It was a sad conversation, but there was no way to avoid it. We were stuck on the media elevator together.
In retrospect, I should have lunged for the alarm, pried open the doors and shimmied up the cable to safety. Next time, for sure.
There we were, the three of us me and two members of the New York media inching far too slowly toward the press box before Game 3 of the Phillies-Mets series at Citizens Bank Park on Wednesday afternoon.
I felt bad for them. It was like watching an in-person, real-time version of one of those heart-wrenching-but-horrible infomercials about suffering, less-privileged people who need our help to escape the day-to-day tragedy of their lives. Except there was no remote control, and I couldnt turn it off.
The two guys on the elevator with me well call them Bert and Ernie to protect the distressed had the following conversation, one that tells you all you need to know about the Mets and covering that team and how everyone from reporters to fans suffers by association.
Bert: How you doing?
Ernie: Fantastic. Ill be even more fantastic when this season is over. Only 34 more games left.
Bert: Long pause. Is it 34? I thought it was 34 on Tuesday.
Ernie: The number doesnt dwindle fast enough, does it? Thats a lot of games for a dead-ass, end-of-the-line, no-chance team.
I thought Bert might cry.
In a somewhat-surprising development, the Mets avoided the sweep on Wednesday and beat the Phils, 7-4. It was a huge win for New York. The Mets are only 22 games out of first place now.
Thats how it goes for the Mets theyre sort of ho-humming along until the off-season arrives and golf plans can be made.
The Phillies, at the end of the day, they still look up at the scoreboard and if they havent won, theyre expletive ticked, one league scout said. Do you know how rare that is?
Judging by the Mets? Pretty rare.
There was a time when delighting in the Mets 'never-ending misery was thoroughly enjoyable, a pastime beloved by sports fans all over the Philadelphia area. Sadly, hating the not-so-Amazins isnt as much fun these days.
Since the Phils began their stretch of consecutive NL East titles in 2007, the Fightins have gone 50-37 against the club from Queens. Kicking New Yorkers while theyre down is great and all, but you can only keep it up for so long. After a while, your leg gets tired and you grow bored.
Despite all the Bernie Madoffownershippayroll problems the Mets had this year not to mention more embarrassing moments, like the other night when Angel Pagan couldnt pinch hit because he was reportedly busy in the bathroom, or when Sarge Matthews called the Mets crybabies during Wednesdays broadcast the season could be going even worse for them.
Hard to believe, but true.
A handful of their best hitters Jose Reyes, Ike Davis and David Murphy are currently collecting dust on the DL, as are pitchers Taylor Buchholz and Chris Young. Even worse, staff ace Johan Santana hasnt pitched all season. And yet the Mets have hovered a little below .500 for much of the year. Not great by any definition, but at least they arent the Astros the first team to be officially eliminated from postseason contention this year.
(Quick aside: You know how the villains in various James Bond movies had escape capsules tucked away behind hidden doors? Ed Wade should have something like that.)
As rallying cries go, At least were not the Astros probably isnt something the Mets' marketing department would consider. Nor is Hey, were all still breathing which, by the way, they are. I checked before the game, though it was hard to tell. Several Mets players sat in an eerily-silent visitors clubhouse. There wasnt much movement or conversation. Instead of boxes of bubblegum and packages of sunflower seeds, the Mets ought to have a station full of grab-and-go emergency defibrillators.
It cant be easy on them. In other cities, if youre as far off the division lead as the Mets are if you play in Kansas City or Seattle or some other luckless hamlet at least youre left alone to wallow in your mediocrity. Not in New York. Win or lose, good or bad, theres no slipping away from the spotlight to hide for a moment in the shadows.
Anywhere at this level theres pressure, but especially when it comes to baseball anywhere in the northeast, said one-time Met Brian Schneider. As an individual and a team, you always want to win, but in New York the fans and media are focused on you no matter how youre playing. That can add to the pressure.
"Its tough in New York. I still have friends over there, but I havent talked to them about anything but their personal lives and how their families are doing. I mean, its just one of those things they have to deal with. Accept it. Take responsibility, I guess.