My co-blogger is a wise man. And as a wise man, one bit of baseball wisdom he's finally gotten through my fool head is this: Style points don't matter.
From a statistical standpoint, that was a pretty unsatisfying two out of three. Ice-cold bats, poor situational hitting, runners not moved up, and the heretofore anonymous pitchers of 2007 Washington looking like Walter Johnson. We were told we were supposed to sweep; failing that, we were expected to at least dominate. There was no sweep; when there was lumber in our hands, there wasn't a lot of domination.
And yet, two out of three in the W column, and the Mets back in first place above those pesky Braves. (Which is such a nicer way of thinking of them than the old way, with palpitations and angst and finally, horror.) Two out of three, first place. That's the bottom line, and the bottom line is good.
Sure, there are things to stay up late about. Where's Wright's power? Delgado's bat? What's wrong with Aaron Heilman? Does Mike Pelfrey need more time? What will the doctors have to say about Stache and El Duque? Given all these questions, an extra-inning win and a 1-0 victory aren't nearly enough to keep the stomach from doing flip-flops.
And this is where the style points come in.
Good teams win. There's infinitely more to it than that, of course, but that's the baseline fact you can fool yourself into missing. Good teams win.
How they win, over the course of even a small part of a season, defies generalization. They win when rookie catchers are out of position and when ancient first basemen expand their position's definition. They win when the setup men can't set 'em down and when the enemy closer is due for something less than perfection. They win when an umpire suits up as the other team's 26th man. They win when three regulars are resting or injured. They win when a corner guy can't find the fences and a pinch-hitter can. If it comes to it, they win when key guys go on the DL and when kids aren't ready. When they don't win…well, then they win the series. Good teams find a way, and they don't sweat style points or fans squirming in their seats.
Monday night is my '07 Shea debut — Emily and I are going, something we haven't gotten to do in the better part of forever. I don't know who'll pitch. I don't know who'll play second. I don't know if the bats will come to life against Scott Olsen, or if he'll look like the immortal Jerome Williams and Jason Bergmann. I don't know if we'll win.
But I do know this: We're a good team. And knowing that makes not knowing the rest a lot easier to accept.