When T.J. Rivera’s fly ball settled into Denard Span’s glove and our season officially ended, I remained sitting, barely moving at all in my chair, watching the Giants celebrate on our field. I didn’t know what to do, or what to think, or whether to say anything. I just didn’t know.
It’s tempting, of course, to start throwing blame, and I did some of that: blame for the loss rests equally on Jeurys Familia and the fact that we were missing our starting catcher, first baseman, second baseman, third baseman, and left fielder. The point I’m trying to get at, of course, is that that we got this far is nothing short of a miracle.
But I can’t stay down on this team. Even now, sitting alone, wondering how the hell I’m going to fill the time until mid-February comes and baseball begins to return, I can’t hate this team. Hate the result. Don’t hate the players.
Really, how can you hate this team? Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman, T.J. Rivera being the kind of player it’s impossible not to love, Asdrubal having a career year…everyone. Grandy coming out of nowhere the last few weeks of the season to hit 30 home runs. Neil Walker being the kind of offensive second baseman we’ve always wanted but never had. Addison Reed shutting down the opposition with ease, and Familia, with only slightly less of it. Jerry Blevins getting all the lefties, Reyes returning home and being a real, true, leadoff hitter, Cespedes bashing like Cespedes does, and hell, even Jay Bruce getting hot the last week of the season and hitting 30 home runs of his own. And Noah Syndergaard, of course, striking fear into the hearts of opponents.
So, I guess, it’s time for all the usual end-of-season rituals; choosing the Met of the year, devoting an unusually high amount of time to thinking about David Wright, following free agent news and counting down the days; World Series, then it’s only a few weeks to Winter Meetings, then you get to New Year’s, and then suddenly, whoa, it’s only a few weeks to Spring Training. And getting to Spring Training is great, and even better is getting to Opening Day. They’re not as good as playoff baseball, but right now, they’re what we have.
Happiness will come, and eventually we’ll look back on 2016 and remember the great moments that filled it. Asdrubal’s walk-off, obviously, and Cespedes’ walk-off homer as well. All the great games that Thor threw, Bartolo homering, Familia setting a new club record for saves that looks pretty much untouchable — although, that must be somewhat mitigated by the fact that the previous record-holder was Armando Benitez. Steven Matz starting 7-1, 2.34. Michael Conforto batting .365 in April. All the moments — we’ll look back, and we’ll remember what a season it was to live through. But not today.
The story of 2016, I assume, will be roughly this: we were 60-62, then we went 27-13. Now THAT was fun to go through. It was all fun. It’s always fun. Even today, I can tell you without a second of consideration that Mets fandom, beyond anything else, is fun. Today wasn’t fun. But sooner or later, one day in the not-too-distant future, it will be again.
Even if we’d won, our season would have ended in a week, or at most, a month. And undoubtedly, I would have been happier with that result than this one. But a day or two later, the same realization would have set in: there’s no more baseball. It may be better to go out on a win than a loss, but the real downside isn’t the loss, but having to go out at all that way.
Right now, it seems as if baseball’s ultimate cruelty lies in its unpredictability and sudden twists and turns, especially when they go against you. And right now, that may be true. But that’s not the real cruelty of baseball, in a much larger sense.
Baseball is cruel because it must end. Today, we realize that more than ever. Baseball is cruel because no matter how badly or how well a season ends, you can’t play ball anymore once it does.