Sitting in the stands watching the Mets undertaking a futile attempt to oust the Nationals from the top of the division, reasons to give up and pack it in came at me, one after the other.
First, Bartolo Colón didn’t have it. That much was clear from the first inning, when he walked two batters. Bartolo is a control guy — when he’s walking the house, you know it’s just not his night. It’s like Kevin James delivering a fat joke that falls flat; after that, you know it’s just not working out.
Second, we weren’t hitting. Against Gio Gonzalez — not, as far as I’m aware, Steve Carlton, although based on how we looked at the plate, you couldn’t be sure — we simply couldn’t put things together. Cespedes had two hits, including a monstrous home run, but that was about as far as we got: outside of some stray singles, our offense couldn’t muster so much as a fighting chance at a scoring opportunity.
Third, despite a clean forecast, it was raining.
In my seat in the rapidly emptying upper deck, I felt like Doug Heffernan, in that classic King of Queens episode, wherein Doug attempts to complete his delivery route as a blizzard rages around him. (And it takes real talent to write multiple Kevin James references in describing a single Mets game; don’t try it at home). He wants to pack it in and give up; supervisor O’Boyle won’t let him. Thus, the following exchange ensues:
“I’m officially requesting a 317.”
“Heffernan, you’re not abandoning your truck.”
“Okay, then I’m officially requesting a 318.”
“Heffernan, you’re not opening your packages and eating the contents.”
The incompetence on display down on the field was my blizzard; leaving my seat was my 317; packing it in and getting home in time to catch King of Queens on TVLand was my 318. And the fact that the game hadn’t ended yet was my supervisor O’Boyle.
I’m a Mets fan. And to quote the sign man, real fans stay ’til the end.
It didn’t even require any thought; I would stay. So I did, even as the fans around me filtered out and the only — or at least, loudest — people remaining were complaining about everything under the sun, from Daniel Murphy both being “overrated” and “a traitor” to Jim Henderson being overpaid to David Wright being “already out,” whatever that meant.
“Why are you still here?” I wanted to ask them. If your greatest pleasure during a loss is yelling insults at anyone who can hear you, it seems to me that you’re not the type of person to stick out a blowout loss until the end out of a sense of fan loyalty.
And it’s not like there weren’t good things to see, either. We saw Juan Lagares make another circus catch in center, reminiscent of equal parts ’14 Lagares and ’54 Mays. We saw Cespedes get two more hits, both line drives, one a home run, not meaning much but still fun to see.
You can’t expect a win every time; the best teams ever have lost one of every three. What you can hope for, day in and day out, is stories to remember, plays that stand out, a game that contributes to the ongoing experience of being a Mets fan. Today wasn’t much fun to watch, but it was certainly that.
There’s genuine emotion involved in watching these games, from the frustration of multiple walks from so-called control pitchers to the hope when Matt Reynolds comes to the plate, looking for his first major league hit. He did, indeed, line a shot to center. It was caught. But he’ll get there.
But most of all, the prevalent emotion was straight-up sadness. Sadness, in one specific circumstance: David Wright, the captain, coming to the plate, working diligently to bring the count full, seeing the ball well, not chasing bad pitches, and then swinging through a fastball, or taking a curve, for strike three.
I’m not panicked about David; not yet, at least. He’s had his bad streaks, and he’ll be back. But he’s not the player that he once was: that much is clear, and I suppose, to be expected — no one remains at 33 the player they were at 24. He’s just slumping, and he’ll get clear of it eventually. But still — watching my childhood hero, with whom I formed a bond beyond normal baseball player and fan when we both began recovering from chronic ailments, finally succumb to the forces that have been attempting to bring him down his whole career, is far less than enjoyable.
I don’t fault Wright at all — not for a minute. With all he’s been through, the fact that he’s still out on the field, three days out of for, is completely miraculous, in defiance of conventional medical knowledge and a testament to the captain’s uncommon level of resolve and determination. As far as I’m concerned, he’s got a free ride from here on out — he’s already accomplished Mets greatness, and everything else is just icing on the cake.
I left my seat in the upper deck for the bottom of the ninth, and moved down to field level, watching from the first base side. Cespedes popped out, and Walker did as well, on — ironically — a nice play, going back into the outfield, from one Daniel Murphy. With two outs, the final exodus for the exits had already begun.
Then Asdrubal Cabrera smacked a double to left. The scant fans remaining did their best to get loud.
“Come back!” one fan yelled to a friend, already on their way down the stairs. “It’s not over yet!”
Plawecki smacked the first pitch that he saw as well. It was hit hard. It was deep. And it was right into Jason Werth’s glove. Ballgame over.
So all in all, it wasn’t the best game I could have seen; not by a long shot. But there were positives, and that’s all you can ask for.
And what’s more, now we’ve got a rubber game to look forward to, Matt Harvey on the mound looking for redemption. And having observed the Dark Knight’s character over his few years in Queens, I’d say he’s got a decent shot at finding it.
The uniqueness of the Mets and Mets fandom — Mets exceptionalism, you could say — was on full display tonight. Because even in a blowout, 7-1 loss, where nothing went right and the fans couldn’t get to the exits fast enough, I was reminded just how wonderful this team is to root for.