Closely following your favorite Major League Baseball team over the course of a season is an exercise in pain tolerance. Over the course of 162 games, even the greatest teams of all time lose around 50 times. Different franchises, though, are known for inflicting different types of pain.
For Mets sickos like myself, we know the slow death, the not-meeting-expectations, the injury bug. But our most intimately familiar brand of pain is of the searing variety—waking up on a perfectly nice day, going outside for some sun, and promptly getting run over by a large vehicle.* (Don’t believe me? Try Googling, just off the top of my head, "Mets bat out of order," "Matt Harvey 1Oak," "Lucas Duda Game 5 Ninth Inning," "Yoenis Cespedes boar," "Mets manager fights reporter," "David Wright spinal stenosis," "Mr. Met flips off fan," "Duaner Sanchez cab," "Beltran NLCS strike three," "Luis Castillo dropped pop up," "Bobby Bonilla," "Wilpons Madoff," "2007 Mets collapse.")
The above parenthetical makes up much of Mets lore for fans around my vintage (25). For me, it's all running through my head constantly when I watch a Mets game. I've been run over so many times that I have spent much of my Mets life lying down on the street, waiting for the next set of wheels. It hurts less that way.
And yet, I have decided to dust myself off. To get up off the mat. To look both ways before crossing. I implore other Mets fans to do the same. Because you don't want to have your head in the sand (or on the pavement) when the magic does come.
This year's team, for almost the entire season, looked different. Gone are the days of our previous cheapskate owners—we have replaced them with Steve Cohen of financial fraud fame, who is spending money on the team like the feds are going to bust through his door at any second (and they might).
The Mets quite possibly have the two best starting pitchers in baseball—the precise, quiet, lanky Jacob deGrom, the owner of some of the purest mechanics in the game, and the excitable veteran bulldog, mad Max Scherzer, he of the two different-colored eyes and the most intimidating stare-down in the game.
They have Francisco Lindor, for my money the best shortstop in the game and certainly the most fun. "Mr. Smile" spent his second year with the team shattering all of their single-season shortstop records. There's Pete Alonso, quite possibly the corniest player in the sport who also knows how to launch towering home runs, and Jeff McNeil, nicknamed the "Squirrel," and the new owner of the MLB batting title. Their left fielder Mark Canha is frequently dripped out in Prada shades on the field and runs a food-centric Instagram off it. Closer Edwin Diaz has me blasting his entrance music at inappropriate times of day.
If you couldn't tell, I love these guys. They spent almost the entire season in first place and won 101 games, a feat bested in franchise history only by the World Champion 1986 team, and punched their ticket to the playoffs weeks ago. They also, less than a week ago, sustained a mini-collapse where they lost the division lead, and therefore a bye for the (newly created and fraudulent) first "Wild Card" playoff round, to the defending world champion Atlanta Braves, who have been a truly hateable franchise for as long as I've lived. Those tires knocking me off my feet feel familiar. Are those Firestone?
Here's the thing, though. All year, due to my favorite franchise's past misdeeds, it's been hard to buy in all the way. Fellow fans have been predicting a massive collapse for months, unable to believe the team might actually be good. For my part, I have decided I will no longer live in fear. I will not let the possibility of defeat taint the potential joy of victory. I plan to enjoy America's most miserable sport. I will be optimistic until this team beats it out of me again.
The Mets have to win two out of three this weekend at home against the San Diego Padres to advance to the next round. I will be there on Saturday, in the worst seats in the house. I am, in the digital pages of Hell Gate, predicting a Mets victory. If I'm wrong, you can find me lurking in the back of safer streets meetings, muttering about how 2023 might just be their year.
*Ed. Note: Streetsblog reporter and well-known Mets sicko Dave Colon did not get metaphorically hit by a truck, but rather did in fact get hit by an actual vehicle on his way to a Mets game one year. Reached for comment about McHugh's comparison, Colon extemporaneously responded with a string of other strange Mets anecdotes: "There's always some irritating or embarrassing thing about being a Mets fan. Sometimes they get swept in Atlanta when that's less than ideal, sometimes it's Karim Garcia and Shane Spencer beating up a pizza delivery guy during spring training, sometimes it's the owners suddenly losing all their money. I will take the team incomprehensibly blowing it in late September over the other things." He says this year, however, was*not* like getting hit by a truck.