From the New York Times, a pretty stark portrayal of a night at Citi Field during this lost, lamentable September, from the perspective of a Mets fan. It’s a good article, explaining to the rest of us what Mets fans have long felt and how they approach fandom of a team that disappoints far more than it rewards:
“It’s all about loyalty and knowing what it means to lose,” he says. “We’re not like the Yankees; the expectation to win a championship isn’t always there. If you win 26, you just get greedy” … What’s our choice? To root for the triumphalist Yankees is to describe an impossibility, like walking through Manhattan chanting: “Goldman Sachs! Goldman Sachs!” Instead, we adopt the mien of Scottish highlanders facing the English army — loss is assured, but let’s go out with panache and a touch of humor.
My team has won for a long time, but as I’ve written many times in the past, there is a lot of, well, not enjoyment to be had watching a bad team day-in, day-out, but certainly something satisfying. It helps you come to a more mature relationship with sports. Forces you to assess the entire enterprise of watching a game.
What is it we really want from this team? Can we still love sports if winning is not an option? I came down firmly on “yes” some 25 years ago, and learning to truly commune with a losing team has, I think, made me enjoy the winning much more. I think Mets fans, especially Mets fans too young to remember the mid-80s, get that more than almost anyone.
The Cubs had a nice night last night. Javier Baez finally broke his hitless streak with not one but two homers. Willson Contreras hit a nearly 500-foot homer. Jake Arrieta, possibly pitching for the last time as a Cub, dug down for a gutsy performance, pitching into the seventh inning, working around some walks to allow only one run while striking out nine.
After the game, Cubs players sounded hopeful notes about believing in themselves, taking them one game at a time, getting the series back to L.A. for a Game 6 and Game 7. They’re professional athletes who know better than any of us that to achieve a thing you have to believe you can achieve that thing, so it’d be dumb to expect anything else from them in this situation. Ballplayers, quite admirably, don’t sound a note of defeat until they are actually defeated.
But let’s be realistic there: they’re still a dead team walking.
- They’re dead because, as we have been reminded oh so many times, only once in 35 tries has a team come back to win a seven game series in which they’ve found themselves down 0-3. That team did so because Dave Roberts worked some magic. Dave Roberts is working for the other team now.
- They’re dead because their biggest weakness this postseason — their bullpen — is not going to have its best pitcher, Wade Davis, available today in Game 5 after throwing 48 pitches in Game 4.
- They’re dead because while the Dodgers used five relievers last night, none of them were worked particularly hard and neither Brandon Morrow nor Kenley Jansen were used at all, allowing them to come in and work hard and heavy tonight if need be.
- They’re dead because the man on the mound to start tonight’s game is Clayton Edward Kershaw. Yes, he has had some less-than-glory-filled moments in the postseason in recent years, but all of those have come at the tail end of starts, when his managers have left him in perhaps an inning too long. See the above bullet point — and Dave Roberts’ early hook in Game 1 — if you think that’ll be a problem tonight.
The Dodgers lost last night, yes, but it was their first loss in the postseason. All teams have lost at least one postseason game since it went to the three-round format, so it was likely inevitable that L.A. would drop one. Heck, maybe they’ll drop two before the NLCS is over, but they’re not going to drop the next three in a row.
Last night’s Cubs win was nice for them, but it only delayed the inevitable.