Mets' collapse weighs heavily on Green
Missed opportunity at playoffs continues to haunt right fielder
NEW YORK -- Survivor's guilt it isn't. The Mets don't qualify as survivors. It is a full-fledged guilt, a guilt that weighs on Shawn Green these days, a heavy and unsettling sense of not doing what had been expected, of not achieving what had been assumed.
Eighteen days after the Mets' final game, Green still has no place to put all the profound disappointment the team created in the most spectacular pratfall in New York since Chevy Chase spoke his final "Live from New York."
His professional pride wounded, Green is most uncomfortable with a more personal aspect. He finds the collateral damage particularly troubling. The people peripherally involved with the Mets, those who had expected to be occupied -- that is, employed -- this month when the team pushed toward the World Series, are on his thoughts.
"A lot of people were counting on us," Green says. "Some of them might have been counting on making some extra money. They feel bad about what happened to us, and we feel bad about what happened to them because we didn't get in."
To his and their lasting dismay, the National League playoffs went on without the Mets. And life goes on despite their unexpected, embarrassing and historic shortfall. Call it a short fall.
The success of the Diamondbacks and Rockies only intensifies the remorse, not because the Mets considered themselves superior to either team or that they believe they were due more because of extended occupation of first place, but because, until the end, they had seen themselves going one step beyond their final step of 2006 and representing the league in the World Series.
The ripple effect of their collapse will take so many forms and last for so much longer than the Mets can imagine now. The early effect, for Green, is the guilt and sense of awkwardness that has developed.
"You feel like you did when you cut school," Green said Monday from his home in Newport Beach, Calif. "You know you're not supposed to be home at this time."
The big league seasons drag no matter the team, its experience, composition, motivation or successes. Some slow to a crawl. Usually the first days home are routinely welcomed -- but not this year, not for Green.
"It's the first time I can say it doesn't feel good to be home," Green said. "Even last year, as disappointing as it was when it ended, it was good to be home. We got to within one game of the World Series, we had a good season.
"But I don't have that feeling this time."
The Green family -- Shawn, the Mets right fielder, his wife Lindsay and their daughters Presley and Chandler -- returned to California four days after the Mets were eliminated, four days after they were crushed by the Marlins and by the avalanche of expectations not met.
Normally, families flee within a day or two of the season's end. But the Greens hadn't packed, no reservations had been made. How were they to know the Mets would lose 12 of their last 17 games, six of the seven games in the season-ending homestand and their hold on first place in the NL East?
How could they have anticipated the NL West would take away the Wild Card safety net? How could they have imagined an October with nothing to do except to wait for November?
Not until Monday was the car the Greens had driven all summer in New York delivered to California. Arrangements hadn't been made.
The extra days in New York brought uncommon awkwardness. Green studied the sidewalks he walked the city streets.
"It wasn't easy to look people in the eye," he said. "We let everyone down -- the fans, the staff, people who would have profited from our being in it. ... You feel so good as a player when you make people happy. We thought we were going to, we were going to bring people so much joy. We made people happy last year, just getting in for the first time in a long time. They expected more this year, so did we."
|"It makes last year seem worse, without a doubt."|
|-- Shawn Green, on the Mets' collapse|
And now, worse, the collapse has picked at the scab that had grown over the loss to the Cardinals in the 2006 National League Championship Series. You knew it would.
"We've had two chances," is how Green's lament began. "Now this one brings the first one back to mind. It makes last year seem worse, without a doubt. Seeing the Rockies and Diamondbacks play reminds us. It makes you appreciate how rare the opportunities are."
Green has played in two postseasons during his 14 seasons in the big leagues. His Dodgers lost to the Cardinals in four games in the 2004 National League Division Series, and the Mets lost to the Cardinals in seven games last year. And now this.
"The longer you play, the more aware you become of how hard in it is to get in. Those guys with the Yankees know. They were winning World Series all the time, and now it's -- what? Six or seven years? And they've been in [the postseason] every year.
"And even if we did make it this year, we might have had a problem with Colorado ... the way they've played."
Green, 35 next month, can't know whether his shrunken big league future will bring another opportunity. He has neither a contract nor a compass for 2008. He never has been a free agent.
"It's a weird place to be, because I haven't been," he said. "And it's a nice place to be" because he has some degree of control.
"If the right situation presents itself..." he said, leaving the sentence unfinished.
He has no read on the Mets' plans. He hardly is opposed to returning. He has enjoyed his year and five weeks in their employ. And with neither Lastings Milledge nor Carlos Gomez ready for regular big league duty and Moises Alou seemingly an injury risk, the Mets seemingly will need an outfielder -- a left-handed-hitting one? -- unless they do the unlikely and plan to use Endy Chavez in a more regular role.
Whether Green is that left-handed-hitting outfielder remains an unknown. It seemed like a foregone conclusion during the season that the club would move on without him. His September surge -- he batted .407 in 59 at-bats -- may have come too late to change the club's thinking.
His overall offense lagged except in April and September. His run production was lacking -- 46 RBIs in 446 at-bats -- through most of the season, though he batted .283 with runners in scoring position, six points higher than the team's average in that circumstance. Even when he surged in September, his only collected eight RBIs.
But he did bat .326 with 25 doubles and eight home runs in 328 at-bats against right-handed pitchers. And the slugging percentage he produced against them, .483, was exceeded by only David Wright, Alou and Carlos Beltran among Mets regulars.
Money may not be an issue either. With the Mets obligated to pay him $2 million if they don't exercise their $10 million option for 2008, Green may be more readily satisfied with less than the $9.5 million he earned in '07.
He isn't thinking in such terms at this point. A new house is being built. Presley and Chandler occupy his time, but the guilt endures. "It won't go away for a while," Green says. "It was pretty bad."
Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.