It's October 19, 2006. Shea Stadium is loud with anticipation as the bases are loaded with two outs following a single by Endy Chavez, a single by Jose Valentin, and a walk by Paul Lo Duca. Outs were recorded by Jose Reyes and an injured Cliff Floyd. However, Carlos Beltran, the best hitter on the Mets, who has hit 41 homers this year, stands in at the plate against a young Adam Wainwright down 3-1 in the ballgame. A single up the middle should do the trick to tie the game, as speedy Chavez sits on third and Valentin can hold his own at second, a hit down the line could win the game with the fast pinch-runner Anderson Hernandez at first. A classic Beltran homer would be even better, sending the Mets to their first World Series in six years.
It's Game Seven of the National League Championship Series. The Mets shouldn't be here against the Cardinals. The Cardinals won 83 games and the Mets won 97. The Mets blew through the National League East and National League during the season and handled the NL Wild Card-winning Dodgers with relative ease in the Division Series. But the series went to seven games, as the Mets were severely short-staffed in the rotation and bullpen, missing an old-but-still-kicking Pedro Martinez (who would miss a lot of 2007 as well), a solid Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez (who wouldn't return until the World Series), and fireballing setup man Duaner Sanchez in the bullpen, who had gotten into a taxicab and an accident, ending his season. Cliff Floyd was also unable to play the field, leading to Chavez starting in left for most of the series. Oliver Perez of all people started the pivotal Game Seven.
The Mets grabbed an early lead in the first inning with a David Wright RBI single but were stymied by Jeff Suppan (REALLY?) for the rest of the game as they had been all series. The Cardinals tied it, and nearly grabbed the lead in the later innings but Endy Chavez robbed Scott Rolen of a tie-breaking home run with a miraculous catch and double play. However, Yadier Molina took Billy Wagner deep and gave the Cardinals the lead in the top of the ninth.
Young Wainwright bent in the ninth but did not break. He loaded the bases, and it was up to Beltran... who took strike one, fouled off strike two... and took the nastiest curve ever for strike three. The Cardinals went on to win the World Series, and with it, it became the first heartbreak for me as a Mets fan and the first time I cried over a sporting event at the young age of six. This would become another casualty during the Wilpon era and the first of me being a New York Mets fan.
2007 was the year they would do it right? They would make up for their mistakes, right? It seemed that way right up until the end. I was seven years old, and in my first real season of Mets fandom, being in the playoffs was all I knew as a naïve elementary school student, and there were reasons for optimism and for gloating against all my Phillies fans friends. The Mets picked up Luis Castillo to replace Valentin and an aging but still good Moises Alou to replace Cliff Floyd, and it seemed like the Mets would replicate their success in 2007... until they didn't. A seven-game division lead on September 12 seemed insurmountable at the time. I enjoyed asking my dad what the magic number was every day.
The Mets absolutely floundered down the stretch. Poor hitting, poor pitching, and injuries to .341-hitting Alou and others culminated in losing 12 of the last 17, losing 5 of 6 to the terrible Nationals and 2 of 3 to the pesky Florida Marlins. The Mets blasted the Marlins 13-0 in the penultimate game, and just needed one win to clinch at least a tie with the Phillies... and Tom Glavine sealed their fate, allowing seven runs in the first inning during the season finale. Casualty #2. Willie Randolph overused his bullpen-- Scott Schoeneweis, Aaron Heilman, and Pedro Feliciano all pitched in 65+ games, with Heilman eclipsing 80. This was partially to blame for the collapse-- the bullpen was ineffective holding late leads, and anyone else they would pitch would not be good either.
2008 was a bit different. The Phillies were rejuvenated by their postseason appearance, dominated out of the gate, but the Mets clung onto a division lead throughout the season, even leading by 3.5 at one point in September, but the same struggles of 2007 plagued them. Also, their new stadium loomed over the outfield wall. The Mets had gotten Brian Schneider and Ryan Church to replace Lo Duca and Shawn Green. Willie Randolph was fired (weirdly, at 3 a.m., following a win in Anaheim) and replaced with Jerry Manuel. Manuel and Randolph only used the trusted guys in the bullpen, pitching Heilman, Schoeneweis, Joe Smith, and Pedro Feliciano 70+ times, with Smith and Feliciano eclipsing 80 games. Duaner Sanchez pitched in 66 because no one in the bullpen outside of those guys could be trusted. The Mets crashed and burned again, and they could have forced the Brewers into a one-game playoff with a series win and could have won the Wild Card with a sweep at the hands of those Florida Marlins.
The Mets lost the first game, but a vintage Johan Santana complete-game shutout kept the season alive in the second game. It was up to Oliver Perez again. He matched opposing starter Scott Olsen's line through six, and Carlos Beltran hit a mammoth shot in the bottom of the sixth to tie the game, the last in Shea history. It was up to Schoeneweis in the eighth inning though, and in stepped Wes Helms, and out went the ball. Luis Ayala replaced him... and allowed a Dan Uggla home run. Back into the pit. The meat of the order was coming up but it didn't matter... Ryan Church hit a deep fly ball that everyone thought was out and could have tied the game, but it settled into the glove of Cameron Maybin, and with it, the season and the Mets' time at Shea Stadium ended.
