“It breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart.”

No one can better grasp the meaning of Bart Giamatti’s famous description of baseball than a Mets fan watching his team play the Yankees.

In the series opener, the over-rested no-hit hero Johan Santana had no change-up and was torched for 4 HRs, including 3 in a row, starting with Robinson Cano‘s deja vu first-pitch 2-run bomb, while Hiroki Kuroda (1-5, 5.75 ERA in 7 prior starts vs. NYM) utterly baffled them for 7 scoreless innings.

In game 2, the Mets led 2-1 in the 6th until Dillon Gee tried to bury a curve under Mark Teixeira for the 2nd time in an AB. Hang ’em and bang ’em, as Keith Hernandez says. The Mets threatened in the 7th and 9th, but couldn’t cash.

In game 3, they led 3-0 since the 2nd — could’ve been more, but Jason Bay (0-11 since his return) whiffed with the bases full and 1 out, and David Wright followed suit. With 2 gone in the 7th, Wright bounced a routine throw to first, and Vinny Rottino couldn’t pick it. Russell Martin — allowed to face Jon Niese even though he was hitting .333/1.017 against lefties and .175/.633 against righties — made them pay, planting one atop the RF wall, just beyond Scott Hairston‘s glove. A textbook Yankee Stadium cheapie, yes, but the field plays the same for both teams.

They still led by a run in the 8th, but no Mets fan could have felt confident with this bullpen, this park, this opponent. Derek Jeter led off with a roller to short, do-or-die for a charging Omar Quintanilla; he whiffed, and when the ball trickled into no-man’s land, Jeter hustled into second. Curtis Granderson flicked one into left to put men on the corners. With Teixeira up, they positioned for the DP instead of doing the shift, and Teix grounded one through the middle for the tying run, as Grandy scooted to 3rd. Bobby Parnell got 2 strikes on A-Rod, who didn’t have a go-ahead RBI in the 7th or later in more than a calendar year, but couldn’t put him away. His mile-high pop to shallow right seemed like an easy out, but Hairston, starting from the warning track and not blessed with speed, couldn’t get there, and it fell for the go-ahead hit.

OK, it wasn’t Luis Castillo dropping a last-out pop fly to turn victory into defeat. It still hurts.

There are times I wish I could quit on this team. I tried for 2 months to have no expectations, no aspirations. But they hooked me with “No-han” — even though I know as well as anyone that a no-hitter is ultimately meaningless.

But they just can’t hold a lead; their 13 blown saves is the most in MLB. They don’t give up, it’s true — Lucas Duda and then (who’d’a thunk?) Ike Davis opened the 9th with doubles, tying the game (Soriano‘s first blown save). But that just creates more chances for agita, like Davis making the 1st out at 3rd on a grounder to SS (it wasn’t a bad play, really, just one of those blasted things), or Josh Thole getting ahead 2-0 with the go-ahead run on 3rd and 1 out, then taking a called strike 3, or Kirk Nieuwenhuis (.191 vs. LHPs) having to bat against Boone Logan because we have no bench. So now we’re all set up for a Yankees walk-off….

… and Jon Rauch gets it done straight away, serving it up to Martin (his first game-winning hit in 5 years), taking his 6th loss in his last 14 games (11 runs, 21 hits in 12 IP) along with the Mets’ 6th loss in 7, half of them give-aways.

It breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart.


“It breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart.” — 37 Comments

  1. “No one can better grasp the meaning of Bart Giamatti’s famous description of baseball than a Mets fan watching his team play the Yankees.”

    Clearly, you’re not from Boston.

    • Weren’t you guys supposed to be over that, already? :)

      But seriously … It may be a subtle distinction, and it still may not ring true to most people, but I was careful not to say that “Mets fans know better than anyone else….” In other words, I am happy to concede a tie; I certainly don’t think that my suffering is deeper than anyone else’s.

      But the gloom from seeing the Mets humiliated by the Yankees is compounded, as e pluribus noted, by having to live and work among their fans. By no means are all Yankee fans obnoxious gloaters — barely more so than Mets fans, in my experience. It’s still something I could do without on a Monday.

