Great Moments in Awful Planning
Around 4:30 Sunday afternoon, the New York Mets concluded their 2008 season in miserably disappointing fashion, losing 4-2 to the Florida Marlins to finish one game back for the National League wild card. Just as on the last Sunday of the 2007 campaign, the Mets lost a game they needed to win, at the hands of the Marlins, in front of a shocked and despondent home crowd.
About a half-hour later, the team held its "Shea Goodbye" ceremony to close out Shea Stadium, its home for the last 45 seasons. To my mild surprise, most of the sellout crowd stayed around--though they did boo Mr. Met when he tore off the "1" banner on the outfield fence, used all season to indicate how many games remained to be played at the old brick pile out in Queens, to reveal the logo of the new Citi Field, which opens next April.
(A very brief aside: I'm all about booing Mr. Met. As a Philadelphian, I feel like it's a personal insult whenever the p/a announcer describes the mascot--a guy in a baseball uniform with a big baseball for a head--as "the best mascot in baseball." Our Large Green Whatever sets the standard--always has, always will.)
I didn't watch all of the ceremony, which seemed mostly to consist of introducing conspicuous Mets of ancient and recent vintage--from Yogi Berra, whom I didn't remember managed the team for awhile in the '70s, and Willie Mays, whose short Mets career I've always understood is best forgotten, to the frequently odious Dave Kingman, more recent heroes like Mike Piazza, and all-time Met great Tom Seaver. A couple current Mets broadcasters, 1986 World Champion teammates Ron Darling and Keith Hernandez, were recognized and honored; it must have been strange to sit in the booth watching the club's playoff hopes dwindle and finally die, then rush downstairs to don a replica jersey and take the field for a quick beauty pageant wave.
Perhaps grateful for the distraction of happier times, the crowd seemed to get somewhat into it as the event wore on and the more recent stars took their bows. But it's hard to imagine any real fond feeling after watching the team fall short in agonizing fashion for a second straight year. Obviously the way things worked out--closing the stadium literally minutes after finishing one of its most painful memories--was a worst-case scenario. But other, rosier scenarios, from a play-in game that would have come tomorrow had the Mets won today, to a few World Series dates in late October, might have been awkward as well: why "Shea Goodbye" when great moments might have remained in the old yard? And there wasn't even additional money to be made, far as I could tell. It was just badly conceptualized, and probably they should have avoided the whole thing rather than tempting the always-perverse baseball gods.