“This Is Going to Hurt So Much”: A Mets 2015 Season Memoir

The Mets were created to break your heart, and there’s been no season in my lifetime that did so as effectively as this one. This season hurt the most, because we all truly believed. But I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

There is always a little tension between generations of fandom. This is especially true with the New York Mets.

Older generations of fans feel like they’ve seen it all; they carry with them the experiences, and feelings, and joys, and burdens of seasons long gone by. Because of that, they “know better” than younger fans, who simply haven’t lived through it yet. Younger generations have the same kind of bias, blessed with an optimism and objectivity that older fans no longer have. Unburdened by memory, younger fans are believe it is they who see clearer.

When it comes to the Mets, older fans have some serious mileage on them. They saw the Mets blitz through the National League and win the World Series in 1986 (“The Bad Guys Won”). And if they are just a little bit older… they saw a Miracle. But between those rare high points, they’ve seen an awful lot of failure; and not just normal failure, the Mets special brand of it. They saw the team bottom out in the early 90’s (“Worst Team Money Can Buy”). They saw the 2007 Collapse and the Madoff Scandal. And if they are just a little bit older… they saw epic futility (“Can’t Anybody Here Play This Game?”).

With that in mind, it’s hard to blame the older generation for being a little pessimistic about things. But for the rest of us, the remaining die-hards, we are still here. As someone who considers himself part of the younger crowd — if only perhaps for a little while longer — we could still squeeze out some optimism for the 2015 Mets. Some of us, like myself, thought the Mets had a shot of having a great year this year.

And bless our hearts, we were right.

And wrong.

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The Mets started the year with a bang, winning eleven in a row to shoot out to a commanding 4.5 game lead in the NL East the end of April. No longer would the Mets need to play way over their heads to secure a winning season — in fact, if the Mets just played .500 ball the rest of the way, they would have finished the year 86-76. If you thought the Mets were a little better than a .500 team, then it suddenly was realistic to think that they could just tread water to win 90 or 92 games and secure a Wild Card spot.

IMG_8695For most of us, it was delirious to watch the team reel off win after win. But for older fans, it was just the Mets. The Same old Mets. “They’re just getting your hopes up,” said my mother, who had seen a husband and now a son lose too many good years to Mets fandom.

So, despite the Mets’ hot start, fans of the team are dogged by past failures. Mets failures are mentioned in newspapers, and blogs, and conversations at the bar. They come up when you talk to your Dad, or the guy at the deli. Yankee fan friends take particular glee in mentioning them.

If you believed that this year could be the year, you wanted to tell those people to shut up. This year wasn’t like other years, and these players, none of whom were around in 1993 or even 2007 sure don’t care about fans’ institutional memory. Each game, and each season, is it’s own entity, no matter how much people want to put their narratives on it. That’s the advantage of inexperience.

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Some time during the Mets hot stretch in April, my cousin, who I share season tickets with, looked at me and cracked the following joke:

“This is going to hurt so much.”

He didn’t have to explain it, because any Mets fan would know what he meant. No matter how far ahead of their competitors in the standings they were, people were still going to think that the Mets would blow it. To some degree, even we thought that, the bloom of our youthful optimism having faded somewhat over the last decade.

We said it all the time. After the Wilmer Flores walk-off home run? This is going to hurt so much. After the Mets beat the Nationals on Sunday, August 2nd, to pull into a tie for the NL East lead? This is going to hurt so much. With every passing day, and every wonderful thing that happened, it became more true.

We never discussed exactly why we’d say it. Part of it, I’m sure, was to laugh off the fear that it would actually happen. Part of it was certainly to blend in with fans on the Long Island Railroad or with co-workers who didn’t know what to do with Mets success.

But I’d like to think that it was more than that. In my mind, saying “this is going to hurt so much” was an open rebellion against the narrative being shoved in our faces that the Mets would choke, like the one guy who talking openly about his team’s ongoing no-hitter. Every time we said “this is going to hurt so much,” we laughed – but more than that, it was an act of defiance.

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In early September, some of my family and I went to Italy for a week for a wedding, so we was reduced to checking box scores the morning after. The last game I watched before I left was September 8th against the Nationals, the game the Mets scored six runs in the 7th inning to come back from a 7-1 deficit (and 1% win expectancy) IMG_8734and shock the world. The Mets won in the most unlikeliest of ways — a pinch-hit home run by erstwhile backup outfielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis, who homered off the Nationals newly-acquired All Star closer Jonathan Papelbon. At the end of the night, the Mets were up six games in the NL East with only 24 games left to play.

Checking the box scores while away was surreal. A win. Another win. Eight of them, in fact, in a row, and another one which involved a ninth-inning comeback where the Mets chances of winning were rounded down to 0%. Four walks sandwiched around a hit and an error, all with two outs, made that one happen.

