankiel? He worked out well for you. We didn't wear the jersey last night — Cardinals fans are furious with us for even considering it; we have nothing but good thoughts for Rick, but he's hardly considered a good luck charm — but we'll be out wearing it tonight at our Cardinals bar. We wonder if he's watching this series, and what he thinks.
If the Mets win tonight, which Met will you be happiest for? For whom will you be saddest if they lose? The Cardinal we want to see get this the most is probably Carpenter, who has just been a machine for us for three years now and is as normal and dogged a guy as you could find. He was injured for the 2004 postseason, so he never was able to pitch in a World Series. We, uh, could have used him.
Mets up 3-2. Top of the ninth. So Taguchi on third, David Eckstein on second, Preston Wilson at first, Pujols at the plate, two outs, Billy Wagner pitching. How you feeling?
Yeah, I know it's sad. I didn't use the little-brother comparison idly — if you had three million doses of truth serum, you'd discover that's the way most Met fans feel. I can't think of a better way to make that nonsense go away than to win the World Series. (With winning the pennant a close second.) The thing is, you came to New York with Yankee fever at an all-time high — the Mets had a thrilling year in 1999, but had to fight for space in the papers. In the mid-80s, it was the other way around: Only the Yankees' history, tradition, blah blah blah, kept them in the picture. When/if George's $210 million Rube Goldberg machine finally has a catastrophic breakdown, this town is perfectly capable of becoming orange and blue again. (The real lesson here is that far too many New Yorkers are mercenary, front-running jerks, but I think we both knew that.)
You're right that everything La Russa has done so far has worked. The fact that I suddenly disapprove of his thoughts on the media is probably not coincidental.
I do like Ankiel — he's overcome far more than my privileged preppy ass ever had to deal with, and I was rooting for his unlikely second life as an outfielder. Actually, that reminds me of another reason to dislike La Russa: With the Cardinals getting blown out in the last game of the 2000 NLCS, why on earth did he put the poor kid into a mop-up role in Shea Stadium? The result was 55,000 crazed Met fans howling at every pitch that missed the strike zone. It was ugly, and I was embarrassed.
If the Mets win, I'll be thrilled for Cliff Floyd, Carlos Delgado and Paul Lo Duca. Floyd because he's one of the best quotes in baseball history, loves being a Met and playing in New York, has suffered through the lean years, and if they go to the World Series he'll probably get some chances to DH and play a real role, one-legged though he is. Delgado because it's his first chance at the postseason and he's showing the baseball world what he can do. (Good Christ, I just quoted Luis Gonzalez. By all accounts a nice guy, but the most-useless color commentator in the history of televised sports.) Lo Duca because he's had a great year despite having the New York media tell the world about everything except his colonoscopy.
If they lose? Floyd — everyone knows this is his last year with the Mets.
Dude. 3-2, two outs, bases loaded, Wagner on the mound and Pujols at the plate? How do you think I feel? I'm on the verge of vomiting in fear just knowing Pujols is in the park. But the way things have gone, I'd be a lot more frightened if Pujols was on first in that situation and Taguchi was at the plate.
OK, we should wrap up, because we could probably sell this as a novella. Let's finish up with one last question: How do you predict you're going to be feeling at 1 a.m. tomorrow morning? Our answer: Catatonic. No matter what happens.