“If he was there he™d have kept them together they wouldn™t have panicked,” claims guitarist George Thorogood of the Mets’ 07 September collapse and the venerable Julio Franco. “If you™re that old, still playing in the big leagues, you™re relaxed, baby. There™s no anxiety in Julio Franco™s body.” Mets By The Numbers coaxed further observations out of the shy, retiring Thorogood (link courtesy Repoz).

So you™re a big Met fan. But why? Most kids growing up in Wilmington would be Phillies fans.

I was a Phillies fan, and then came 1964. They had 12 games to go and they lost 10 of them. I said, you know what? If I™m going to root for a team that™s going to lose, I™ll pick the biggest losing team of all time. A team with no expectations. And I wanted them to be in New York, and in the National League, and carry on the tradition of the Giants and the Dodgers. It was the Mets by default.I liked the Mets, and the tough Cleon Jones. Not just Cleon Jones, see, but The Tough Cleon Jones. Whenever my friends mention him to me it™s ‘The Tough Cleon Jones’. So they™re my team, and they™ve been my team since 1965.

When they won the World Series in 1969 it was the greatest thing to happen in baseball. It was David slaying Goliath. It was fantastic. After that, I was content for them to slide back into the second division.

What happened last year was the Mets meeting all of my expectations. These were the Mets I loved. These were the real Mets! When you walk around in the streets who can you identify with? Derek Jeter? He™s so beautiful, he looks like Harry Belafonte. He™s going to the Hall of Fame. The real baseball fan identifies with Wally Backman or Ed Kranepool. The salt-of-the-Earth regular guys. The Dodgers had Gil Hodges. The Mets had Ron Hodges.

So have the Mets become too artificial for you? They™re expected to contend now, they have a high payroll, they™re getting a new stadium¦

I thought it was cool to go see the Mets, because if you get behind loser you always get good seats at the park. You can™t get a bad seat when they™re losing. And when they win it™s a bonus. If they win two in a row it™s a big bonus.

But I™m happy for them when they™re winning. That™s exciting. But what broke my heart was Beltran not swinging at the pitch a few years ago. They were facing Adam Wainwright, the 10th pitcher on the team. The bases were loaded. You™re giving Carlos Beltran 100 million bucks and he looks at a pitch down the middle. With the winning run on base in the ninth inning you™re supposed to come through. That broke my heart more than last year.

I like the managers they Mets have had. They™re cool people. Willie Randolph. Classy guy and I think he™s a perfect manager for the team. He wasn™t in the league as Ryne Sandberg or Rogers Hornsby as a second baseman but he was a good solid big-league player that people have respect for.

Some of the fans now are saying it™s time to whack him. A few blogs and the New York Sun have already said so.

If the Mets had won the last 10 games and finished one game behind the Phillies they all would have said he did a great job. One game out after 162 games is a good season.

Whether you agree or disagree, sports in the country are taken way too seriously. They™ve completely lost perspective. Baseball is supposed to be the national pastime, not the national obsession. Don™t people have something better to do than go on a website and write letters to Willie Randolph? How come you™re not out in the backyard having a catch with your son? It™s just baseball. It™s not the price of oil or the war in Iraq. It™s just a game and Willie is just a manager. It™s not his fault the pitchers couldn™t hold a lead. If Florida and Washington are knocking you out, 9-8 you need pitching that wasn™t there.