Well, the New York Mets are now officially what we've been saying they are for some time: a .500 team.
Stumbling to that dismal pass tonight, however, I had a dreadful thought: One of Willie Randolph's defenses for his tenure, as expressed to Ian O'Connor before Willie started seeing conspiracies at work in the SNY production trucks (a bout of lunacy he's since apologized for), amounted to “Hey, I'm not Art Howe.” But watching the 2008 Mets dreadful night after dreadful night, don't they kind of remind you of an Art Howe team?
They're a more-talented, more-expensive bunch of listless dullards, to be sure. But underachieving is underachieving whether you're a 71-win team that probably should have won 77 or 78 (and what an accomplishment that would have been) or a .500 team that should be on pace for 90 wins. What's the difference in how they go about their business, exactly? Does Carlos Delgado wave in the vague direction of passing base hits with a verve that Todd Zeile could only dream of? Are Luis Castillo's failures with runners on base gritty and life-affirming, whereas Danny Garcia's were placid and soul-killing? Do the 2008 Mets lose by seven with a fire that the 2004 Mets sorely lacked in similar situations? Art Howe was bland and sunny; recent descents into paranoia aside, Willie Randolph is bland and surly.
Is the comparison exaggerated? Of course it is — you'll forgive me if I get a little worked up while watching my team sleepwalk through getting its collective ass handed to it again. But who is Willie Randolph to be roasting Art Howe over the coals, considering he's 76-78 since Memorial Day with a far better team than Howe ever sent onto the field? The cliche of the Art Howe era was that his Mets battled. Wouldn't you like to see Randolph's Mets battle?
So what did this latest horrible game feature? Well, Mike Pelfrey got victimized by an error by the singularly useless Luis Castillo (only 1,227 days until we're out from under that contract, Omar!) but then showed very little grace under pressure. The relief pitching was bad, the hitting was nonexistent, and Moises Alou appears to have hurt himself standing in the outfield, which sounds like it should be a joke but isn't.
You know what? Enough. We've got all year to talk about this crappy baseball team.
One of the sad parts of Willie's meltdown was it took away from what should have been an outpouring of honors for Mike Piazza, now formally a former baseball player. At first, I admit, I didn't take much notice of the announcement — after leaving us Piazza had become a Padre and then an Athletic, a retreat from New York baseball consciousness that only could have been furthered if he'd begun 2008 playing in Hokkaido or on Mars. But amid the gloom of the doubleheader loss, I kept finding myself thinking about Piazza — and not about the farcical move to first, or the way I always wanted him to be a general instead of a lieutenant. No, I was thinking about the fact that you never, ever went to the bathroom if Piazza was coming to the plate, and about all the games I saw him win, and about all the joy he'd brought us. I wound up pouring all that out into a piece I wrote for the Wall Street Journal Online today — which, if you like, you can read here.
Aw, what the heck: If you'll allow me one more indulgence, this is the 100% true story about how I tried and tried to see Bruce Springsteen in concert when I was 17 and he was my musical hero, and how I finally did see him — when I was 38.
It all turns out OK; it'd be nice to say the same about the 2008 Mets.