Emptying the Locker

30mets_600.jpgThe day after Game No. 162, Mets players arrived at Shea to empty their lockers.

Today the Mets higher-ups have signed Omar Minaya to a contract extension to the year 2012.  They are also currently in negotiations with Jerry Manuel regarding his future with the Mets,

Since Mets players and management are obviously moving onward and upward, it’s high time I did the same.

In an effort to put closure on the season for myself, I first want to figuratively empty the contents of my “locker” by unloading some personal thoughts about the 2008 season.

*****

I looked up again the “five stages of grief”, as defined by Elizabeth Kübler-Ross in her book “On Death and Dying”. 

Having spent the better part of yesterday feeling inexplicably angry at the world in general, I was beginning to wonder if this was a manisfestation of the Mets not making the playoffs.  Perhaps my anger was a predictable step in my emotional catharsis. 

Then again, the cause could be attributed to a recent change in medication.

Here is the Wikipedia entry on the subject:

Stages

The stages are:

  1. Denial:
    • Example – “I feel fine.”; “This can’t be happening.”‘Not to me!”
  2. Anger:
    • Example – “Why me? It’s not fair!” “NO! NO! How can you accept this!”
  3. Bargaining:
    • Example – “Just let me live to see my children graduate.”; “I’ll do anything, can’t you stretch it out? A few more years.”
  4. Depression:
    • Example – “I’m so sad, why bother with anything?”; “I’m going to die . . . What’s the point?”
  5. Acceptance:
    • Example – “It’s going to be OK.”; “I can’t fight it, I may as well prepare for it.”

Kübler-Ross originally applied these stages to any form of catastrophic personal loss (job, income, freedom). This also includes the death of a loved one, divorce, drug addiction, or infertility. Kübler-Ross also claimed these steps do not necessarily come in the order noted above, nor are all steps experienced by all patients, though she stated a person will always experience at least two.

I was assuming that there was a normal order or sequence to these stages.  I gleaned from the above, however, that not only can the steps come in a different order, but one might not even experience every one of the stages.

 

grief.gifI hypothesize that–because of the dissapointing, embarassing way the 2007 season had ended and the fact that the media kept reminding everyone about that and asking if the Mets were beyond that–the beginning of the 2008 season we were not at “Normal Functionining”,

I think even at the beginning of the season there was “fearfulness” and “blame” and a pervasive feeling that the Mets were going to “do it again”. 

For example, with memories of the previous season fresh in their minds, it was only a matter of weeks, as I recall, before Mets fans were–as a defensive mechanism, I guess–booing relief pitchers when they got to 3-0 counts.

Another example:  after only a relatively short stretch of lackluster, sluggish playing, the cries for firing Willie Randolph were starting to be heard loud and clear.

With Randolph’s dismissal and Manuel’s different approach and the positive response he seemed to elicit in his players came a new optimism, I think.  (Or maybe this was the “Denial”:  “Everything’s FINE now!”)

Unfortunately for us all, the looser clubhouse vibe and incredible series of wins couldn’t possibly make up for all of the injuries the club would suffer.

In spite of those injuries (and there were so MANY!), somehow Jerry Manuel cobbled together a patchwork quilt of a team and–most amazingly–a held-together-with-airplane-glue-and-bailing-wire bullpen that hobbled along astoundingly for the last month of the season.

Perhaps that’s when the “bargaining” step began…at least for me.  Thoughts like, “They can’t POSSIBLY make the playoffs without Billy Wagner…can they?” would quickly be shoved aside.  One look at the standings seemed to indicate that–somehow, some way–they were going to get it done.  No, they did not have the relative comfort of a 7 1/2 game lead, but day by day, the Mets continued to tread water and somehow stay afloat.

I knew it was too good to be true, really.  And, as many have already said, it was somehow appropriate that the bullpen was what eventually lost that final game for us.

*****

Although his statement angered many Mets fans, I think Jeff Wilpon actually had it right when he stated that, considering all of the injuries that had befallen the team, the team had, in his estimation,”overachieved”.

Yes, it’s hard to accept the painful fact that, had the Mets won just ONE MORE GAME, they would’ve made the playoffs.  But, considering they were missing key personnel most of the season in left and right field, as well as at Second Base, and that an already deficient bullpen lost any kind of leadership or stability it had going for it once Billy Wagner was gone, it’s actually a miracle this team was able to keep pace through September with both their Division leaders, as well as what turned out to be their competition for the Wild Card:  the resurgent Brewers.

If one takes the attitude, “Hey, we did better than we could’ve hoped, all things considered,” the step toward Acceptance is not all that difficult.  That’s not to say that one is necessarily completely beyond the Depression stage.  Watching the first day of postseason baseball on TBS yesterday made me a little sad and wistful, especially when I heard SNY announcer Ron Darling as an on-air presence in the Dodgers-Cubs game.

*****

A very unlikely scenario has resulted from this Mets loss:  new and much more positive “Dialogue” between myself and the countless Yankees fans at work.

As much as I’m sure the prideful Yankee fan inside each of them wanted to make fun of “The Mutts”, they knew that their team had not even had a prayer during the last part of the season. 

Knowing that, I guess, their tone in general has been one of empathy and commiseration.  Surprisingly, we are now comforting each other by reminding one another that, for each of our teams, next season represents a brand new year and a new beginning in a brand new stadium.

*****

I notice that “Acceptance” is defined as having a “new plan in place”.  While I am ready to move beyond anger and depression, I do want to see the Mets get a serious plan in place for our 2009 bullpen.  I don’t think Jerry Manuel, the fans, or even the players can take another season of late-inning nail biting.

So, moving toward “Return to Meaningful Life”–definitions of which include “security”,”self-esteem”, and “empowerment”–yes, give Minaya a contract extension.  Please DO hire Jerry Manuel.  And, finally, let’s be aggressive in trying to improve upon our late-inning defense.

Those three actions alone will go a long way toward restoring the players’, the managers’, AND the fans’ security, self-esteem, confidence and empower us all to “return to meaningful life” in this off-season.  Not only that, but all of us can joyfully and confidently, rather than fearfully, anticipate the 2009 season at the new ballpark.

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