The End of the Line, and the Nihilistic Existence of Mets Fans
With the hopes of a postseason run finally extinguished, what comes next?
What has long appeared to be inevitable finally became reality this weekend: The New York Mets will officially miss the 2021 postseason.
Despite a run of nearly 100 consecutive days alone in first place New York’s fate was decided well over a month ago, as they never found themselves to even be in a true September pennant race. Thanks to an August collapse where they trudged together an 8-19 record, an offense that never got itself going (3rd-least runs scored in MLB), a major second-half regression to the mean by All-Star Taijuan Walker (7.74 ERA, 3.2 HR per 9 innings), a key injury to Jacob deGrom and, frankly, a little overconfidence, the destiny of the Mets’ 2021 campaign was written long before they were mathematically eliminated.
And with that, where does that leave us? The Mets have now gone five straight seasons without postseason play and for the third straight year, with this same offensive core of Pete Alonso, Michael Conforto, Jeff McNeil, Dominic Smith and JD Davis (shoutout to Brandon Nimmo, too), they have yet to make a meaningful play at extending their season past its pre-scheduled end date.
They’ve got pending free agents in Marcus Stroman, Michael Conforto, Javier Báez, Noah Syndergaard, Aaron Loup and others to make decisions on already, and that doesn’t even include who they may trade away or external free agents, either. As we’ve seen since the start of the 2019 season, it is no longer acceptable to think that “running it back” with this crew will result in anything different than more insignificant Septembers and early offseasons.
The entire front office is in flux, as well, with major cultural issues and scandals continuing from one ownership to the next. They’ve already fired general manager Jared Porter (and others) for sexual harassment and suspended interim general manager Zack Scott for driving under the influence, and the performance of the team on the field isn’t exactly a ringing endorsement for any of the club’s architects, either. Couple that with the fact that they’ll also likely be searching for a new manager soon, and this team has several messes they’re going to have to clean up.
And after all this, where does it leave Mets fans?
The life of a fan is a perpetually fascinating existence. The act of putting your heart and soul into rooting for a team of wealthy strangers wearing matching pajamas defies all reason. No matter what logic says, you’re always supposed to believe. When you really look at it, it doesn't make all that much sense and yet we've come to consider all of this as normal. And while this concept is not inherently unique, it does seem to ring especially true if you're a fan of this team.
Being a Mets fan is certainly never boring, but it is infamously far from easy — and that was long before this extremely long season.
Whether it be late-night taxi accidents, trades that "have not and will not transpire," fist fights from team execs, September collapses or an honest-to-god Ponzi scheme... you name it, Mets fans have seen it. We've grown up surrounded by an abundance of championships from every team around us but ours and experienced every Yankee fan we knew in grade school telling us that “METS” stood for "My Entire Team Sucks." Trust me — we've heard your Mets jokes before. We’ve lived them.
Yet disappointing year after disappointing year, here we are... back again for more.
Most people see Mets fans as masochists or gluttons for punishment, but that isn't how I see it. We are prisoners of hope. Every day, based on absolutely no evidence or reason whatsoever, we turn on our televisions and wait to be proven wrong. We funnel this seemingly unlimited supply of optimism into this orange and blue void hoping that maybe, just maybe, this will be the day that it finally all becomes justified.
"Strut, fret and delude ourselves as we may, our lives are of no significance," French philosopher and playwright Jean-Paul Sartre once said. "It is futile to seek or affirm meaning where none can be found."
But as you may know, those highs don't come around these parts too often. As high as the highs may be, oh can those lows be so, so low. You know the ones I'm talking about — the moments that make you question why you choose to put yourself through this. And then, of course, we do what we always do and plop ourselves down in front of our TVs at 7:10 PM sharp to do it all over again.
For those unfamiliar, existential nihilism is a philosophical theory in which life has no intrinsic meaning or value. "Strut, fret and delude ourselves as we may, our lives are of no significance," French philosopher and playwright Jean-Paul Sartre once said. "It is futile to seek or affirm meaning where none can be found." As overly dramatic as it may sound, that’s how it can feel to be a Mets fan sometimes.
How many times have you stayed up late for a West Coast game only to look yourself in the mirror after Edwin Díaz blows a save at 1:30 in the morning and ask yourself “why do I do this?” Despite it all we communally take that risk together, solely for that one glimmer of hope. We are held hostage by this optimism. Some of us may even be addicted to it. And no matter what happens — the toxicity, the scandals, the losing, the exhaustion, the embarrassment — we always come back. Is it worth it? Ultimately, that’s not for me to say.
“The point is there ain’t no point.”
What we’ll see the next time we sit down to watch a Mets game of consequence has yet to be determined. There will be plenty of time to discuss what the club should or shouldn’t do to make sure there isn’t a repeat of this season or the ones the preceded it but for now, we must sit in the aftermath of the 2021 that was, as well as the one that wasn’t.