It's never the best PR move to spit the bit on the first game of a homestand after returning from an infuriatingly schizoid road trip after your city has been rendered baseball-less on the first national holiday of summer by a bizarre quirk in the schedule. It's particularly not a good PR move to spit the bit in such, um, projectile fashion.
Anyone with a morbid fascination could pick through tonight mess in the road and find plenty to wrinkle his nose at:
* A simply horrid return for Beltran: It's tough to come up to the plate your first three times with a total of five runners on base and one out each time and advance nobody even an inch, but he managed it. (Yuck!)
* Games from Piazza, Floyd, Wright and Mientkiewicz that were less awful only because their failures were less conspicuous. (Gross!)
* A terrible brain lock in the field by Reyes that opened the floodgates (Ewww!); and
* Another wretched performance by Mister Koo, who really has to be Norfolk-bound at this point, seeing how the highlight of his season is a fluke double. (Blecch!)
So once again we're 26-26. Glass half-full? Glass half-empty? Consult the wildly spinning Met-Fan-Mood-O-Meter. Where it stops, nobody knows.
But here's the thing: Our division is definitely of the half-empty variety. Tough division? Bah. I look at it and see five teams destined to take turns falling on the ice, poking each other in the eyes and engaging in other shameful pratfalls until the calendar finally runs out. The Phillies? Beset by the same weird, self-defeating woes that plagued them under Larry Bowa — they're a happy clubhouse now, maybe, but still a bad one. The Nationals? Playing over their heads, but a flawed team whose ownership disaster won't let them make the big move they need. The Marlins? Yo-yo city of late. The Braves? In their last two games they've watched a home run turn into a groundout in the rain, then failed to get a runner home from third with one out and the game on the line. (Yes, I did have a cookout and watch Braves-Nats on Memorial Day. Desperate times and all that.) Us? We know plenty about us.
With the idea of the wild card coming out of the NL East the stuff of horselaughs, time to focus on the lowest common denominator: This entire division is separated by 3.5 lousy games. Incredibly, we're 2.5 out. We could be tied for last tomorrow. We could be tied with the Nats and looking not so far up at the Braves and Marlins. In the AL Central we'd be 9 out. In the NL Central, 7.5 out. In the NL West, 6.5 out. (To complete the calculations: We'd be 5.5 out in the AL East and 4 out in the AL West.)
Somebody's gotta win this crummy division, so why not us? Hell, we came within one crappy Yogi Berra decision of winning the World Series with an 82-79 mark, right? Ya, um, gotta believe. Or something.