This series takes a look at all 10 MLB teams to qualify for the postseason. We'll give them a ranking on a scale of 1-to-10 (1 being the Yankees, 10 being the Mets) to determine who best deserves Mets fans' casual support in the playoffs this year.
The Case: I will never, ever forget November 4, 2001: The night the dynasty died.
If you’re younger and don’t have a recollection of this World Series, go pick up the DVD, or catch whatever is on YouTube. For my money, it’s the greatest World Series of all time.
Remember that the 2001 playoffs began just four weeks after 9/11, and the Yankees had taken on the billing of, “America’s team.” I understood the narrative, but I resented it. As a kid who so lustfully hated the Yankees, a national tragedy wasn’t going to force me to root for this team. All I could think about as Mariano Rivera took the hill for the 9th inning of Game 7, the Yankees clinging to a 2-1 lead, was how insufferable this was going to be.
To that point, my entire high school career had been the Yankees winning the World Series, including the previous year over the Mets. Being, “that kid who wore Mets stuff every day,” you can imagine how I became the object of ridicule for every walking teenage embodiment of hard on who sported a navy interlocking ‘NY’ cap. And now here we were. My senior year. Less than a week before my 17th birthday, 374 torturous days after Mike Piazza had flown out to Bernie Williams, and the Yankees were about to join a collection of immortals.
Atop that list, my beloved New York Islanders.
As Rivera warmed up, FOX put up a graphic of all the franchises in the Big Four that had won four titles in a row. There were my dynasty Islanders, from 1980-83, winners of 19 consecutive playoff series. The dynasty for the modern New York sports age. The only thing I ever really got to boast over my friends (even though I wasn’t even alive for it). And they were going to have company in the form of these damn Yankees.
You knew they were. Rivera had struck out the side in the 8th. He’d do it again in the 9th. Another Yankees parade. More championship t-shirts and hats that I’d have to longingly look at. Yankees fans didn’t know how good they had it. It always went there way. Always.
And then, just like that, they didn’t.
Mark Grace, base hit. David Dellucci will run for him. Pinch hitter Damian Miller on to bunt (“UGH! YOU’RE GIVING AWAY AN OUT!”). Rivera fields, looks towards second, AND THROWS IT AWAY! HOLY SHIT! Okay, now Jay Bell can bunt. I’ve seen him do it so many times with the Pirates. “NO!” Right back to Rivera, and he gets the force at third. No, no, no. Tony Womack. Andele andele mami, E.I. E.I Uh-ohhhhhhhhhhhhhh! Great song. Great walk up song. BASE HIT! DOUBLE DOWN THE LINE!!! DELLUCCI SCORES!!! BELL TO THIRD! TIE GAME, BABY!
Craig Counsell was next, and Rivera hit him with a pitch. Joe Torre (foolishly) brought his entire infield in, and then….
I went ballistic. Absolutely nuts. My mom was away on business, and I swear to God this next part is true:
I went into the pantry and got two cans of Diet Coke that my dad kept for when he packed his lunch. We gleefully went outside, and I proceeded to shake them up – in November, mind you – and spray Diet Coke all over ourselves like it was champagne.
After five minutes of running around the backyard like lunatics, absolutely drenched in a combination of carbonated water, caramel color, and aspartame, my father and I went back inside and watched a team 2,500 miles away celebrate, not only its first world title, but the end of the reign of Yankee terror.
So as funny as hell as it is to watch David Peralta get snubbed on high-fives, or as tragically underrated a superstar as Paul Goldschmidt is, this will always be the franchise that saved me from four straight Yankees world championships. And that’s enough to hold a special place in my heart forever.
Why to Hate Them: Say it with me now: Billion dollar franchises can pay for their own stadium improvements. Not many teams are exempt from that criticism, but it’s particularly silly for the Diamondbacks to try to extort money out of public coffers when taxpayers paid the entire $238 million to build Chase Field just 19 years ago. C’mon, guys.
Also, did you know Zack Greinke is a bit of a goober? If the mullet wasn’t a pretty firm indication, there’s also this story of him snubbing the Rockies’ Pat Neshek, an avid memorabilia collector, for an autograph.
Just wanted to remind ya ;)
Mets Connections: If you’re a kid like me who started really understand baseball in the early ‘90s like I did, you probably loved Dave Magadan. Mags made his MLB debut as a September call up for the ‘86 Mets, but of course, didn’t make the postseason roster. He only had three at bats in the ’88 NLCS. But I remember everyone going nuts over this guy when he hit .328 in 1990. He actually was worth 4.6 WAR in ’90 for a Mets team that was far better than history remembers it (91-71, finished in second, four games back of the Pirates). He’s the hitting coach for these D-Backs.
And you might want to familiarize yourself with Arizona bench coach Ron Gardenhire. Gardy was a sixth-round pick of the Mets in the 1979 draft, and played his entire playing career in Queens. Of course, that’s not what most people remember about Gardenhire. He took over Minnesota for Tom Kelly, and from 2002-to-2014, led the Twins to an improbable run of success, while the league seriously considered contracting the franchise. Gardenhire oversaw four-90 win seasons and six AL Central titles. And hey, he very well may be in line for a Major League job again. Hm, I wonder if he could be a fit anywhere…
Rating: 5/10. It’s been 16 years since the Diet Coke-spraying incident heard ‘round the world, but let’s face it, no one outside of Arizona is really clamoring for a magical run from the Diamondbacks. They’ll host the Wild Card game, but most of America will probably be rooting for the vistors, provided it’s the Rockies or Brewers (and not the Cardinals. Screw them, man).
If you're hitting the final home game on Thursday at Citi Field, swing by the Marina Lot to see some friends, maybe meet some new ones, and responsibly wash down your sorrows before heading inside.