    • Speaking as a Red Sox fan, I would like to postulate that both the Mets (same city) and Red Sox (same league, division, same age) are in part the “natural rivals” of the Yankees (partly ignoring the phrase’s use as part of the vocabulary of interleague play).

      And seasons like this (and 2010 and 2011) are reminding Red Sox fans of what it really is to be a Red Sox fan. A few more likeable players would be nice (just one workhorse pitcher, just one!). The Mets seem to have a wealth of likeable players now, at least.

      I don’t think I want to see the Yankees sweep any team, but especially not the Mets; the Yankees have the whole world, they don’t need (or deserve!) to own their shared hometown.

      And John, thanks for pointing out the Giamatti quote.

  2. Some teams are better than others at guiding their fans in character building experiences. Reading John’s post, I thought about Cubs fans and long suffering people in Pittsburgh and Kansas City (only one group suffering at the moment), people being steeled for a higher destiny, no doubt.

    The Yankees have a noble tradition of improving the moral fibre of their opponents’ fans. I think that for many Mets fans in New York, the difference between them and the good folks in Boston is that Sox rooters don’t have to spend the next day surrounded by Yankee fans anticipating grateful acknowledgment of yesterday’s lessons.

  3. On a positive note, at least the Mets are still 4 games over .500. Our Tigers are still 5 games under and I’m not seeing a lot of reason to be optimistic. Most of the guys that I thought were going to hit or pitch well are, plus a couple that have surprised me. Most of the guys I didn’t think were going to hit or pitch well aren’t and I don’t hold out a lot of hope that that’s going to change or that someone will be coming in to replace them.

    I’m feeling a little pessimistic this evening.

    • Reasons for optimism, Hartvig: Action Jackson is back, we hung a crooked number on Aroldis, Benoit is rounding into form just as he did last year (22 Ks, 3 walks, 2 runs in his last 17 games), and … uh … our second basemen can’t hit .175 all year (can they?).

      • “our second basemen can’t hit .175 all year (can they?)

        Possibly not.

        And that’s what worries me.

        This may actually be the high point of the season for them…

        • In ’68 Tiger shortstops batted .163. Should Jackson be getting ready to take over second in the postseason.

          • Hmm … He is the same age as Mickey Stanley was in ’68 — and I sure like the sound of that “postseason” talk. :)

  4. True. It works both ways, though, for those of us who have been in NY for a while. Mets fans were quite good at dishing it out during the 1980s, and in fact when I first arrived back in city in the earlier 70s as a kid. They still are. They just had more to work with when the Mets were really good. And they will again when the Mets are once again good. I have no doubt that Alderson and company will put a top product on the field within the next few year. Kind of amazed what they’ve done so far with little to work with.

    I kind of live on a fault line, in a minority of NY baseball fans in that I actually follow both teams, although I’m certainly more Yankee fan than Met. For awhile, in the beginning, I wasn’t even quite sure what team I cared more about, that is until they started playing each other in games. I suddenly realized I was rooting for the Yankees.

    The New York tristate is an interesting place to be a fan. In many markets there is no competition for fandom. One team. In New York, kids are raised in an environment of Yankee fans, Met fans, even a good number of Red Sox, especially in the confused state of CT. And New York being New York means tons of people from other locations relocating here, bringing their loyalties to other teams with them. It’s such a heterogeneous area that NYers are used to the constant verbal sparring.

      • You’re certainly right, Mike D. (and Mike L., New Yorkers both, it seems). These things work in rhythms, and during the rare times when Mets fans have been kings of the hill, relatively speaking, I’m sure they exhibited the moral weaknesses common among winning fans (I’d packed up my own and carried them to other cities by then).

        I grew up in ’50s-’60s Manhattan and the dynamic was unusual: passionate Yankee fans were scarce among the young people I knew – with few exceptions, a bad year for the Yankees had become occasionally losing a 7-game Series, and I guess that dulls the senses. Once there were no local alternatives left, I’d go to the Stadium to root for the Visitors, and the crowd noise proved that I had lots of company. We’d leave schooled and sullen (unless the Tigers were in town).

