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October 1, 2007

When the Mets Died With Their Boots On

With the Mets playoff drive imploding in spectacular, historic fashion, Gelf knew that there was only one man who could fittingly capture this dramatic—nay, epic turn of events. Mets.com beat writer Marty Noble has been featured in this space before for his over-the-top recaps of Mets games this season. He always brings a mix of enthusiasm and cliché to his writing so potent that Gelf wondered if he would be able to raise his game to match the current occasion. As always, Marty didn't disappoint.

September 15: Phillies 5, Mets 3

Opener: The consensus among the Mets as they fled Shea Stadium on Saturday afternoon was that the game they are to play Sunday afternoon is different from each of the 147 games they already had played. They just didn't know how to put it in words.

Notable Noble psychoanalysis: Still, a strong sense of "we better win one" surfaced during the postmortems of Saturday's 5-3 defeat—if not for mathematical reasons, then for the benefit of the Mets' sense of self. Somewhere in the recesses of their minds was an awareness that they could oppose the Phillies in the postseason.

Closer: Not everyone in the Mets' clubhouse is concerned.
"You win the division or you win the division," Wright said, "whether it's by 10 games or whatever it is now. We're in the driver's seat. No one in here is going to panic."
Just the same, winning on Sunday would be good for their mental health.

September 16: Phillies 10, Mets 6

Opener: Their process of elimination has been stalled beyond any reasonable anticipation. The Mets have allowed tension and doubt to seep back into the National League East race. A lead that was seven games and growing Wednesday night has been halved in four days. If not for their own stumble, perhaps the Mets might hear the steps of the Phillies.

Notable Noble metaphor: More Russian Roulette Relief—with no empty chamber—dragged them down after a three-run home run by Carlos Beltran.

Closer: "We were in position to bury them," Wright said. "And we failed miserably."
That wasn't concern about the race that came out of his mouth.
"We either step up now or allow this to be in the back of our minds when we go to Washington," Wright said.
That is concern about the Mets.

September 17: Nationals 12, Mets 4

Opener: The cramped, sweaty clubhouse was filled with an emptiness that the Mets have rarely experienced this season, if ever. A telling near silence existed, interrupted occasionally by sounds from the "Monday Night Football" telecast. When a player did have something to say, it sounded like: "Things have to change." And a change may be forthcoming even before the Mets play another game.

Notable Noble misquoted movie title: Lawrence made the start because Orlando Hernandez couldn't. The club finally acknowledged El Duque's right foot problem is a bunion, but only after the 37-year-old pitcher was seen limping and wearing a special boot. His prognosis remains unclear.
And yes, the old line was particularly appropriate on Monday night, given his foot apparel and the Mets' performance: "They died with their boots."

Closer: But who will speak if Lo Duca doesn't?
"Only two guys in here have the ear of almost everyone," one player said. "Moises [Alou] and Carlos Delgado. Maybe Paulie can help ... I hope so."

September 25: Nationals 10, Mets 9

Opener: The Mets again were pushed around and bowled over by the Nationals on Tuesday night. When they fell to the ground though—following a furious ninth-inning rally—they found they had fallen closer to the division championship they had seemed intent to avoid. Through no doing of their own, they walked from their dugout to their clubhouse with their clinching number reduced to four but with more troubling evidence of their startling September inadequacy.

Notable Noble use of sarcasm: While it still had the potential to produce a victory, the rally in the ninth was stunning and gallant and all that.

Closer: "It just shows you," Lo Duca said. "Everyone's played a part in what's happened. … All there is is this, we've got to fix it and fix it fast. What else can you say?"

September 29: Mets 13, Marlins 0

Opener: The baseball was rolling—barely, traveling so slowly to one of those areas that no normal nine-man alignment can defend. A full swing by—who else?—a player of little renown had generated a roller that would have zero impact on the final score and even less on the division race. Shea Stadium moaned nonetheless.

Notable Noble overstatement: Perhaps there is a lesson learned, even now; at the very least, it was a reminder recognized: There is life after death.

Ominous closer: But a one-hitter isn't required. "Not from me, probably," Glavine said. "I'll be content to win."

September 30: Marlins 8, Mets 1

Opener: The process of elimination now is complete. The National League postseason will be staged without the Mets. The unfathomable decline that began in the final days of August became a full-fledged, unconditional meltdown of historic proportions Sunday when the formerly first-place team was spanked by a riled opponent and sent to its room.

Notable Noble historical context: Their mere mention—the merger of number and noun—will conjure an image as powerful and distinctive as the '68 Democratic Convention, the '57 Chevy, the 18-wheeler or The Three Bears. The '62 Mets were recognized for their inept play. The '69 Mets were makers of a miracle. The '86 Mets were renowned for their success, dominance, partying and arrogance—though not necessarily in that order. And, as of Sunday, the '07 Mets are linked to the Dodgers of '51, the Phillies of '64 and the Blue Jays of '87. Their distinction, their infamy is, "We didn't get it done."

Closer: And all of them face an empty October they hadn't planned. "[The Mets making the playoffs] was like a done deal in Spring Training," Alou said. "I feel so bad for all the guys. I didn't make any plans for October. I wasn't going to go to the beach house. I was going to be here through October."


Gelf has reached out to Noble a few times over the season—for comment, to go out for drinks, and just to say hello—but we've gotten no response. Marty, if you're reading this, please don't take us too seriously. We delight in the enthusiasm you bring to your coverage, as it reminds us of an age when sports journalism was often more lively—and stunning and gallant—than the games themselves. Don't ever change.

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