Like every year since 2000, the Mets are free to watch the postseason on television like the rest of us. This year, though, unlike every season since 2001, I think they can hold their heads up about how this season played out. Of course, I would have preferred a pennant, and they did make it to the last series of the season with a .500 finish still in question, but they finished 83-79 under first-time manager (and lifelong Mets fan) Willie Randolph.
Naturally, any fan wants to see their team finish better than that, but considering that this was their manager's first time managing anywhere in the big leagues, I'd say they did fine. Next year, though, "new manager" won't work as an excuse for a finish two games over .500. They have to work on not being so streaky -- if they had been more consistent this year, they might have had a better overall record. Let's see what happens in the off-season...
Yankees: I was kind of hoping that the Red Sox would kill off the Yankees' postseason hopes during the season, but that didn't happen. I don't particularly dislike the Yankees, but I don't like the hype that surrounds the team. On the other hand, a payroll of $208 million naturally creates certain expectations, which in a sense pinpoints the problem with the Yankees, and with major-league baseball as a whole.
As long as the position of commissioner is occupied by an owner -- and don't pay any attention to the so-called "blind trust" that represents the Milwaukee Brewers' ownership, since the team president is "Commissioner" Bud Selig's daughter -- there will be very few (if any) proactive moves like what Bowie Kuhn tried to do back in the 70's to prevent George Steinbrenner from pummeling other teams with his money, or what Bart Giamatti and Fay Vincent did to remind owners that as long as they had their antitrust exemption, there had to be an independent commissioner. In fact, I don't understand how they still have that exemption when Major League Baseball is basically rudderless. And as long as there is no real commissioner with any power, Steinbrenner and the other more-moneyed owners are free to throw their money around and bully the financially weaker teams with it. And as long as the rich owners are flexing their wallets, the fans will be induced to unrealistic expectations, as if the teams who spend the most money should automatically rule the postseason. As the Yankees have proved this year and last, it doesn't -- and shouldn't -- work that way.
And I wonder how owners can stomach the idea of the Washington Nationals being "owned by Major League Baseball." That means that they are all financing this team, because when the owners of the Expos couldn't find a buyer, the other owners had to buy them out. I imagine there must have been a lot of urgent phone calls among the front office people in the National League East early this season when the Nationals were making noise; at one point there were atop their division. I didn't think they would prevail precisely because of their ownership situation. How free is the team to compete on the field with other teams whose owners have much more of a vested interest in their own teams, the ones they chose to buy, rather than the one that was forced on them? What about the general manager? How free are other teams to deal with them, knowing that the player or players they're sending could be the missing piece of the puzzle that would send the ownerless Nationals into the postseason? I imagine that it will take a Nationals wild-card berth -- they will not win their division, mark my words -- to make baseball move on getting someone to buy the team, because until then there is always one team that the National League teams, at least, can beat up on.
And I imagine that anyone who would otherwise be interested in buying a major league team is probably asking himself or herself these same questions, and whether they really want to buy into this mess called Major League Baseball in the first place.
As for the teams that did make the playoffs, I think I'd like to see an Astros-White Sox matchup in the World Series. The White Sox' official MLB site mentions that the team has no longstanding traditions, not even the lovable-loser tradition of the Cubs (and it belongs to them now that the Bosox won it all last year). The Cardinals are OK, I guess, and so are the Angels, but I want to see the Astros and White Sox in there. At least if the Chisox make it, I can finally get myself a black Sox uniform top without anyone asking me what gang I'm in...