All day Wednesday, I toyed with the idea of buying a cheap ticket and watching from the uppers as the Mets engaged in a futile struggle against the Yankees. I knew I wasn’t going to go, but the thought must have meant something.
I’m still adjusting, I suppose, to the idea that we’re a genuinely mediocre team, almost bad. I’ve seen bad teams before, and I’ve soldiered through it: in 2014 I went to 18 games, and sat steadfastly through errors, unworthy pitching performances, and aging relievers desperately avoiding that inevitable destiny, the scrap heap of indifferent memory. So I’ll come around: it’ll just take time.
And yet, even as I acknowledged, and have for — what, must be a couple of months now — that we’re not remotely close to a good team, I still held out hope. I still thought we were going to win. When Cespedes drove home Lagares in the bottom of the first, I thought we had a lead we wouldn’t relinquish. Eight innings later, when Cespedes came to the plate with a man on as the tying run, I thought he was going to jack one. More than thought — I sensed it. I actually tensed up in excitement when the count went to 3-2; I could actually see the powerful swing, the ball soaring into the night, the fans behind home plate leaping into the air in delight, the ball landing somewhere far out of reach, Cespedes trotting around the bases, once again a hero. But he didn’t.
So, my instincts were a bit off — as if they’re ever really on point. I’ll predict home runs like that two or three times a week.
They were sharper at some points, though — like when Paul Sewald coaxed an enormous pop-up out of Aaron Judge and then, somehow, was left in to face Didi Gregorius. “Terry always sticks with his guys one batter too long,” my dad said, watching from the couch next to me. I didn’t say anything. I didn’t have to. We had already resigned ourselves to the outcome — but then, of course, we both craned our necks as we watched Gregorius’ double curl down the line, as if there was any chance it would land foul, as if there was any shot at all it would be anything but a knife in the back of the Mets’ chances.
Was Terry sleeping — literally, I wondered? Was there something I’d missed, some glaring fact that had made it impossible or impractical for Josh Smoker, already loose in the bullpen, to come in and get his man? Of course there wasn’t. This was the Terry we dread but rarely see — the Terry who forgets pinch-runners, the Terry who brings in Neil Ramirez with the bases loaded and two outs. It was Terry at his worst, the Terry we see rarely — but somehow, far too often.
There wasn’t much to see in this game, especially if you were looking exclusively for positive moments from the home team. There was a home run from Rene Rivera, likely already destined for a spot in the annals of obscure Mets memory, right across from Omir Santos, Ramón Castro, and Henry Blanco. There was a classic Michael Conforto double, a screaming line drive to the opposite field, only slightly ruined by a nonsensical gesture from third base umpire Adam Hamari. Hamari, of Thor-ejecting renown, seems determined to replace Angel Hernandez in the mind of Mets fandom — and Angel, we’re hearing, may need a replacement. How convenient.
But after sorting through it all, parsing each negative and examining just how frustrating this team was to watch, I realized something. I still wished I’d gone.
I still wanted to be there, sitting alone in the uppers as dejected fans made their ways out in the late innings. I could still almost smell the ballpark food, the smells which, almost tragically, I’ve come to associate with the familiar emotion of resignation. I missed the sights, the sounds, the feel of the wind off Flushing Bay. And as I watched the Mets lose again, that was pretty reassuring.
I’ve been through enough adversity, Mets-wise, to be confident in my capacity to stick the bad times out. I have no problem with going out night after night and watching a bad team play — in fact, I take a certain pleasure from it. The stadium is inevitably almost empty, especially by the seventh or eighth inning, which makes the experience much more intimate and personal; any fan remaining at Citi Field by the bottom of the eighth, facing a 9-3 deficit against an unbeatable bullpen during a season in which we don’t have so much as a fighter’s chance at a postseason appearance, earns a certain kind of respect. Call it what you will: die-hard, commitment, loyalty. Maybe all three. It’s intangible, but it’s real.
Of course, watching a good team is more fun, when it’s all said and done, than watching a bad one; it doesn’t get much simpler than that. But watching the Mets, live and in person from the upper deck of Citi Field, with scents of cracker jacks and Italian sausages in the air, is still far from insufferable.
We won’t always have the glorious Mets of 2015 to cheer for. Tonight was every indication we needed of that. But we will have the Mets, whether they’re superstars or not, and rooting for the Mets, frustrating as it may be, will always be a pleasure. Tonight, that was pretty evident too.