If we hadn't imploded at the end of August, yesterday's game would have been agonizing: Trachsel in the first inning, chasing that tricky third out like it was the end of the hallway in Poltergeist; a crap call by the ump turning a two-run single for Piazza into another Andruw Jones put-out; back-to-back homers by the Mikes giving us some desperate hope; Shingo and Zambrano quickly reminding us the hope was desperate; and our seventh-inning rally of course coming to naught despite having the heart of the order coming up.
If we'd been in a pennant race, bitterest gall. Since we're not, just another crap day at the office during garbage time. (By the way, Furcal and Andruw weren't even trying. It's some cold comfort to me that they won't be trying in the playoffs either, guaranteeing another disappointing October for the middling percentage of Fannypack Nation that bothers getting playoff tickets.)
Incidentally, it's a shame no one's writing one of those Inside the Mets accounts of this season, because I for one would love to know what's going on between Omar, Willie and the coaches and ownership. It's like Kremlinology in Flushing: Today's article of faith is tomorrow's discarded idea, obvious moves aren't made or even discussed, and the whole decision-making process is utterly mysterious.
One thing I have finally figured out is that Willie likes keeping things close to the vest with the press or outright misleading them, refusing to discuss his real motives for moves (or their lack), even when those motives make sense or are at least defensible. Couple of examples off the top of my head:
* Reyes as a leadoff hitter. I think there was a method to Willie's madness here. He finally said sometime this summer that (I'm paraphrasing) he'd been working on teaching Reyes to swing at better pitches instead of trying to remake him as a player who walks a lot, for fear of leaving him baffled at the plate. Which, after seeing Reyes' dramatically better at-bats in the second half, does make a certain amount of sense to me. (And, I'll say through gritted teeth, is in line with something Joe Morgan said about not wanting to take away Reyes's aggressiveness.) The implicit point was Willie wanted to develop him as a leadoff hitter and not further down in the lineup, with better pitch selection paving the way for working counts — from hitting strikes to hitting the right strikes, if you will. The thing of it is that the explanation only came late in the summer and then almost by accident; before that Willie offered platitudes and brush-offs where the subject was concerned. I think he was trying to protect Reyes from the media, in effect keeping them distracted by looking at OBP when Willie was trying to teach Reyes something else.
* I think something similar was going on with that stuff about Wright hitting eighth and paying his dues. That mostly didn't happen; what I think Willie was doing was offering the media a distraction in an effort to take the pressure off Wright. With Wright seemingly consigned to the No. 8 hole and being asked to pay his dues, most anything he did to build on his rookie season would look like a positive; if he'd always been ticketed for the middle of the lineup, the scrutiny would have been more intense and the pressure correspondingly greater. As it turned out, Wright didn't need coddling, but Willie didn't know that in March. What's interesting to me was Willie effectively put all the scrutiny on his own move instead of on the player; of course he never let on that that was what he was doing, so we had to figure it out.
Not that there aren't moves for which I can't come up with even a theoretical explanation:
* Trachsel/Zambrano. I have no idea what the original plan was, how it changed, or what anybody was trying to accomplish at any point.
* The bullpen. Who's in what role? And who's gonna be in that role next week? Spin that wheel! Graves and Koo are here; they're gone; they're back; Koo's gone, Graves will get the chance to audition despite having utterly flunked a rather extended audition already, yet it's been a couple of days since that was said, and no Graves in sight. Juan Padilla's finally getting to pitch, but nobody seems to acknowledge Heath Bell's on the roster, and Royce Ring can't even get that far. Looper's gonna be the closer for the rest of the year. No, maybe he won't be. But Heilman definitely won't close. No, maybe he will. Around and around we go. Wheeeeee!
* The bench. Offerman's still here despite being a surly boor who can't run the bases. Ice Williams is still here despite demonstrating that he now can neither hit nor serve as a defensive replacement. Eric Valent can do both, but he's playing golf somewhere. Anderson Hernandez is coming up if the brass can figure out which Class of 1990 prospect we could bear to release. No, he's not coming up. Oh wait, yes he is. But now that he's here, the stupendously useless Miguel Cairo is playing anyway. Does Omar think he's still in Montreal and not allowed to make roster moves?
I'm beyond being frustrated by it, because it no longer much matters — this season's lost, and I've never really thought garbage time was much good for figuring out players like Heath Bell or Anderson Hernandez anyway. I'd just like to know a little more about what was going on behind the scenes, because I sure as heck can't figure it out.