For the second straight year the Mets are eliminated by the Marlins on the final day of the season, after leading the division late in September. I was hoping they would make the playoffs, but I didn’t have high hopes for them IN the playoffs, where pitching is even more important than in the regular season. There’s some solace in the fact that it was the Mets’ bullpen woes and seasonful of injuries that did them in this year — it doesn’t have anything like the feel of the epic choke of 2007.
Today’s loss put a damper on the ceremonies marking the last game at Shea Stadium, but I watched anyway to see the old-timers come back. I was wondering how they were going to handle the absence of Doc Gooden, because the last I knew, he was in prison. But I had old information — he apparently only served a few months in 2006, and he was introduced today to respectful applause.
Doc and Darryl Strawberry (who was also back today) were supposed to anchor the team for a decade or two and then go into the Hall of Fame together, but their cocaine habits got in the way. I don’t typically remember a lot about athletes years later, but I can still see Gooden’s nasty curveball dropping from 12 to 6 as it crosses the plate. And Strawberry had the most beautiful, fluid swing I’ve ever seen. (Trivia note: Strawberry hit over 300 homers despite his drug-shortened career, and actually got a handful of votes in Hall of Fame ballotting in 2005.)
One quirky memory from today’s game: Announcer Howie Rose said that the first four players in today’s lineup — Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran, David Wright and Carlos Delgado — had all played in at least 159 of the 162 games this season. And this is one of the reasons I love baseball — somebody cranked up the massive databases that chronicle every pitch and out, and determined it had been 40 years since another team had four players who all played at least 159 games in the regular season.
So now the 2008 Mets have taken over from the 1968 Cubs as the reigning champions of having-four-guys-play-159-games. If only they could have gotten Billy Wagner to play in a few more games …