If it wasn't Willie Randolph burning his entire bench in the seventh (whywhywhywhywhy), leading to the sight of Tom Glavine pinch-hitting in the ninth, it was Lastings Milledge air-mailing everybody south of the loge on a throw home, or Mike Pelfrey crawling out of the wreckage of his usual one bad inning, or Pedro Feliciano pitching like he was tired, or Aaron Heilman doing the same, or Jose Reyes popping up pitches. Yes, I know Pelfrey looked good the rest of the time and Milledge made a terrific play to offset that one and Carlos Delgado looks like he's coming around, but in the end none of that mattered, so I can't really muster the enthusiasm for finding an umblemished oat or two in this bunch of horseshit.
One of the unwelcome themes of this year has been the Mets somehow staying in first place despite themselves, reflecting a malaise we've all pondered and tried to define without quite getting it — we've treed the sucker, but the dogs can't get him down. Is it the routine blowouts? The lack of hitting with RISP? The career years turned into average years? The transmutation of Carlos Beltran back into porcelain?
In the darker hours of the night, we sometimes have a worse thought: Is this what the early stages of Yankeeization feel like? (OK, I've wondered it in the dark hours of the night.) Last year we dominated. Now we're not dominating. I want to dominate. You're in first place, shut up. Yeah, but we look flat. You're in first place, shut up.
Yeah, but we look flat. So shut up yourself.
I don't think it's that our expectations have been raised by last year, so that merely being in first place now isn't enough. I think there's some of that at work here, but it's a pretty small part of what's going on. Rather, it's that this team's default condition seems to be flat — a certain distracted torpor that's hard to endure, and sure doesn't make for a very compelling storyline. Can a talented team playing uninspired baseball hold off two fundamentally flawed teams trying to close the distance? I think it can, and then it's anybody's ballgame, as the 2006 Cardinals will be reminding fans of mediocre teams for a generation to come. But what a half-assed plan for taking care of business. Bad baseball, players lingering in the netherworld of the semi-DL for who knows how long, dumb managerial decisions — it's tough to watch a summer of this stuff and tell yourself that it'll be OK once some magic wand is waved, that Pedro will make everything better, or that Moises Alou will restore order. (He sure restored order for the Nats tonight.)
I'm a Met fan. I watched Bruce Boisclair and Jeff McKnight and Chris Jones and Jorge Velandia and Jason Phillips and Vance Wilson and Jeff D'Amico. It's pathetically obvious, after all these years, that I'll watch anything that shows up wearing blue and orange. But for a first-place team, this year's Mets squad is remarkably hard to watch. Too often they look they'd rather be doing something else, and inevitably that makes you think that maybe you ought to take that under advisement yourself.
Last night I comforted myself by taking solace in the fact that there would be two games today. It struck me as a beautiful thing. What I forgot was that a crappy enough game can make you forget all about a victory won six-odd hours earlier.
Joshua runs the bases tomorrow, weather permitting. The Mets run the bases tomorrow, Nationals pitching and their own inclination permitting.