‘You Gotta Believe’ …but I just can’t

Seventeen games. That’s all that separated the rabid legions of Mets fans in Queens from another year of October baseball. With a seven-game cushion and a cakewalk slate of games mostly against the Nationals and the Marlins, two teams who couldn’t even make the playoffs at the AAA level, Mets fans were busy worrying about a potential first-round matchup with the formidable Padres.

Now, mere weeks later, the Amazins’ are on the outside looking in as our archrivals, the Phillies, the only members of the 10,000-loss club in all professional sports, are sipping champagne and salivating at the prospect of a playoff game later today.

We don’t “gotta believe” anymore. Now, we “gotta” blame someone.

Should we throw stones at the bullpen that blew a slew of games including a three-run lead against the hapless Marlins in the ninth inning? Do we tell Tom Glavine to hit the road after he was completely outclassed by Dontrelle Willis on the last day of the season?

Is this Jos? Reyes’ cross to bear? I’m sure a .197 batting average in September didn’t help us any. Can we finally tell Guillermo Mota that he’s nothing without his bag of needles and banish him to the Single A Cyclones’ bench?

No. We can’t do anything. All we can do is stare at the pictures of Willie Randolph with his head down in the clubhouse, wondering when he’s going to stop feeling sorry for himself and start feeling sorry for the people who were really wronged in all of this. The few, the faithful, those of us who have bled blue and orange even when Bobby Bonilla was the only thing we had to look forward to. The 2007 Mets have betrayed us in the way that only sports heroes can, and honestly, I doubt the five boroughs will ever forgive them.

The phrase “You Gotta Believe” was drilled into my vocabulary long ago in the Staten Island apartment where my uncle taught me to love baseball, basketball and football. But I’ll be honest with you: I don’t believe anymore, and I don’t know if I ever will again.