I'm heading for New Orleans for three days tomorrow (it will be an interesting trip, as explained in navel-gazing fashion here), so I was eager to get an evening of uninterrupted Mets before I departed.
“Uninterrupted” is an approximation for parents, though — the early innings, with John Maine looking like he was falling apart, unfolded as Joshua and I ate pizza, after which there was bath and reading and the requisite coaxing, cajoling and bald-faced threatening required to get a six-year-old into bed at a speed greater than that of continental drift. I trudged back to the couch and things hadn't improved: It was still Braves 3, Mets 0, with the proceedings enlivened by shots of Oliver Perez wandering around the bullpen looking slightly more confused than usual. I settled in to watch more out of loyalty than joy, with a somewhat sour expression on my face …
… and then I fell asleep.
ZZZZ … huh? Wha?
Gary Cohen was very excited about something. A ball was headed over a fence. Carlos Beltran was involved. I blinked and stared and saw, to my sleepy astonishment, that it was now Mets 6, Braves 3. (And then stayed awake for the rest, rewarded by nothing except for a Chipper Jones blast. Well, OK, and a victory.)
One of the selfish little truths about being a baseball fan is it's not much fun if you don't get to watch. Obviously I'm glad we won, and that Beltran is still playing on another plane of existence, and that David Wright seems to be awakening, and that John Maine toughed it out, and that the Mets showed heretofore woefully lacking a) spunk b) grit c) fight d) [insert name of unquantifiable essence here]. But from my perspective it was Braves 4, Mets 0, and I left wondering why everybody else had such a good time.
While-you-were-sleeping wins always remind me of an amusing conversation with Greg: Years ago, for no particular reason, I asked him if he'd want the Mets to win the World Series if he couldn't watch any of the season or postseason. All I was going for was some minor point about a team's season being inextricably linked with the fans' enjoyment of the ride, but Greg immediately began poking at the idea like a demolitions expert confronted with a suitcase trailing red wires. Could he record the games and watch them later? Buy the DVD? Wait around to see them on some version of Mets Classic? “No,” I said to all three of those and most everything else he came up with. My co-blogger always gives me far too much credit for having coherent rules and belief systems, when most everything I do is half-assed improv. He's still baffled — and a bit offended — that Tommy Moore's 1990 Senior League card doesn't count for The Holy Books.
(By the way, if you think this is too far-fetched, consider what happened to this poor guy.)
Still, even if I missed the good part, it was a win. If only I didn't have the uneasy feeling those may prove scarce this year. There are storm clouds everywhere around this team, from its not-so-automatic bullpen to its lousy starting pitching to injuries and late-inning struggles. (And I know, back from three runs down, but until we get a few more of those the exception still proves the rule.)
And the gap between Met pronouncements and Met reality makes me more frightened.
Take Oliver Perez's Mysterious Knee Injury. This began as an amusing bit of farce, from Oliver's colloquy in the training room with noted medical professional Jay Horwitz to Oliver seeming to not quite remember which knee hurt. (In the New York Times, Ben Shpigel's arch account was only missing a sprinkling of those eye-rolling animated emoticons.)
But the more you think about it, the less amusing it gets.
Oliver Perez has an ERA of nearly 10, which might be a stretch even for coaches throwing BP. He belongs in Triple-A, where the likes of Bobby Jones and Steve Trachsel regained what passed for their mojo.
I think the Mets know that. And I know Ollie can refuse the assignment. (Can't you just imagine Omar Minaya trying to send Oliver down only to receive a sat-phone call from the undersea hideaway of Scott Boras, who sinisterly stroked the Persian cat on his lap throughout their conversation?) But in searching for an answer, the Mets seem determined to continue their aggravating recent tradition of thoroughly mismanaging a big-league roster. The knee injury, if it was indeed fake, was a lame but acceptable cover story in an era of huge salaries and fragile athlete egos — but the Mets could barely stick to that story for a single news cycle. Instead of being in Buffalo or on the DL Oliver is in the bullpen, where it's frankly incredible to think he'll be able to solve whatever's wrong with him. And poor Ken Takahashi is suddenly a starter. (His diary entries about how American baseball teams conduct their business must be quite something.) A not-so-fearless prediction, about which I'd be thrilled to be wrong: None of this will work, and the Mets will finagle a flare-up of the phantom knee injury that sends Oliver to Buffalo or St. Lucie a couple of weeks after he should have departed. In the meantime, only the Mets could start with “Oliver Perez Has Developed a Case of the Sucks” as Point A and somehow decide “Let's Screw Up Two Roster Spots” makes sense as Point B.
Given all this, Carlos Delgado's all-too-real hip injury becomes terrifying. Not only because it sounds uncomfortably close to what made him play so poorly that he nearly got released, but because it makes me wonder what gap there might be between these Met pronouncements and whatever's really happening. Given the Perez saga, I wouldn't be stunned to find out that Delgado actually has gangrene and needs his leg sawn off. After which he'll spend 13 days on the bench, come in for an inning of hopping gamely but futilely after balls in a blowout, and then go on the DL.