This week, there has been joy neither in Mudville nor in Queens — home of the New York Mets, a team enjoying a catastrophically disappointing 2023 season.
The Mets began the year with high hopes for a deep postseason run and with an even higher payroll (somewhere near $350 million before luxury tax payments, making them the most expensive baseball team in history). But after Tuesday’s trade deadline, at which point the Mets had a 50-55 win-loss record, the organization all but gave up on 2023, trading away most of their best pitchers and a few sluggers to boot, in exchange for a bunch of admittedly exciting young prospects who will nonetheless probably not blossom until at least (gulp) 2025. The remaining Mets responded by losing three games in a row to the Kansas City Royals, currently one of the worst teams in M.L.B., but also — a little more salt in the wound, please — the very team to which they lost the World Series in 2015.
Suffice to say, I’ve not been listening to a lot of happy music the past few days.
In his highly entertaining 2021 book “So Many Ways to Lose: The Amazin’ True Story of the New York Mets — The Best Worst Team in Sports,” the journalist Devin Gordon writes, “There is a difference between being bad and being gifted at losing, and this distinction holds the key to understanding the true magic of the New York Mets.” Yet again, the Mets have fulfilled that reputation and somehow found a novel way to fail, in the process inventing an entirely new flavor of pain to inflict upon its fan base. It’s honestly kind of impressive.
As any librettist or opera composer knows, some tragedies are so grand that they must be expressed in music. And though I am but a humble newsletter writer, I know this, too. So here it is: a playlist for the 2023 Mets.
You will not hear Timmy Trumpet (the man behind the triumphant entrance music for our closer, who was injured in freakish fashion in March) on this playlist. You will hear the Smiths, as the 2023 mood is closer to sumptuous anguish. You’ll also hear classics from the Who, David Bowie and Talking Heads, alongside newer songs from Palehound and the long-suffering Mets fans Yo La Tengo.
You don’t need to root for the Mets, or even like baseball, to listen to this playlist. Actually, if you don’t, it will work as a primer to help you understand the complicated tale of woe that is the Mets’ 2023 season. But if it somehow compels you to devote yourself to the orange and blue, I offer you a hearty welcome. Misery loves company.
1. The Smiths: “Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now”
Though it is possible to describe the psyche of a Mets fan in a playlist comprised entirely of Smiths songs — “Panic,” “Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want,” “You Just Haven’t Earned It Yet, Baby” — the title of this jangly ditty from 1984 sums things up pretty succinctly. (Listen on YouTube)
2. Peggy Lee: “Big Spender”
When the billionaire hedge fund manager Steve Cohen bought the Mets in 2020, he became the wealthiest owner in the M.L.B. Going into the 2023 season, he clearly wasn’t afraid to spend, or pay the luxury tax. As a result, he assembled the most expensive roster in baseball history. What could possibly go wrong? I’m sure Peggy Lee, in this snappy 1966 rendition of a showstopper from “Sweet Charity,” couldn’t possibly guess! (Listen on YouTube)
3. The Magnetic Fields: “Come Back From San Francisco”
“Come back from San Francisco, it can’t be all that pretty when all of New York City misses you,” Shirley Simms sings on this 1999 song by the Magnetic Fields — a sentiment shared by some New Yorkers earlier this season when former Mets and current Giants like Michael Conforto, J.D. Davis and Wilmer Flores all got off to hot starts just as the Mets’ bats started going cold. (It’s also a sentiment plenty of older New Yorkers still feel about the Giants organization itself.) (Listen on YouTube)
4. The Big Bopper: “Chantilly Lace”
At least Pete Alonso was hitting some very big bops at an astounding pace — 20 home runs by the end of May. As the Big Bopper would say, “Hello, baaaaby!” (Listen on YouTube)
5. David Bowie: “Boys Keep Swinging”
Indeed they did — whether or not they were making contact with the ball. If only they were having as much fun as Bowie on this 1979 glam-pop gem. (Listen on YouTube)
6. The Who: “The Kids Are Alright”
An undeniable bright spot for the 2023 team has been the offensive prowess of a group of very young rookies who earned the nickname “The Baby Mets”: the 23-year-old infielders Mark Vientos and Brett Baty; and the 21-year-old catcher Francisco Álvarez, who at press time had hit more home runs this year than any other catcher in baseball. The kids are all right! (Listen on YouTube)