By the time we returned, the “this is going to hurt so much” rallying cry was still in full effect, but for different reasons. No longer were the Mets going to choke and miss the playoffs — even the pessimists among us didn’t think the Mets would blow an eight game lead with 15 to play — but instead, the Mets were going to find a way suffer an agonizing loss in the postseason.

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The Mets playoffs were a miniature version of the regular season itself. After a hot start (beating Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers in Los Angeles), the Mets played .500 ball through the halfway point, trading wins and losses with the Dodgers in the National League Division Series in dramatic fashion (#WinForRuben). By the time the Mets lost Game 4 at the hand of a legendary short-rest start by Kershaw**, it felt like the end was near.

It was fitting that it was Kershaw, who almost no-hit the Mets in July (it would have been the second time they were no-hit in 2015) that the Mets fielded potentially the most pathetic mid-season lineup in modern history. A stark reminder of the season’s nadir — even though they had blasted their way to the Division Series — is so Mets, isn’t it?

But the Mets were not satisfied, and in dramatic fashion defeated Zack Greinke in Los Angeles behind Daniel Murphy’s decisive solo home run in the sixth. It wasn’t the first time a Mets middle infielder had cracked a game winning home run when the season seemed to be slipping away. Another fitting parallel.

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The Mets plowed through the National League Championship Series against the Cubs the same way they did the second half of the season when they went 41-24. They dismantled the Cubs in a sweep, and I was able to be there at Wrigley to watch them clinch. The text message from my cousin as the Mets were cruising ? “This is going to hurt so much.”

Just as in the regular season, the Mets torrid run through Chicago compelled us to believe. They went into the World Series as an unstoppable force, a team of destiny. My guard was finally down. I had surrendered myself fully to the idea that the Mets were going to win the World Series.

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It was a defeat so Metsian in magnitude as to defy explanation. There was only a 0.7% chance that the Royals would be able to come back and win all three of those games — and a 73% chance that the Mets should have won them all. I’m not going to get into any more detail about how the Mets blew the World Series, except to say this:

https://twitter.com/brianpmangan/status/661083408714584064

I’ve been to games where it felt like the air was sucked out of the stadium on a play, but Game 5 of the World Series wasn’t one of them. The Long Island Railroad back to Manhattan that night was as quiet as a tomb, aside from the two people who complained that they were kicked out of their section for fighting.

I suppose that if the Mets hadn’t blown Game 1 and Game 4 in such epic fashion, there would have been some more left in the tank for Game 5. I suppose if the Mets hadn’t led for literally every single out of that game that they possibly could have, from Granderson’s leadoff home run through two outs in the top of the ninth, that it wouldn’t have felt so surreal. Instead, thousands of fans watched slack-jawed as Duda’s throw sailed wide and Eric f*ing Hosmer slid home with the game-tying run.

That weird Exhibition Game that was being played at Citi Field on November 1, 2015? The Mets ended up losing.

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A lot of thoughts go through your mind when your team loses the World Series, I’ve learned, and it is only now that I am beginning to allow myself to ruminate on what an amazing season it was. As it turns out, “this is going to hurt so much” was the perfect phrase for it.

It wasn’t simply the fact that the Mets lost the World Series — an outcome which any fan would have signed up for during Spring Training — but the way that they did it. The young power arms, the comeback wins, the Wilmer Flores Game, the torrid run of Yoenis Cespedes, the confidence of Jeurys Familia, and the historic run of Daniel Murphy were all too much, even for the older generation, to resist. In the end, nobody was able to resist the siren call of the 2015 Mets.

It was in the twelfth inning of Game 1 that it hit me. Chris Young had just struck out Daniel Murphy, Yoenis Cespedes and Lucas Duda all swinging, the last two on full counts. Bartolo Colon allowed Paulo Orlando to reach and, although he would later wiggle out of the bases loaded jam, it felt like the Mets were going to lose.

There was no more defiance to be found in the phrase, “this is going to hurt so much.” The Mets had already proved the doubters wrong, and had turned in a season that was going to live on fondly in Mets fans hearts for a generation no matter what the outcome of the World Series was.

So on that night, nobody said it. We knew that there was no more early-May nervousness to laugh off, and nobody else who we needed to prove to that we were above all the silly superstition of years long gone by. The next time we said it, there was no subtext — we knew it was true. This was going to hurt so much.

The Mets were created to break your heart, and there’s been no season in my lifetime that did so as effectively as this one. This season hurt the most, because we all truly believed. But I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

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Brian Mangan is an attorney who lives in New York City.

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This is in the eighth inning. We were making plans to go to Kansas City.