If you mention the words "Scott Kazmir" to a Mets fan, you'll get the same reaction as if you said the words "I think your condition is terminal" or "Your mother was arrested for prostitution. You'll need to bail her out." It's amazing to think that the name of a once Met pitching prospect could cause so much grief for a nation of fans.
To understand our pain, you'd have to understand what was going down in New York then and what always goes down here. You have to grasp what's going on in the heads of baseball fans in the New York area. Then maybe, you can understand the guttural disturbance Mets fans like myself feel when you hear his name.
New York is one of the few markets, along with Chicago and L.A., that have more than one major team in a given sport. And when you have two teams, you're going to have one dominate team. There's the White Sox and the Cubs -- can you guess who the dominate team there is? In L.A., you have the Lakers and the Clippers. And in New York, you have the Mets and the Yankees.
If you want to see the definition of an inferiority complex, check out Mets fans. The Yankees have 26 World Series titles and have been around since 1901. Then there's the Mets, who have been around since 1962 and have a whopping two championships. The Mets are the nerdy little brother to the varsity football star and most popular kid in school.
It doesn't help that Yankee fans walk around like they own New York. I was at a Mets game this year when they lost to the Braves and David Wright had three errors. There was a Yankee fan a few rows who stood up to rub in the Mets misfortunes all game. And it's not as if he was with another Mets fan. He was with another Yankees fan. It's as if he just came to root against the Mets.
That's our life here. Yankees fans will take any chance they can to exert their dominance over us Mets fans. So we want to do anything to win. When bad trades are made, not only do we have to watch the Mets suck it up, we have to watch the Yankees rub it in by dominating as well.
The year was 2004 and the Yankees had gone to the World Series five of the last seven years. And for the first time since the Mets lost to those very same Yankees in the Series in 2001, the Queens residents looked to be back on track again. Kris Benson of Pittsburgh was a hot commodity in trade talks and Victor Zambrano of the Devil Rays was another available pitcher people talked about. The Mets moved utility man Ty Wiggington to Pittsburgh as part of the trade for Benson, and they sent red hot pitching prospect Scott Kazmir to the Devil Rays, where Wiggington is now by the way, for Zambrano.
No one understood why the Mets needed Zambrano when they got Benson. In fact, by the time the trade was made, they were six games back and falling fast. They'd finish the season 71-91 and 25 games out of first. Acquiring Benson wasn't a bad trade -- he'd probably still be a Met if it weren't for his whore of a wife. But Zambrano was a question mark coming in. He'd already had control problems, leading the AL in walks in 2003, while Scott Kazmir was undoubtedly going to be the shit. Zambrano lived up to his lack of expectation with poor starts and an abundance of injuries as Kazmir pitched five shutout innings for Tampa Bay his first start.
Kazmir is just getting better as Zambrano just gets worse. K, an appropriate nickname, has befuddled some hard-hitting lineups such as the Red Sox this year as Zambrano is missing the entire season with a torn rotator cuff, probably the only way Mets fans would forget to hate him.
This trade summed up the feeling in Mets Nation. They just couldn't get things right. Even now, as Mets fans rejoice in their current dominance of the NL, we still lament a trade almost two years old. If things went differently, could Kazmir have been the fourth pitcher in a still questionable back-end of the rotation? We'll never know.
(What could have been.)
The trade still affects Mets deals because they're now too reluctant to trade a hot prospect for an already established player. Will the Mets avoid the trade they need to win the pennant because they're too scared that trading Lastings Milledge or Mike Pelfrey would be making the Kazmir error all over again? Will Barry Zito, the arm that could take the Mets all the way, be bypassed because the front office is afraid to repeat past mistakes? It's no Curse of the Bambino, but it still has a lingering effect years later.
Maybe we Mets fans will forget the trade when Kazmir retires (with a few Cy Youngs under his belt just to rub it in) or dies. Or maybe they'll trade a promising prospect for him in 15 years as an aging Kazmir comes back and plays poorly. Even a World Series victory wouldn't let the Mets fans forget it. The Kazmir trade is a reminder how things were in N.Y. just a few years ago.
But Mets fans should look at things rationally. Kazmir is a really good pitcher, keeping an ERA below 3.8 the last two years, but he's no Clemens or Unit as of now -- although I fear what will happen to the pysche of Mets fans if he does. The Mets are dominating in the present while their fans are living in the past. And if those who love the Amazins wanna look across town, you can see the once-powerhouse Yankees clawing for the playoffs. Sure, Yankees fans are still obnoxious, but you don't hear them as much. It looks like that nerdy little brother just had a big-time growth spurt and can now stand up to his older sibling. Enjoy it, Mets fans. I know I will.