        In 1960, a classmate convinced our teacher to let him smuggle a tiny portable TV into school so we could watch the Series. He was the exception to my rule: a passionate, Mantle-worshipping Yankee fan. Maz hit his hit and it turned out there was not a single other Yankee fan in the class. Looking at my classmate’s stricken face as the room broke into pandemonium around the TV set he’d brought us was a lesson in moral relativism – I sometimes encounter him and to this day I always make a point to be specially nice. Still, he was back on top a year later, and he’s ended many seasons cheering since. When I see the Yankees stomp on the Mets, it brings me some comfort to feel concern about the health of his soul.

        • The Yankees could fail to win a World Series (or even be in one) for the next 25 years, and their fans would have little or no reason to kvetch and moan about their team’s lack of success.

          I believe the cliche back then was:
          “Rooting for the Yankees is like rooting for U.S. Steel” (nowadays would that be Microsoft?).

          I’d say the same thing about Packers/ Celtics/ Lakers/ Canadians fans, too (amongst others).

          Let the other teams have a chance, it’s good for that sport.

          • Depends upon your age. When the Yankees won in 2009, I think it was ESPN who did a tongue-in-cheek story on “long-suffering” Yankee fans who hadn’t seen their team in the World Series in eight years. The story was funny because it was serious. They interviewed a bunch of 8 to 10-year-olds who had no memory of the Yankees winning a World Series. As adults we find this all kind of funny, yet we remember being kids ourselves. This is all serious stuff!

            I can identify. When I moved into New York, I followed by the Yankees and Mets, and still do to this day but I eventually became more of a Yankee fan. Yet it wasn’t making the easy choice of following the winners. Just the opposite. I’m talking early 70s. A few years removed from the Miracle Mets, and right on top of the Ya Gotta Believe, Tug McGraw NY Mets. The Yankees were a faded empire in those days, first ruined by CBS, and then bought by someone unknown shipbuilder from Cleveland. In those days, I found myself having to defend the Yankees more so than ever the Mets.

            New York was a National League city in those days, going back to the Giants and the Dodgers. My father told me that there were always more Yankee fans in NY than either Dodger or Giants fans, but collectively there were more Dodger and Giants fans than Yankee fans. Two teams to one, hence NY was a NL town. Like a regional pub, people were fans based on their location in the city. So when the Giants and the Dodger fans in NY were screwed over by MLB and the city (I’m sorry, that was before my time, but the city and MLB did screw over their fans by removing not one, but both NL teams!) it’s not as if they became Yankee fans. They waited until the Mets showed up and then raised their children as Mets fans. That regionalism still exists. Head out to Long Island and it’s heavy, heavy Mets territory. Head out toward Westchester and more north also toward Jersey and you will find far more Yankee fans.

            So getting back to my fandom, to a kid a team winning a World Series before he was born or aware of baseball is not a good thing. Five years to a ten-year-old is in some ways longer than 25 years to an adult. The kid feels worse: “Oh, great, I’m following the most successful team ever, but now they suck!”

            Steinbrenner changed the dynamics in New York, and turned an NL town into a Yankee town. At one point rooting for both teams, what turned me more toward the Yankees in those earlier days was Steinbrenner’s committment. The Mets always had access to the same resources, and indeed more in the beginning, than did the Yankees. Yet Steinbrenner kept building, while the Mets didn’t. Worse, the Mets traded the city’s favorite player — not just favorite Met player, but favorite player period — away. Tom Seaver given away because of pettiness. Steinbrenner demanded the Yankees own the back pages and was bringing in players like Reggie Jackson, while the Mets were shipping out players like Seaver. To a kid, it just made no sense because we knew the Mets could afford to keep him.

            I have high hopes again for the Mets under Alderson and company. A well-run team with access to money (no, it doesn’t have to be Yankee-level money) should do quite well in coming years. New York is never more fun baseball wise when both teams are winning.

          • I hate it when there are two sides to the story!

            No, you’re perfectly right about Mets management, Mike D, and the horror of the Seaver trade. Your personal journey to Yankee fandom illuminates a window of post-1920 baseball experience.

