>El No Esta Aqui

>Maybe you thought it was over when David Wright and Carlos Beltran came back from the disabled list in September. Or you felt it wash away when the final out dropped into Angel Pagan’s glove and Nelson Figueroa embraced Josh Thole on that October Sunday. Perhaps you thought the final act to a funny, dark seven months was the Phillies-Yankees World Series – a fitting end to a Mets season clearly written by the Coen brothers. Or maybe you finally felt safe from the penumbra of 2009 when the calender flipped to 2010. It was gone, the worst was over, it’s a new decade, and spring training and hope and sunshine and Port St. Lucie are right around the corner.

But like Freddie Kruger or your significant other’s cat, 2009 is the year that refuses to die, showing up again when Carlos Beltran decided to have knee surgery against the Mets wishes. It’s got the visible watermark of 2009: an injury, a bumbling front office, and distrust between a player and the team’s medical staff. You may have thought that you survived 2009 and your fan-wounds had become fan-scars – that future-trivia-answer Jody Gerut and ripped-off shirts and embarrassing press conferences and Matt Cain fastballs were all safely locked in the past. And then your favorite team again revealed itself as a disorganized mob that isn’t trusted to make good decisions by its own players, nonetheless the fans they can’t convince to buy season tickets. The calender has changed, but knees and stupidity don’t pay attention to our arbitrary dates.

2009 had become laughable by August – what else could you do but make light of it? David Wright’s Great Gazoo helmet? Funny. Pat Misch in the rotation? Funny. Daniel Murphy and Jeff Francouer batting 3-4 in the lineup? Hilarious. Twenty-oh-nine was a lost year, and the only enjoyment left to get out of it was dark humor about how comically wrong everything had gone. September was the month of the season I enjoyed most, because the expectations had been washed away and I could just watch my favorite team play baseball without the possibility of heartbreak or disappointment. The Mets win – Great. How’d Pagan do? The Mets lose – Who cares. The season was already over by July. The Mets stopped playing in October and 2009 slipped away for you whenever you felt that it did. And you exhaled.

Expectations have a funny way of sneaking up on us without being noticed, and suddenly, the unexpected tug of disappointment yanks you back when they get torn again. Prior to knee-gate, in the back of every Mets fans mind was “Okay, we’ve fan-suffered enough. The 2006 NLCS was a kick in the face. September 2007 was another kick in the face, then another kick in 2008, and then 2009 was like getting kicked in the face until you couldn’t feel it anymore and just laughed about it. But we’ve got karma on our side now. Justice. Percentages. Lightning doesn’t strike twice. There’s no way 2010 is going to be anything like 2009. There’s no way it could be anything like 2009.” And you expected that to be true. At least I did. But Carlos Beltran’s knee disagreed and 2010 couldn’t be bothered to wait for spring training to kick everyone in the face again. It doesn’t feel funny like the end of 2009. The expectation that everything wouldn’t – couldn’t – go horribly wrong again snuck back in when you weren’t paying attention. Maybe during the Jason Bay press conference. Maybe during the Jose Reyes interview, or earlier today during the David Wright interview. Maybe in all the way back in September when Beltran was patrolling center. You started imagining Met lineups in your head. But expectations crept back. Quietly. And the disappointment came back with news that Beltran needed 12 weeks before he could even resume “baseball activities.” Whatever that really means.

Of course, the other New York Mets resume baseball activities in a month, and there will still be sunshine, green grass, Jose Reyes, David Wright, Jason Bay, and Florida sun. But no Carlos Beltran and less hope and no expectations. But you know what? It’s a good thing. It’s good for us Met fans. It’s like when your friend tells you a movie is garbage, you go see it anyway, and maybe you end up enjoying it. We’ve had our hopes built up and crushed for four years in a row now. The bases were loaded with Beltran up. “Your Season Has Come.” Daniel Murphy on third with nobody out. Sports Illustrated picking the Mets to win it all in 2009. It’s been four year of hype and hype and hype and nothing to show for it. Hopefully my expectations for 2010 have been completely quashed, incinerated and the ashes launched into space in different directions.

Good. For a change, I want to go into the movie theater and walk away pleasantly surprised.

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