The Oct. 1 Page One article incorrectly referred to New York's La Guardia Airport as LaGuardia International Airport.
Collapse Is Complete, and the Mets Are History
Monday, October 1, 2007
NEW YORK, Sept. 30 -- In the first stunned moments following the New York Mets' loss in the 162nd and final game of the Major League Baseball season, the only sounds at Shea Stadium were those of the various vessels taking New Yorkers somewhere else -- cars cranking to life in the parking lot, the No. 7 subway train rumbling toward Manhattan, the roar of jets taking off from nearby LaGuardia International Airport, the shuffle of feet as beleaguered fans trudged toward the exits.
Once, the Mets seemed as if they were headed somewhere special this season. But amazin'ly, they are going nowhere.
Within minutes of each other late Sunday afternoon, the Mets lost to the Florida Marlins, 8-1, in Queens, followed by the Philadelphia Phillies beating the Washington Nationals, 6-1, some two hours down the road at Philadelphia's Citizens Bank Park, simultaneously completing one of the worst collapses and one of the biggest comebacks in baseball history -- with the fourth-place Nationals an unlikely common denominator.
They have been playing big league baseball for well over a century, and never before, according to record-keepers at the Elias Sports Bureau, had a team failed to make the playoffs after holding a lead of at least seven games as late in a season as Sept. 12, as the Mets did.
On Sunday, the collapse could not have seemed more complete. Tied with the Phillies atop the National League East division standings, the Amazin' Mets -- as they are known to their fans -- fell behind 7-0 to the fifth-place Marlins in the first inning, and scarcely mustered a rally the rest of the way. In a deathly silent clubhouse after their loss, the Mets attempted to come to grips with their historic failure.
"It was embarrassing," said Billy Wagner, the Mets' veteran relief pitcher. "We all feel embarrassed."
The scene was vastly different in Philadelphia, where each locker in the home clubhouse was covered in plastic, lest the players' clothes and equipment be sprayed with champagne and beer. Ninety minutes after that game ended, the stands still held a couple thousand fans, with players still celebrating on the field, dousing each other, hugging each other, pouring beer into each other's mouths, kissing their families.
"A lot of people counted us out," said Ryan Howard, the Phillies' Ruthian slugger. "We just stayed with it. We're in Philadelphia, and there's a reason they call us the Fightin' Phillies. . . . The whole town of Philadelphia's going to celebrate!"
The celebration in Philadelphia -- where some fans still recall the collapse of 1964, when the Phillies blew a 6 1/2 -game lead with 12 games to play -- began even before the first pitch. Just as Nationals shortstop Felipe Lopez stepped into the batter's box to face Phillies lefty Jamie Moyer, the score from Queens was posted on the out-of-town scoreboard in right field: Marlins 7, Mets 0, first inning. The stadium erupted, a crowd of 44,865 waving towels and wearing out their lungs. From that point, the division title that was slipping away in New York felt inevitable in Philadelphia.
The Nationals, meantime, might have guessed when they first saw the tentative 2007 season schedule last fall that they would have a say in the outcome of their division's title. Their final week of games saw them playing three games against the Mets in New York, followed by three games in Philadelphia against the Phillies.
Though the Nationals had long since been ensured a losing record for 2007, they played those six games as if their careers depended on them, sweeping all three games over the Mets, but winning only once in Philadelphia.
"That is kind of shocking," Nationals first baseman Dmitri Young said of the Mets' collapse. "To have the lead pretty much the entire year, and lose it. . . . I feel sorry for those guys. Shoot, they're going home -- like we are."