Hope Springs Occasionally

In its own way, the 2020 season is obviously too short, and seems just as long as ever.

On the one hand, the season is going far too quickly. The Mets have played 26 games, and have 34 left; 43% of the season has already happened. The season just started. What are we doing in the middle?

On the other hand, though, the Mets, in their special way, are managing to pack a full season’s worth of emotions into this abbreviated excuse. For one, of course, each game is a see-saw in a tornado. A four-out Edwin Díaz appearance these days goes up and down more than a Victorian novel.

The Mets are 12-14, which would be disappointing except for where we were three days ago. Back then, we were 9-14, couldn’t find a starting pitcher worth a damn, couldn’t score against the Phillies…couldn’t even do things that everyone can do, like put down tags or go from first to third on a double.

Remember how down and out we felt after getting swept by the Phillies? I do.

As I dragged myself through writing a column, I let my pessimism out.

“The standings matter less than the fact that the Mets can’t seem to stop failing,” I wrote. “Mets games are nothing more than episodes of ‘Wipeout,’ and Mets fans are the contestants, unable to enjoy themselves because they know the next obstacle will knock them off their feet any minute.”

I sat on the couch stewing in disappointment, an episode of The King of Queens that I’d already seen playing in the background. But then, for no reason besides maybe Jerry Stiller’s on-screen antics, something replaced the frustration.

Hope.

These Mets give us hope every day, whether they mean to or not, whether it’s logical or deluded. The greatest quality of the 2019-2020 Mets — and there are many — is that every player is another point of hope, a reason to believe that if today goes bad, tomorrow might be better.

In practical terms, what that means is that there’s not one player on the Mets’ roster — and I challenge you to prove me wrong — who’s not worth getting excited about. Some Mets, like Dellin Betances, inspire hope because of the heights they’ve attained in past seasons; some, like Andres Gimenez, inspire hope because of what they might do five or ten years in the future. And many Mets — deGrom, Nimmo, Conforto, Guillorme, Smith, Shreve — inspire hope not because of the past or the future, but through the things they do on the diamond every day.

Maybe all ballclubs are like this, or maybe they’re not; I wouldn’t know. But what’s undeniable is that hope and the Mets go together like Edwin Díaz and heart medication. They have since July 9th, 1973, when Tug McGraw, in the midst of an M. Donald Grant speech to the clubhouse, began shouting: “Ya Gotta Believe! Ya Gotta Believe!”

Ya gotta have hope. So I did.

“Maybe Robert Gsellman finds his form in Miami tomorrow night, puts together a solid start, and carries the Mets to a win,” I wrote. “Maybe David Peterson continues his strong rookie showing Tuesday with another win, giving (knock on wood) deGrom the ball Wednesday with a chance to win a third straight game and pull the Mets back into the playoff hunt. In a 60 game season that’s already 23 games old, a three game winning streak can work wonders.”

We now move ahead three days, and guess what? Technicalities aside, that’s exactly what happened. The Mets are 12-14 and go for the four-game sweep of the Marlins tomorrow. Seth Lugo will start. There’s a reason to believe already.

Me — without hope, I’d be sunk. Tomorrow, as Lugo pitches to whichever pestilential Marlin is leading off, I’ll be somewhere in the air above the upper Midwest, descending towards Detroit. I’ll be decamping for the Wolverine state for the next long while, following a woman I love more than anything in the world. That includes watching Brandon Nimmo take a close pitch for a ball, so you know I’m serious.

Ya gotta believe — if I didn’t, I’d never have made it this far. College, grad school, summer jobs, real jobs, days or weeks together followed by months apart…like a Jeurys Familia outing in a close game, it wasn’t easy for a second. And now begins a new part in a new state, which won’t be easy either.

But ya gotta believe. Things will work out. I’ll land in Detroit, and I’ll probably have missed a few Seth Lugo innings and a Brandon Nimmo walk. Thank goodness I’m a Mets fan. They mess with us, this ridiculous team of ours, but they also give us reason to hope. Tomorrow I start a new phase in life. It’ll go much better when we also start by sweeping the Marlins.

 

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