It's almost all gone now, almost completely vanished from sight if not from memory. A few square feet of the rubble of what used to be Shea Stadium is visible not far from the glittering Jackie Robinson Rotunda of the Mets' new home at Citi Field. That rubble is all that remains from the stadium's collapse this offseason, a destruction that was far more welcome than the one enacted the last two Septembers by the club that had inhabited the aging ballpark. All other traces of the monstrosity that was Shea Stadium have almost magically disappeared, and if the Mets are quickly trying to bury their past then who can blame them? They opened a spectacularly beautiful new ballpark on Monday night, and in so doing, hoped that they were opening a new chapter in their checkered history. If Shea Stadium closed with heartache, then Citi Field opened with hope. Indeed, the $800 million facility might be a gleaming, 21st-century edifice that allows the Mets to compete -- and, presumably, win -- in baseball's increasingly expensive modern era, but at is core it represents simply this: a fresh start.
Well, not quite, at least if Monday night was any indication. The Mets lost the first game at Citi Field the way they lost far too many games at Shea Stadium: stupidly, ineptly, comically. Although for the sellout crowd of 41,007 and the players who so desperately wanted to please them on Monday, there was nothing funny about the 6-5 loss to the Padres that will forever stain the promising history that is in store for this ballpark. Where
Can't anybody here play this game?
They can, of course, and eventually they will. This Mets team is still very good, and is certainly capable of making the first season in Citi Field a championship one. But on this night, which was supposed to be as much about showing off their shiny new ballpark as it was about playing a game, it became too much about the home team making all too familiar mistakes. Their starting pitcher let them down (
"We've got a certain reputation out there and we need to prove [people] wrong, that we can play good baseball form start to finish," said third baseman
It is the Mets' fate, or curse, play the same game in the same city as the most successful professional franchise in the history of American sports. If there is a blessing, it is that unlike the Yankees, who moved into a similarly sparkling new palace this season, the Met will have a much easier time meeting or even exceeding the standard of excellence in their new ballpark that they had in their old one. After all, when the most famous play in your old home was an error by the opposing team, what have you really lost?
Case in point: The most famous Met of all, pitcher
"We can not be thinking about what happened in the past," said centerfielder
The hope that the Mets can, in fact, accomplish a great deal this season has not been doused by this one loss. But for this one, historic night at least, the promise of Citi Field gave way to the ghosts of Shea Stadium, and the fear that those ghosts, much like the ballpark that produced them, may not yet be completely buried.