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M*A*S*H Unit Mets, fans: Hold your heads proudly!

“It was devastating” said Akim Furaha, a shopkeep in Manhattan.

“I don’t even want to talk about it” lamented LA Mets fan Rafi Cabrera.

“It was about the saddest feeling I have had in the big leagues” wrote Met reliever Billy Wagner in his final column in the New York Post.

“Now what?” asked Gina Binns, a Mets fan from Australia who was in Manhattan for last night’s game 7 loss to the Cardinals.

I’ll tell you what you do – hold your heads high and proudly.

Mets? Fans? Are you listening? You have nothing to be ashamed of this year.

Where the 1986 Mets won with brash attitude, Hollywood personas, drugs, thugs, fisticuffs and fastballs, the 2006 Mets came to the nearest edge of toppling the Cardinals and earning a shot against the Cinderella Detroit Tigers in the 2006 Fall Classic with grace, class, hard work and spunk. The never say die moxie of a team devastated by injury and missing its top two starters – perennial all-star and 2004 Series winner Pedro Martinez and multiple series winner El Duque – shone through and inspired its underdog fans with its underdog heart. They captivated the city where a team of spoiled All-stars fell flat on its yearly expensive face lift.
How could even a Yankee fan not stand up and cheer as Endy Chavez leapt seemingly to the moon and return with a sno-cone and then threw out the baserunner to boot to rob the Cardinals of a 3-1 sixth inning lead? How could you not hail unsung pitchers like John Maine and Oliver Perez and Darren Oliver who overachieved despite dismal regular season numbers? The M*A*S*H-Unit Mets were so riddled with absences Hawkeye Piece and B.J. Hunnycutt were actually grateful to be locked in the O.R. with Charles Emerson Winchester with all the blood, body parts and cartilege the team dropped along the basepaths this Fall.

No, while most teams and fans can cry a river with this excuse, there is one inalienable truth this post-season. Had ONE MORE PLAYER survived the battlefield and not been lost, the Mets – not the Cardinals – would have won.

One more hit; one more strike; one faster step on the basepaths, one foot shorter on the Molina HR – that’s all the Mets needed. It wasn’t that they didn’t try. It wasn’t that they didn’t have the talent. The 2006 Post Season Mets – who looked little like the 97 win regular season Mets – gave every last drop of blood, sweat, and sadly tears. They just had one too many injuries.
Am I a Mets fan or sympathyzer?

No. I was rooting for St. Louis. But I stood up and applauded when Chavez made the play of the year. I saluted the great pitching efforts of Bradford, Wagner, Maine, Oliver and Perez. I respected classy Willie Randolph and the “Our Gang” guys. These overachieving Mets – and they really were Our Gang – deserved to go to the World Series so much, I was glad to cheer them too, because – as Yoda would say – “Earned it, they did.”

Met fan! Are you sad, sullen, forlorn, unhappy and unfullfilled today? Don’t you dare be. You have nothing of which to be ashamed. You had an exemplary season. The Mets – not the 1.2 Billion dollar Yankees and their $252 Million headache A-God…err…A-Rod – were the toast of the town. Yes, you lost…and yes, you don’t have to like it. But the whole baseball world took notice of your diligence, perseverence and unsinkable attitude. You were the Miracle Mets again, just one millisecond short. But take pride, not solace. Stand and salute and celebrate, not commiserate. The baseball world is glad to have you back among the great and elite of the league.

And you can bet your bet your bagel and lox, pastrami on rye bread and tee-time at Dyker they’ll be back with a vengeance next year. I can hear the ghosts at Shea cheering already. I’ll join them. Met fan, you should cheer them too.

Take a bow Mets, and hold your heads proudly. You did just great.

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