IT WAS MEANT to be a celebration of 44 years spent at Shea Stadium. Instead, it turned into a wake.
As Yogi would say, it was a case of déjà vu all over again when, for the second year running, the New York Mets were unable to seal the deal against the Florida Marlins.
So for the first time in eons, there will be no baseball in the Big Apple this October.
The Mets and Yankees have something in common this season…and not just the fact that they finished with identical records of 89 wins against 73 losses. Neither team was able to play its best baseball when it really mattered.
While the Yankees finished with a flourish, they still fell well short of their own expectations.
Yankees fans had long since come to terms with the fact that they weren’t going to make the play-offs for the first time since 1993.
The pill of failure was much more bitter for beleaguered Mets fans to swallow as they had to sit through their team’s second successive September capitulation.
Who’s bright idea was it to hold the ‘Shea goodbye ceremony’ AFTER rather than BEFORE the game. Clearly, someone with a lot more faith in the team’s ability to perform under pressure than the fans.
Mets and Yankees must both look to the future
With the notable exception of Johan Santana – a giant among men – the big names (Reyes, Wright, Beltran, Delgado et al) failed to turn up for the party.
Now the Mets and general manager Omar Minaya must decide whether it’s time to break up the current team or apply cosmetic surgery.
It was billed as a team built to win a World Series. But you can’t win a World Series without reaching the play-offs first.
The fate of interim manager Jerry Manuel also hangs in the balance. Manuel may regard himself as “gangsta” but where were his hitmen when he needed them?
The Yanks, too, have to decide whether to keep any of the old guard (Abreu, Giambi, Pettitte, Mussina). Carl Pavano and Ivan Rodriguez will certainly be gone.
Now that he has finally achieved his goal of a 20-win season, Mussina has hinted at retirement. He still needs another 30 wins to reach 300 and earn automatic entry to baseball’s Hall of Fame.
He would probably be making a wise move to go out on a high. The odds are against him repeating the feat should he decide to return at the age of 40.
Abreu will no doubt be looking for a long-term contract, and after yet another 100 RBI season, someone is sure to give it to him.
It probably won’t be the Yanks. They need to free up as much payroll as possible to sign one, maybe two, front-line pitchers. More than likely, they will move Xavier Nady to right field, Johnny Damon to left and look for a new center fielder, along with a first baseman.
It’s going to be a quiet October in New York but a busy winter.
As witnessed at the tearful farewells to both Shea and Yankee Stadium, auld acquaintance is never forgot in the great sport of baseball.
We should always honor our heroes. But with both teams moving to new stadiums next season, it’s time to look forward rather than back.