I’ve joined a couple of Facebook fan groups that support my true number one fanboy passion team, the New York Mets. I tend to react with both laughter and consternation at people who use these forums to vent their displeasure at virtually every single negative result, be it giving up a home run or being thrown out at the plate. Anything short of 162-0, and a mercy rule being put into effect were it available, seems to get a faction of this uberfans huing and crying for some player to be released or some executive to be fired.
As their lead in the National League East over the Atlanta Braves. once double-digits, dwindled over the summer, I occasionally would give into temptation and post more encouraging rebuttals, reminding people that the 2022 Mets were a much more talented team than those that had blown similar leads, including last year’s team that had been in first place for roughly 100 days before ultimately fading in the dog days of August. This year’s crew has a much smarter manager in Buck Showalter, more dedicated ownership in the form of Steve Cohen, and a $43.3M stopper in Max Scherzer that the ’21 Mets had. Better still, they saw much-injured ace Jacob deGrom return this July, just about a year after his season ended. While admitttedly fragile, so far deGrom has been nothing short of brilliant. With a one-two punch like that, surely THIS team wouldn’t concede a huge lead.
Or so I thought.
Despite a schedule that on paper is the easiest of any team still vying for the post-season, the Mets have begun September under .500, and now in the midst of an ugly three-game losing streak against the two weakest teams in their league. First the Washington Nationals. baseball’s worst team by far and starting a team best defined by a 30-year-old journeyman who has suddenly become their hottest hitter, beating them twice in a row by identical 7-1 scores at Citi Field this past weekend. One of those wins came against Scherzer (though in fairness most of those runs in his game came against an ineffective bullpen).
And last night, visiting Pittsburgh for the first time in more than a year, the Pirates chipped away at Taiwan Walker early, with the newest version of Mets-killers like Chipper Jones and Chase Utley used to be, Rodolfo Castro, yet again hitting a home run against them. A Brandon Nimmo seventh-inning home run gave hope, but a four-run eighth took it back. Newbie Bryce Montes de Oca was as ineffective against the Bucs as he wa the Nats. If this was the talent that gave the Mets management confidence they didn’t need to make a move for a middle relievers, shame on them. Please, let’s limit our lower-case last name pitchers to just one!
And despite the equally inept Oakland A’s scoring nine runs against an Atlanta Braves team they rarely see, the Braves scored a tenth run against them and made it held up late.
So here were are. 136 games down for both teams. And we’re dead even.
I really don’t want the doomscrollers and naysayers to be right. And, truth is, with the addition of a third wild card, the Mets are still in fairly good shape for a playoff berth–their magic number is 14, as is the Braves’.
But in an only slightly longer season in pandemic 2020, with FIVE wild card slots available, the Mets still managed to not make the playoffs. Which, in hindsight, may have been a blessing–in the state of mind I was then, had they actually went to the post-season I might have done something drastic. Strange as this sounds, the Mets’ failure to win a championship, now in its 36th season, has sustained me through some truly challenging times.
But this team has simply been too good, too talented, and too well-lead to have it all go in smoke like this.
deGrom starts a day-night doubleheader today, and my new favorite Chris Bassitt goes tonight. My avatar has become his namesake, Chris Bassett. It’s the closest thing I have to a pet and a source of comfort these days, particularly on days as nerve-wracking as this one looms to be.
It’s a 26-game season. It starts in a few hours. For Pete (and not just Alonso)’s sake, #LFGM.