Mets “lost another Pitcher, one of the top players at the time…

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The Mets started out as the unfortunate Amazin’s in 1962, changed their name to the Miracle Mets in 1969, and then returned a few years later as the brave “Ya Gotta Believe” group. The Mets this season may soon have a moniker from shocked and incredulous fans, and the team will not take well to it.

The Mets’ listless 8-1 loss to the Florida Marlins yesterday, coupled with the Philadelphia Phillies’ 6-1 victory against the Washington Nationals about five minutes later, eliminated them from postseason contention and saddled them with one of the biggest collapses in baseball history. They lost a seven-game lead in the National League East with 17 to play.

“It’s embarrassing,” closer Billy Wagner said. “That’s the big thing.”

The Mets went 5-12 to close out the season; the Phillies, a beleaguered franchise that had its own historic collapse in 1964, went 13-4. They capitalized as the Mets’ pitching crumbled, their defense disintegrated and their offense, potent at times, fell silent at inopportune moments.

It all happened yesterday, too, and just as swiftly. Tom Glavine, the 41-year-old veteran with 303 career victories, was charged with seven runs and left after one-third of an inning, the second-shortest outing of his 21-season career. The Mets stranded eight runners on base in the first three innings and had only two hits the rest of the way.

“This is just a tough life lesson in baseball,” Manager Willie Randolph said. “Any time you have an opportunity to finish the deal and don’t capitalize on it, it will come back to haunt you. And it sure did with us. The bottom line is that we spit away an opportunity to win the division. It’s going to be a tough winter living with that.”

General Manager Omar Minaya and Randolph took over this franchise within days of each other in 2004 with the singular vision of restoring glory days to the team each cheered for as a youngster. The Mets improved in their first season together and were formidable in their second, coming within a victory of reaching the World Series.

But Minaya must now evaluate all of his personnel, including Randolph and the coaching staff. He may feel compelled to make more sweeping changes than he had envisioned as the franchise, surging in its quest to join the Yankees in the city’s consciousness, attempts to recover from a devastating blow.

The Mets drew healthy television ratings and more than 3.3 million fans for the second consecutive season, but the ending threatens to sour fans who had grown displeased by the Mets’ uncanny ability to win a few, then lose a few, as if they were content to stay only a few games ahead of their rivals.

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