2009 had reasons for excitement as well-- new stadium, new look, and generally the same core from the last few seasons-- but that was quickly dashed, as injuries to Delgado, Wagner, and others and a terrible rotation outside of Johan Santana ended the season prematurely. Also, a tall outfield wall gobbled up a lot of potential homers.
2010-13 can all be grouped as the same year, just reran. A bunch of mediocre players outside Wright, but hey-- Reyes and Beltran are still here right? Oh, Reyes won the batting title in 2011 and was let walk to the division-rival Marlins? Beltran was dealt in 2012 to the Giants for Zack Wheeler? Alright. At least Wright is still here though!
Wright was the lifeblood of the team, and it showed. This era of Mets baseball was a black hole, and my Mets fandom went into that black hole. No prospects did well, the team stood pat in the middle of the NL East, and was just a very boring team altogether. Wright was the lone bright spot.
2012 actually was a surprise year. Ike Davis and R.A. Dickey becoming gods for one season led to the team actually contending in July, but any team with Frank Francisco as a closer is not going to contend. 74-88. These teams were a 75-win express. Dickey took home the Cy Young for his efforts that season, but that was the only hardware.
By 2014 though, the framework for a contender was being laid. That season was solid, and the Mets made some good moves in the offseason, landing Curtis Granderson and Bartolo Colon, who quickly became fan favorites. The Mets had some prospects for once, and the pitching was on the cusp of being incredible. Jacob deGrom took home rookie of the year, and while the Mets did not make the postseason, you could tell they were close.
2015 was truly different. They won 11 in a row at one point, and I was back to watching and mostly listening on the radio with my dad. They lacked hitting by the deadline, and under the wire picked up Yoenis Cespedes, who absolutely blossomed on this team. The team rode great pitching and slugging to a surprise East Division victory and all the way to the World Series. The Royals seemed no match for this team... who in turn forgot how to play baseball for five games. The Familia quick pitch and Cespedes backhand in Game 1. Letting Johnny Cueto flourish in Game 2. They won Game 3, but the Daniel Murphy error and Cespedes being doubled off in Game 4 ended that high. The bullpen sucking for most of the series. One (1) out-of-the-park homer by the Royals. Two homers total, both in Game 1. Getting BABIP'd to death in the series. Terry Collins getting bullied by Matt Harvey in Game 5, and another Daniel Murphy error. It all culminated with a Christian Colon base hit in extra innings... Flores, down looking, Mets lose 7-2 and 4-1 to the worst World Series winner of the 2010s. I did not cry over this game, as I had gone to sleep long before the nightmarish 12th inning. Also, David Wright was diagnosed with spinal stenosis which effectively ended his career. So many props to David for sticking it out through all the pain.
2016 was similar, and the team went to a Wild Card thanks to surprise replacement pitching but knew it couldn't be sustained throughout a postseason. Noah Syndergaard pitched the game of his life in that Wild Card Game, matching zeroes with Bumgarner, and Addison Reed pitched a scoreless eighth, and all my hopes and dreams were crushed with a deep fly ball for a home run by Conor Gillaspie. Ty Kelly has the most recent Mets postseason hit, by the way.
2017-20 has been more of the same. Bad managing, injuries, no clutch hitting, poor decisions, and bad baseball. But... light at the end of the tunnel? The Wilpon era was defined by not being able to sustain success. 2019, while exciting and the best finish since 2016, left the Mets fans starving for postseason baseball.
I'll touch on that light in a bit, but here is a brief history of the casualties and meddling of the Wilpon Era, 2005-present:
Forcing Pedro Martinez to pitch injured for a meaningless game against the Marlins in 2005 against Dontrelle Willis to sell tickets, Martinez would have multiple injuries to follow that season and missed the 2006 playoffs and a lot of 2007
Firing Willie Randolph after a win, on the West Coast, at 3 a.m.
Hiring a bad training staff
A staff that made Ryan Church fly cross-country with a concussion
Not staff-related but Ike Davis somehow got valley fever and it sapped all his power
Letting Noah Syndergaard skip an MRI, leading to a torn lateral and a 23-5 loss
Countless other misdiagnosed injuries
Jeff Wilpon calling the Mets a "s---y team"
Jeff Wilpon saying David Wright is "not a superstar"
Choosing former agent Brodie Van Wagenen as GM instead of young, analytics-driven candidate Chaim Bloom
Van Wagenen batted about .150 with the success of his signings and trades
Penny-pinching for signings and ruining the farm system for terrible trades
Letting Daniel Murphy walk to a division rival
Designating Justin Turner and Travis d'Arnaud for assignment, who became stars after
The Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme
Paying Jed Lowrie for seven at-bats in two seasons and being very candid about his injuries
Soiling the relationship between them and Yoenis Cespedes, telling the fans he went missing as opposed to him just opting out of the 2020 season
This doesn't nearly highlight all the drama and pain of the Wilpon Era, and I will link this article to show you the rest. But for once, there is light at the end of the tunnel. Steve Cohen purchased the Mets, and with the sale being official as of today and his introductory press conference happening earlier, he will be the richest owner in baseball. The possibilities are endless. He is interacting with fans on Twitter already and asking them the changes they want to see in the team, which is something we never saw with the Wilpons. The team could finally be run like the big-market team it should be. For once, I finally am optimistic about the future of this team, as opposed to asking myself "what is going to happen next?" Get ready, baseball world. Mets fans are about to be unbearable.