            I was struck by your comment that MLB screwed the NL fans in New York. Others can probably offer more insight, but I don’t think there really was any “MLB” in ’57 – not in the sense we mean it now. The eight NL league owners were their own cartel; the commissioner was a cipher in the pocket of the Yankees; the interests of O’Malley and Webb flowed together, and destiny, along with Stoneham, moved in their wake.

            Of course, many now lay the blame at Robert Moses’ feet, which would absolve O’Malley much as blaming MLB would. I’m personally ready to forgive O’Malley. Right after we welcome Shoeless Joe to the Hall.

          • E pluribus munu, I knew I was writing more from emotion when I said MLB and the city screwed over NL fans in New York. In reality, Moses was the king maker, and MLB as an entity was very different in those days than today. Taking it a step further, the move of the Giants and the Dodgers out west actually greatly increased the popularity of the game. I just can’t imagine what it must have been like to be a fan of those teams, and to wake up and realize your favorite teams packed up and headed to California, leaving the Yankees as the only game in town.

            It all worked out well in the end. Yet I still think at least one of those teams should be returned to NY. They were just loaned!

          • The Packers were terrible almost every year from 1969 to 1991… and have only won 2 championships in 45 years. So they’re not quite the Yankees.

            Also, us Packer fans aren’t enormous jackasses.

    • It occurs to me that, while we may not have as big a community here as there was on Baseball-Reference, one benefit is that nobody here complains about a long comment. I like that we’re a bunch of readers & writers.

  5. About a third of all New Yorkers were born in another country (yes, I know most Americans would say we were all born in another country). About 40% of the kids in the public school system speak a language other than English at home, and the DOE translates documents into 14 primary languages. We aren’t Iowa (for better and worse). We are broadly tolerant (in a grumbling way, when the taxi driver seems to think the Upper West Side is located in Staten Island) of other cultures here, with exceptions-my people are not too enthusiastic about those with too much “aaahh” in their accents, and those somewhat misguided Queens folk don’t much care for lovers of cheese steaks or third basemen named “Larry”.

    John A, cheer up. The Mets have some nice young players, and the Yankees are old old old. You have 1969 and 1986-being on a circadian cycle of 17 years could mean 2013 is next. Think of it this way, Venus passed across the surface of the Sun, and that isn’t expect to re-occur until 2117. You wonder if celestial Gods are Cubs fans?

    • Our 17-year cycle should have put the Mets in the winner’s circle in 2003. If the team skipped a cosmic groove, that puts things up to 2020 – so I will gladly accept 2013 instead. :)

      • Nightfly, very good point. My entire cosmic sensibility was thrown off by the fact that in 2003 the Mets had Steve Trachsel as their ace. So much time passed between pitches that I’m afraid it may be 34 years. Sorry.

    • The only time frame that applies to us Cub fans is geological. Or evolutional. The Cubs will win the Series when Cub pitchers evolve third arms.

      But who cares? I played basketball to win. I cheer for the Cubs because if you grew up going to Wrigley Field in the 1960s and ’70s, despite all the losing, you got spoiled. (Though for a while Bill Veeck’s Rent-A-Team White Sox and old Comiskey Park gave the Cubs a run for their money in what it meant to attend a ballgame.)

  6. “Meet the Met’s, greet the Met’s. Step right up and “beat” the Met’s. Bring the kiddies, bring the wife, guarnateed to have the time of your life.

    “Cause the Met’s are really socking the ball, hitting the home runs over the
    wall. East side, West side, everybody’s coming down. To meet the M-E-T-S
    Met’s of New York High.”

    Now stay tuned for Ralph Kiner, Lindsey Nelson and Bob Murphy on WOR.

    • Who could hear or even read that lovely ditty and not smile? And the indirect reminder of our current broadcast team brings me further cheer. So thanks, Jason.

      • John A, your current broadcasting team is a lot (A LOT) better than my broadcasting team. I keep asking myself if it’s possible to listen to the games on the radio with the sound off.

      • Met and got Bob Murphy’s autograph in 1995 at a restaurant in West Palm Beach that I ran.

        Great guy.

        Full disclosure-born in White Plains and started watching
        baseball in the summer of 76 at my dads behest. It was my
        first year at first base and he felt I could get some pointers by watching the big leaguers.

