Mets Fans, This Is What Winning Is Like
"Is this what it feels like to be a Yankees fan?"
That's the question I've been asked by Mets fans and fellow sportswriters marveling at this wonderfully strange and unfamiliar feeling sweeping through Flushing this season, with the Mets in first place and brimming with unaccustomed confidence.
Last night at Citi Field was no exception. Trailing the Colorado Rockies 2-1 with the bases loaded in the bottom of the seventh, and with Curtis Granderson staring down a 3-2 pitch with two outs, the Mets found themselves in the kind of situation that had usually signaled impending doom in the past. And yet the ballpark was confident that the Mets were about to pull this off. Granderson was then hit by a pitch, forcing in the tying run, followed immediately by a two-run single by Daniel Murphy to put the Mets ahead, 4-2, for good.
A year ago, this wasn't the kind of game the Mets would be sure they could win, manager Terry Collins said. But this season's team is different. This month's team is different: flashback to before the All-Star break, when Michael Conforto was being held in the minor leagues, Jon Niese wasn't getting any run support, and it seemed like half the roster was injured. Now, the team's unexpected trade-deadline acquisitions are paying off, Niese's strong starts are rewarded with wins and Collins suddenly has to decide between Conforto and high-priced free agent Michael Cuddyer as he returns from an injury. Things are even looking up for star-crossed third baseman David Wright.
Travel crosstown, and you'll see a team and a fan base on an entirely different trajectory. The Yankees went 17-7 in July and enjoyed a seemingly comfortable six-game lead in the American League East. What changed on July 31 wasn't just the team's inability to do anything significant at the trade deadline. (What, exactly, is a "Dustin Ackley"?) It was the looming specter of the Toronto Blue Jays and their blockbuster acquisitions.
Toronto landed Troy Tulowitzki from Colorado, a longtime fantasy of Yankees fans dreaming of a replacement for Derek Jeter, and acquired ace David Price from the Tigers. After they swept the Yankees last weekend, a thick cloud of uncertainty wafted in over the Bronx. The Yankees' division lead has been cut to 1.5 games, with 10 matchups remaining against the Blue Jays.
The tables have turned, it seems. Mets fans, used to tempering their celebrations in anticipation of yet another letdown, are riding high, getting a much-deserved taste of what it feels like to think you're going to win every time your team steps onto the field. Yankees fans are confronted with that feeling of uncertainty that they've never quite come to grips with since their dynasty era ended.
To Mets fans, all I can say is: Enjoy it. Forgo your natural inclination toward worry and skepticism and just run with it, all the way to the playoffs. It's really one of the great joys of sports fandom, the at-times-irrational hope and optimism that can supersede any kind of statistical analysis. The idea that you're somehow destined to win, no matter what the matchups and splits have to say about it.
I've long said, semi-jokingly, that rooting for the Yankees is the sports equivalent of having white privilege. Yankees fans have an unearned sense of entitlement, a feeling that no matter how many mistakes we make, things will work out for us in the end, even though we've been losing our grip on power for more than a decade. It's comforting to believe that, for some reason, your team deserves to win, that miracles can happen up until the 27th out, that the natural order of things is for your team to come out on top.
Few other fan bases are more loyal and deserving of turning self-deprecation into self-appreciation than the Mets. It's about time another group of fans got to experience that heady mix of unabashed hubris and naive faith -- all the better if we can keep that feeling within city limits.
Welcome to looking at the world through orange-colored glasses.
This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.
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