A non-New York Mets fan, and that's most of us, could get used to this thing of the Mets losing a must-win game on the last day of the season and getting eliminated from the playoffs. The Mets' 4-2 loss to the Florida Marlins Sunday was the second time in a row it has happened. It's fun.
It's always nice to see a big-money, big-market team that you don't root for get clobbered. Nobody ever fits that bill better than whatever New York team is taking the field in whatever sport, provided you don't root for that team. What red-blooded American non-New Yorker doesn't love to see a New York team take it in the shorts from time to time?
That's not a knock on New York. Great city, love the knishes. But having roots and friends and great memories in a place shouldn't stop anyone from enjoying that most wonderful underdog moment, hearing the largest possible group of people shut up.
Then start bickering among themselves. That's what happens when a New York team musters out, and that's something we've gotten to enjoy twice in the last week as the Yankees and Mets have been eliminated.
Sunday was all the sweeter because it was the Milwaukee Brewers who beat the Mets out of the playoff spot.
The Brewers were among baseball's wretched refuse for so long, for decades. It has been 26 years since they were last in the playoffs and for most of that time they had little hope of playing in October. Milwaukee was on that short list of cities, with Pittsburgh and Kansas City, where being a baseball fan was the ultimate act of faith.
Rooting for the Brewers was just about as hopeless as Mets fans think rooting for the Mets is. The whining and booing and postmortem lamentations following the Mets pratfall last year would have led a stranger to think it had been 26 years since they'd made the playoffs. It had been one. Last year's collapse was more epic than this year's, but it's about to start sounding like the Mets haven't gone anywhere in 52 years. It has really been two.
Two wonderful years.
Wasn't Sunday great? Four teams played games they had to win. Three won them. The Mets lost.
The Chicago White Sox had to beat the Cleveland Indians in case the Minnesota Twins won. A White Sox loss and a Twins win would have eliminated Chicago. The White Sox beat the Indians 5-1.
The Twins had to beat the Kansas City Royals in case the White Sox won. A Twins loss and a White Sox win would have given the White Sox a chance to win the A.L. Central by beating the Detroit Tigers Monday in a rainout makeup game. The Twins beat the Royals 6-0. They'll win the division if the White Sox lose to the Tigers Monday. If the White Sox win, they and the Twins will play a one-game playoff for the division title Tuesday.
The Brewers had to beat the Chicago Cubs in case the Mets won. A Brewers loss and a Mets win would have allowed New York to win the N.L. wild card. The Brewers got a dramatic home run from Ryan Braun and another masterful pitching performance from C.C. Sabathia and beat the Cubs 3-1.
The Mets had to beat the Marlins in case the Brewers won. A Mets loss and a Brewers win would have allowed Milwaukee to win the wild card. That's what happened.
It was the last game at Shea Stadium, so the Mets should have had magic and sorcery and incantation and spells working in their favor. Those things are nice, but decent relief pitching comes in pretty handy too. The Mets lost Sunday for the same reason they lost a lot down the stretch. Their bullpen, that easiest of all things to fix.
Now they'll have time to figure out if they want to try to sign Sabathia or throw great gobs of money somewhere else -- like at Francisco Rodriguez, the Los Angeles Angels closer who'll be a free agent this winter. The Brewers have almost no hope of signing the big lefty, K-Rod or anyone like them. That's why it was fun to watch them beat out the Mets.
With New York dispatched, those of us without direct ties can root for the next set of big, rich teams to have their hats handed to them. The Los Angeles Dodgers and Angels, the Chicago Cubs and the Boston Red Sox are all there for our schadenfreude enjoyment. Three weeks from now, if everything works out deliciously, their fans will be mocking, wondering, "Who wants to see a Brewers-Tampa Bay Rays World Series?"
The Brewers and Rays, that's who.