By Ernie Palladino
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For all the on-field heroics so far, for Daniel Murphy’s record six straight games with a homer, Terry Collins’ brilliant strategizing in the otherworldly NLCS sweep of the Cubs, and all the other wonderful factors that led the Mets to this point, the World Series comes as their reward to the fans.
They are the ones who really deserve all this. The universe owes them a world championship after what they have gone through. But until Game 1 rolls around Tuesday, the Mets’ fifth pennant in history and the end of a 15-year wait for another World Series appearance will suffice.
It’s OK. A short delay while Toronto and Kansas City duke it out won’t tax these people’s patience. It’s because of that very anticipation for future celebrations that the true fans are who this World Series is all about.
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We’re not talking about the Yoenis-come-latelies, the ones who needed proof before they ever believed. Not the ones who only sat up and took notice once Cespedes started busting fences in breathtaking numbers.
Nor is it about the front-runners who now bedeck themselves top to bottom in the caps and jerseys and fuzzy slippers they just bought last week, or the Disposable Income Set who members will scarf up most of seats in Flushing starting with Game 3 next Friday.
Of course, they will all stand and yell loudly and proudly if the Mets finally get to dance their victorious jig on their home diamond instead of their vanquished opponents’, and they will be welcome to do so. Right now, as the Mets let their played-to-perfection sweep of the Cubs sink in, there is room enough for everyone on the bandwagon.
Just leave the front row open.
That’s reserved for the die-hards, the ones this World Series is really all about.
They get the big reward.
They’re the ones who showed up through the tough times. Sit them right up front, because they deserve the best view. Why not? They did all the suffering.
They are the poor schlubs with the beer and pretzels who sat night after night in front of their economy cable package, who absorbed six years of low-budget losing and then went out with their beat-up Mets cap and told all who would listen, “Don’t worry, we’re building. We’re building!”
They are the ones who bothered to scrape together the dough for StubHub tickets in the ghost-town days when tumbleweeds sailing across the infield became a more likely sight than a game-winning hit.
They were the ones in those intimate gatherings who came out whenever they could for a 70-win team, and then taught their kids a life lesson in optimism riding the “7” Line back home.
“Don’t worry,” they’d say. “We’re building. We’re building.”
They are the ones who saw hope as Jacob deGrom and Matt Harvey threw their hearts out for seven innings, only to have the offense and bullpen toss their wins in the garbage. They were the ones who thrilled at Noah Syndergaard’s velocity even as he struggled with control, who waited expectantly for David Wright’s return even though, deep down, they knew his best years lay somewhere in the wreckage of the last six.
They are the ones who see Murphy’s jet-fueled journey through unconsciousness, and proclaim, “See? I always knew he had it in him,” and leave everyone convinced they speak the truth. Their friends know they are the true believers.
This will be a World Series of reward for so many people, Collins at the top of the list. If anyone suffered as much as the fans, it is the 66-year-old baseball lifer. No one knows the frustrations of watching a cut-rate roster struggle for respect. He nearly lost his job because of it.
Now, he takes an improved roster into his first-ever World Series. He needs to enjoy it, for no one deserves the privilege more than Collins.
No one, that is, except for another form of lifer, the one who stuck with him and his group in the rag-tag years.
The ones who said, “Don’t worry, we’re building. We’re building.”
If the Mets do wind up winning it all, the trophy will belong to those select few fans as much as the franchise itself.
Follow Ernie on Twitter at @ErniePalladino