I’ll say it now, and I’ll say it again, and I’ll say it until they prove me wrong, which, if you know me, will be damn hard to do. I’m not getting down on this team.
Had I wanted to, tonight would have been a prime opportunity. The chance to take a series from the putrid Phillies, squandered. The chance to begin asserting ourselves in the National League East, wasted. The chance to dispel any lingering worries after the opener, untouched.
But I won’t, because much as we don’t like to admit it, we all have bad days. It’s true for ball clubs as much if not more than for ordinary, everyday citizens. Sometimes we don’t need to heap blame, because there really is, though we hate to say it, a real, true, acceptable reason that things went the way they did.
Today it was the cold. “We’re not using the weather as an excuse,” Terry Collins said in his postgame press conference, so I’ll do it for him. It’s hard to hit in the cold. The hands tighten up, all contact stings, the ball doesn’t travel as far. We Mets fans love accountability, but sometimes, excuses are valid and completely acceptable.
Fireworks night, strictly in terms of established precedent, is not supposed to take place on the coldest day available. The phrase itself brings to mind images of children playing in the park or on the beach, families spreading a picnic blanket at the lake, young lovers lying back and looking up at the sky.
Not irritated, bellowing baseball fans suffering silently in tooth-chattering, hand-numbing cold, wearing winter mittens and drinking hot chocolate.
There’s a reason fireworks work better in the summer, just like there’s a reason the majority of baseball season takes place during warm weather: it just works better that way. The hitters can swing without fear of hand-burning pain, and the fans can watch without wishing they’d brought a second scarf.
Fireworks and baseball: both as American as apple pie. But somehow, scheduled during cold weather, they seemed almost Soviet.
Although the day was unsuitable for either, the schedule said there would be both, and the Mets nearly went about taking care of the pair of them in the first inning. Granderson walked. Asdrubal Cabrera hit a ball that, on a day more conventionally suited for baseball, would have gone out. After Cespedes flied out, Duda singled, then Walker slammed a ball the other way. Again, on a day more like the hypothetical perfect one on which baseball is meant to be played, Walker’s ball was ticketed for the stands.
It wasn’t. The Mets couldn’t conjure the fireworks, which was somehow fitting: anyone who had braved the (inaccurate) predictions of rain and the near-freezing temperatures to make the trek to Citi Field was there, at least in large part, for the baseball. In the stands, as the game went on, we didn’t care so much about the fireworks.
Maybe that’s why the Mets couldn’t produce them, in which case, their interpretation was miles off.
While the Mets offense was looking for conflagratory scoring opportunities but not finding any, Bartolo Colón was doing what he always does, which is to say, defying all logic. My friend and I, as we drove to Citi Field, listed a million reasons why Colón was absolutely the worst person to pitch the game. He hadn’t grown up pitching in the cold. He didn’t throw nearly as hard as anyone else. His pitches would move less than usual.
The face palming formality of a Ryan Howard home run, which frankly shouldn’t even count anymore given how bad he looks, aside, Bartolo was damn near perfect. He went six, struck out seven, walked none, and allowed just the one run. It was a loss worthy of 2013 Matt Harvey, a loss that was both undeserved and seemingly unimportant. You get the feeling that, had the Mets walked off in the ninth, Bartolo wouldn’t have been too upset about not getting the win. Clearly, he’s no longer in it for the numbers.
And in terms of numbers, let’s just face it: the Phillies bullpen had to get some outs eventually. No team can sustain a 22.50 bullpen E.R.A. without hard work to do so, and the Phillies, while incredibly bad, aren’t quite that bad. Even if it was via a climatological irregularity, something good was going to happen for the Phillies eventually, and if it had to, better now than later.
On the whole, the season is going swimmingly. We’ve got two losses: one to the Royals, to whom losses bear no relation to any kind of reality, and one tonight, played in weather more suited for the luge. Neither is anything alarming. If we don’t score when we should score, I’ll call it a problem. I haven’t seen it yet. We’ve scored when we’ve been expected to. That’s no way to get through a championship season, but with 158 games remaining, doing about as well as expected is enough to get by.
We didn’t stay for the fireworks: as soon as Wilmer made the last out, we stood, and soon enough, were on the road back to Manhattan. Somehow, the cold weather, coupled with the Mets failure to provide fireworks of their own, had made us less hungry for the real thing.
Who said being a Mets fan made sense?