7. Palehound: “Eye on the Bat”
“Suckers will all tell you to keep watching for the ball, but we know better than that,” Palehound’s El Kempner sings. “Keep your eye on the bat.” Good song from a recently released album I’ve been enjoying; bad advice for the New York Mets. (Listen on YouTube)
8. SZA featuring Ty Dolla Sign: “Hit Different”
I began to wish they would. (Listen on YouTube)
9. The Everly Brothers: “June Is as Cold as December”
Brrr. The Mets won just seven games and lost 19 in June — a month so disastrous that The Athletic’s Tim Britton wrote an article asking, “Did the Mets just complete their worst month in franchise history?” This being the Mets, though, he found plenty of others, writing, “Note that this is a non-exhaustive list. There are other very bad months that did not make the cut.” (Listen on YouTube)
10. Smokey Robinson & the Miracles: “A Fork in the Road”
Another silver lining, though, was the 30-year-old Japanese pitcher Kodai Senga — making his M.L.B. debut this season with the Mets — and his elusive signature pitch, the “ghost fork,” named for the way it suddenly disappears from the strike zone. (Listen on YouTube)
11. Yo La Tengo: “Fallout”
It wouldn’t be a Mets playlist without some Yo La Tengo. The long-running New Jersey indie-rock band is named after a great, if possibly apocryphal, story involving the former Mets Richie Ashburn and Elio Chacón, and this year the band’s Ira Kaplan threw out the first pitch at a Mets game. The title of its latest album, which features the fuzzy single “Fallout,” also expresses a sentiment that is relatable to many Mets fans: “This Stupid World.” (Listen on YouTube)
12. Ace Frehley: “New York Groove”
The Mets play this stomping, irresistibly catchy glam-rock tune — written by the British producer Russ Ballard, but popularized by the native New Yorker Ace Frehley — after every home game that they win. So for a hopeful moment in July, when the team kicked off the month with a six-game winning streak, it was a song that actually got some play. (Listen on YouTube)
13. Talking Heads: “Burning Down the House”
But it wasn’t enough. As the trade deadline neared, the team began selling off some of its most valuable assets: First, the closer David Robertson and the starting pitcher Max Scherzer. Then, at the trade deadline on Tuesday, they just started burning down the house. Baseball’s most expensive roster ever had officially gone bust. Here’s your ticket; pack your bags. (Listen on YouTube)
14. George Strait: “All My Ex’s Live in Texas”
And now ours do, too: Scherzer has joined Jacob deGrom on the Texas Rangers, while Justin Verlander has returned to his former team, the Houston Astros. George Strait, I now know how you felt when you recorded this 1987 hit. (Listen on YouTube)
15. Hot Chocolate: “You Sexy Thing”
And yet … at least technically, the season is not over. Rooting for the Mets means ya gotta believe in miracles. (Listen on YouTube)
All the fans are true to the orange and blue,
The Amplifier Playlist
Listen on Spotify. We update this playlist with each new newsletter.
“A (Sad) Playlist for the 2023 New York Mets” track list
Track 1: The Smiths, “Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now”
Track 2: Peggy Lee, “Big Spender”
Track 3: The Magnetic Fields, “Come Back From San Francisco”
Track 4: The Big Bopper, “Chantilly Lace”
Track 5: David Bowie, “Boys Keep Swinging”
Track 6: The Who, “The Kids Are Alright”
Track 7: Palehound, “Eye on the Bat”
Track 8: SZA featuring Ty Dolla Sign, “Hit Different”
Track 9: The Everly Brothers, “June Is as Cold as December”
Track 10: Smokey Robinson & the Miracles, “A Fork in the Road”
Track 11: Yo La Tengo, “Fallout”
Track 12: Ace Frehley, “New York Groove”
Track 13: Talking Heads, “Burning Down the House”
Track 14: George Strait, “All My Ex’s Live in Texas”
Track 15: Hot Chocolate, “You Sexy Thing”
If you are curious how I came to devote my life to the perpetual misery that is Mets fandom, you’re in luck — I wrote an essay on that very topic last year, for the briefly shuttered and soon-to-be-revived magazine Bookforum. Viva la Mets! Viva la Bookforum!
Also, I mentioned Devin Gordon’s delightful Mets book, so I would be remiss if I did not also recommend Gordon’s equally delightful 2018 New York Times Magazine profile of the Mets announcers Gary Cohen, Keith Hernandez, and Ron Darling, “the Magi of Mets Nation.”
Content Source: www.nytimes.com