Mets’ Collapse Closes Shea for Good

Mike McMaster

Bottom of the ninth, two men out and a man on first. Everything on the line. Don’t get on base? Season’s over. Failure is not an option. With that, Ryan Church strode into the batter’s box. After taking the first pitch, Church worked Marlin’s pitcher Matt Lindstrom deep into the count before Church finally swung and drove one to deep right-center field. A collective gasp followed by a deafening hush came over Shea Stadium as the Marlins’ center fielder Cameron Maybin ran towards the wall. For a moment, it looked as if Church might have lived the childhood dream, hitting the heroic bottom of the ninth homerun, but the ball fell just short of the wall and settled into Maybin’s glove for the final out ever recorded at Shea Stadium. Church told reporters after the game that he was, “heartbroken.” In the childhood dream, the ball goes over the fence.

Shea Stadium opened on April 17, 1964, and it will close this year. To bid farewell to Shea, Mets greats such as Doc Gooden, Daryl Strawberry, Mike Piazza and Tom Seaver were all on hand. The last pitch ever thrown in Shea Stadium left the hands of Lindstrom at 5:05 PM, but about a half an hour later, Seaver threw one to Piazza in a ceremony that seemed to be a desperate effort to wash the bad taste out of Mets fans mouths.

Mets fans should be excited about the move to Citi Field next season, because the luck in Shea stadium has clearly run out. The days of Tom Seaver and the ’69 Amazins are ancient history. With no luck left, the only thing Amazin’ about the Mets this year is their second consecutive catastrophic collapse.

The Mets season came to an end in a do-or-die game on their home field for the third year in a row on Sunday, sealing the fate of their forty-four year old stadium. In 2006, the Mets were a breath away from the World Series, hosting Game Seven of the National League Championship Series in Shea stadium. But after a two run home run off of the bat of Yadier Molina put the Cardinals up 3-1, it was up to the Mets to come up with some post-season heroics in the bottom of the ninth. With the bases loaded and two out, Carlos Beltran looked at a called third strike ending the Mets’ season.

After reaching the NLCS, Mets fans were optimistic in 2007 and for good reason. With seventeen games to go in the regular season, the Mets had a seven game lead on the Phillies. But the Phils were able to overcome the seemingly insurmountable deficit going 13-4 in the same span that the Mets went 5-12. The Mets sealed their fate on the last day of the season, losing to the Marlins 8-1 after Tom Glavine gave up seven runs in the first inning, breaking the hearts of Mets fans for the second year in a row.

In 2008, Mets fans stood by their team, believing that such a collapse could never happen again. But with seventeen games left in the season the Mets led the National League East by three-and-a-half games. The Mets had promised it wouldn’t happen again, but it did, and the Milwaukee Brewers took the Mets Wild Card spot. If the Mets broke their fans’ hearts last year, this year they stepped on the pieces.

Fans and players alike were in a state of confusion and disbelief after the final loss to the Marlins on Sunday. Beltran, the man who ended the Met’s playoff run in 2006, expressed his disbelief but told reporters, “I have to believe it, because it’s happening.” Scott Schoenweis, the pitcher who gave up the winning run to the Marlins mumbled, “I’m still kind of in shock over it, “I can’t describe it. If I could take it back, I would, but I can’t.” No do-overs, no mulligans, just a somber end to another disappointing season.

Meanwhile, as tears flowed in the Mets’ clubhouse, on the other side of Shea Stadium, a satisfied Marlins team celebrated being the Mets’ spoiler for the second year in a row. After the game players celebrated, and Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez said, “It’s fun, I’m not going to lie to you.”

This fall, Shea Stadium will not be the only part of the organization that is destroyed. After its second straight collapse, it is unlikely that next years Met squad will resemble the team of this year. The Mets will look to get younger in their rotation, and may make some major trades to try to bring a new look to the team. No one is sure which players will be moved, but many speculate that Mets General Manager Omar Minaya may look to dodge the blame for a second straight collapse by changing his manager once again.

However, earlier this week, Minaya said of his current manager Jerry Manuel, “I did tell him that I was very pleased. The job that he did, I thought was a very good job. And if you talk to the players, they would tell you that he did a very good job.” But is Omar really pleased? Pleased enough to stick with Manuel next year? Or is Jerry Manuel his manager, “for now,” like Willie Randolph of earlier this summer.

When the wrecking ball hits Shea, what will be left of the Mets in Citi Field will be a shadow of its former self next season. The Mets will try to walk into 2009 refreshed. New players. New Attitude. New ballpark. And hopefully for the Mets, different results. The Mets need to make major changes and it’s a good thing that the Mets are moving to CitiField, because this past week it couldn’t get any worse at Shea.