To this day, the trauma lingers deep in the psyche of Mets fans, the memories stored away in the kind of dark corners reserved for bitter breakups.
September 2007. Up seven games with 17 to play. The swoon. The collapse. The heartache.
"You can probably ask the majority of guys in here," said captain David Wright, one of the last remaining links to that spectacular failure. "They probably have no idea about that. I don't think about it. I've learned from it. But I don't think about it."
Perhaps fans shouldn't either.
Just how well have the Mets positioned themselves for their first postseason appearance since 2006?
They in essence are Secretariat -- at least in the eyes of the bookmakers. According to one offshore betting service, the Mets began September as the 1/10 favorites to win the National League East title.
Those are exactly the same odds that Secretariat went off at in the 1973 Belmont Stakes, a race that devolved into a runaway when rival Sham faded from the picture, as the Nationals have done.
After a month in which they remade themselves, assembling a lineup to give support to the best collection of young pitching in baseball, the Mets -- who will begin a three-game series against the Marlins Friday night in Miami -- entered Thursday with a 61/2-game lead over the Nationals.
With the right breaks, the Mets could find themselves arriving in Washington on Labor Day, primed to deliver a knockout blow to their chief rivals.
"We put ourselves in a position where we've got to go out there and take care of business," Wright said. "And I think that you play a lot of games up to this point to put yourself in position to make the postseason. But there's still a long time to go. I know as well as anybody that there's nothing that's safe until it happens."
Ah, yes, about 2007.
After beating the Braves on Sept. 12 of that season, the Mets awakened the next morning with a 0.2 percent chance of failing to win the division title, according to projections at the time by Baseball Prospectus.
But invoking that epic collapse is akin to never setting foot outdoors for fear of being struck by lightning. Also worth noting: Although the Mets find themselves in a position akin to 2007, the similarities end there.
This season's edition boasts the starting pitching that proved to be the 2007 team's undoing.
Consider the Mets' playoff odds on Sept. 1. According to Baseball Prospectus, the Mets began that day with a 93.9 percent chance of making the playoffs, their best probability this season.
Since 2012, 17 teams have reached the same checkpoint with at least a 90 percent chance of reaching the postseason. Only one -- the 2013 Rangers -- ended the regular season by booking tee times.
All season, manager Terry Collins has raved about the veteran leadership in the Mets' clubhouse. It's a group he'll depend upon again as the stakes get higher by the day.
"They're just going to keep everybody loose and relaxed," Collins said. "When you look up at the end, no matter what happens, I think there won't be any panic in there."
Curtis Granderson has been on both sides of the equation.
In 2006, he was with the Tigers, who were run down for the AL Central title by Michael Cuddyer's Twins. Though it worked out -- the Tigers reached the World Series -- Detroit had hoped to avoid a first-round matchup with the Yankees.
Of course, Granderson later helped the Yankees maintain late-season cushions on the way to the playoffs.
"All those different past experiences help you get to the situation where you're just playing for today," he said.
To this day, Granderson refuses to go out of his way to check on out-of-town scores. Although the results might filter his way anyhow -- thanks to smartphones, scoreboards or, as happened before Wednesday's game, through a teammate still stunned at the Nationals' bullpen implosion the night before -- Granderson makes it a point to avoid seeking results himself.
"It's a little easier said than done," he said. "But that's the mindset you have to have."
As 2007 proved, nothing is a given. And as if that wasn't enough, Mets fans were treated to another bitter September in 2008, another everlasting reminder about the importance of maintaining focus.
"I think it's pretty easy because if you don't focus, you'll get your teeth kicked in," said Daniel Murphy, a rookie in 2008. "Speaking from personal experience."
Notes & quotes: Matt Harvey and Daniel Murphy will rejoin the Mets in Miami on Friday. Lefthander Dario Alavarez, a September call-up, also will meet the club. Murphy has been diagnosed with a mild strain of his left quadriceps and the Mets have called his status day-to-day. Harvey remained in New York after experiencing fatigue and dehydration during his start on Wednesday night. He's expected to make his next start Tuesday during a critical series with the Nationals in Washington.
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