So Game 162 ended up being a blowout, being distinguished only by the appearance of three of the most hated Mets pitchers in one game (Victor Zambrano, Danny Graves and Shingo Takatsu). Still, 83 wins and 79 losses was enough to tie for the fifth best record in the N.L., and better than the West Division champs the San Diego Padres.
This loss didn't mean anything to the 47,000 plus who showed up on a brilliant fall day at Seah Stadium. This game was all about one man--Mike Piazza. His (most likely) last game in a Met uniform was as emotional as I've seen Shea get since the first home game after 9/11. With every lengthy roar of the crowd when Piazza came to bat, I kept wishing I was there (I was stuck at my house waiting for my landlord to fix my toilet). Even with this parting being bittersweet, each side took the high road: the Mets went all out in honoring a player that wasn't retiring, that they were essentially booting out the door, while Piazza was obviously touched by the lengthy video tribute and the cheering that never stopped and never mentioned that fact that the team could (and perhaps should) offer him a one or two year contract.
Piazza never led the Mets to a World Series win, but he was the key cog in getting this team into the playoffs in back-to-back years for the only time in its existence. When the trade for him was completed by in May of 1998, I remember thinking "How could they do this to Todd Hundley?" who was my favorite Mets player at the time. Yet I knew the difference the trade made when Mike and I went to Shea to see Piazza's second game in the Met uniform. You could feel the stadium come alive when his name was announced--it's the same feeling that only Pedro Martinez gives the Shea faithful nowadays (hopefully David Wright will follow in their footsteps).
The impact Mike Piazza had on the Mets on its fanbase is undeniable, and I was so happy to see the summer crowds give him his proper due for years of great service (1998-2002), and gloss over the injury-filled and botched position move (let's tell the press first about 1st base, Art Howe?) frustrations over the past few years. Wherever Mike goes to finish his career, I think he'll find it hard to forget the pure love Mets fans showed over the past few weeks.
(Tuesday, look for my review of the Mets 2005 season, and my thoughts for 2006.)