        First game I watched on TV was a Met’s and Pirate’s game that summer. Hooked ever since.

        We got WOR and WPIX with an atenna. So I could see both teams over 100 times a year for free.

        My dad always took me to Shea because quite frankly, the neighborhood around Yankee stadium scared him. Remember this
        was the late 70’s. Landlords were burning their buildings back then.

        Preferring the NL style, I tended to watch the Met’s more than the Yankees. I used to love the rain delay’s. Because that was
        when they would show highlights of 69.

        In 86, game 6 I was in Orlando for an awards banquet. Everyone went out. I stayed in the room at the resort and watched that game. Not even moving once Gary Carter got that base hit, lest my shifting positions would damage the karma as it occured.

        It was amazin…

        Today my alleigance is more to the Yankees, but I will always have a soft spot for the Met’s. You don’t forget going to Shea
        in the late 70’s with less than 10K in the stands.

        I remember how pumped I was when Mark Bomback won 10 games.

        For a time, in 76, Skip Lockwood was my favorite Met.

        Great memories.

  7. I was always fascinated by how diametrically opposed the Mets and Yankees success was for the first forty years of the Mets.

    1962 thru 1964 – Yanks in 3 WS / Mets had 3 of the worst seasons in MLB History
    1965 thru 1975 – Yanks fall to bottom of AL / Mets in 2 WS
    1976 thru 1983 – Yanks in 4 WS / Mets sting together a buch of 90 loss seasons***
    1984 thru 1992 – Yanks 0 playoffs / Mets Win 1 WS and get to game 7 of another NLCS
    1993 thru 1998 – Yanks start their playoff/WS run / Mets start bad, end decent, 0 playoffs
    1999 thru 2000 – Finally, Both teams are great at the same time, culminating in the Subway Series of 2000.

    I think everything after 2000 is kind of skewed because with the extra playoff teams, and the huge salary, the key leftover players (like Rivera), and well-timed signings, the Yankees have been able to make the playoffs virtually every year (while losing in the first round many times and with a collapse against the Sox). Combining that with some rebuilding and poor performances down the stretch by the Mets, the gap between the 2 teams seems a little bigger than it really was the last 10 years.

    ***My wife has always been a Mets fan and she absolutely loved those 1977 thru 1983 teams. Frank Taveras is her favorite player of all-time. She also loved Mazilli, Youngblood, Flynn, Torre, Niel Allen, Butch Benton, Steve Henderson, Willie Montanez, etc. She said it was easy to root for those teams (as compared to more recent teams that had various levels of success). But I think that has to do with the fact that those are the teams of her youth.

    • I grew up with those Mets teams too. Same years as your wife.

      They were terrible, and after June 15, 1977 it felt hopeless, but
      you had to watch. It was like a train wreck, you couldn’t take your
      eyes away.

      I was so glad that they bought Mazzilli back in 86.

      Remember those basket catches he made?

  8. The Yanks had about 6 All Stars on the field at any given time. The Mets have a lineup with multiple guys hitting under .225. What’s wrong with this picture?

  9. #17/ Mike D – Sorry, but I’m still not feeling any sympathy whatsoever for young Yankees fans of any era, except the tiniest bit for those who started following them in the mid/late 60s. I understand what the mindset is when you are just starting out following a team, but it’s simply _not good_ for one or two teams to dominate a sport over an extended period of time (see: MLB and the Yankees from 1947-1964).

    The experience of being a fan is somewhat irrational, so it’s kind of contradictory to explain emotional responses logically.

    • …but Lawrence, you don’t have to feel sympathy. Be thee Yankee fan or Yankee hater, fandom is a sea of irrationality.

  10. Hey, I’m a Yankee fan. I grew up with Horace Clarke and Jerry Kenney.

    But I what I want to say is your entry was beautifully written. Very well done. I visited some previous posts and thought the same thing. You’re a really good writer.

    I think the key to Game #3 was that 3-run Met inning that still had the bases jammed, 1 out, and Bay and Wright coming up. Just a sac fly by Bay would have made the difference.

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