I'm not the least bit ashamed to say my two-day vacation from the Mets was necessary and thoroughly pleasant.
Tuesday night's debacle also marked the end of a long run of late nights spent working at the computer; on Wednesday morning I dragged myself out of bed and swore that five minutes after Joshua was in bed that night, I would be asleep myself. The overtired have been making such empty vows for years, but I knew this promise would be kept, and at 8:20 p.m. I was out cold. I woke up 11 hours later, padded groggily to the computer, saw the Mets had lost, wasn't particularly surprised, and got on with the day, pleased that there was 0% chance the Mets could lose Thursday's game, what with it not existing and all.
Mets-Red Sox didn't seem like a particularly promising way to return from baseball exile, but we did have Johan Santana. And I had a chance to watch a ballgame with my old pal Chris, a.k.a. the Human Fight from our comments section. (And an absurdly passionate Sox fan.)
And what happened while Chris and I inhaled approximately 83 tons of Jake's BBQ? Well, the Mets made three errors, with David Wright and Ramon Martinez each managing to boot double-play balls behind Johan, the defense's usual victim. (To reiterate the stat everybody will reiterate, the Mets have made 35 errors this year, 12 of them in Santana's nine starts. How is that even possible?) A byproduct of this horrendous self-sabotage has been the increasingly common sight of Johan stalking around the infield and staring at his infielders like a junior-high cafeteria aide trying to figure out who threw that pudding. Fortunately for the Mets, Kevin Youkilis (so high-strung that I wouldn't be surprised to discover he spends his time in the dugout eating glass) made the mistake of barking at Johan for daring to hit him in the elbow with a pitch that was actually over the plate, which gave Johan someone to be enraged at who wasn't wearing the same uniform. (The Human Fight's observation: “Youkilis is a little bitch.”) The other fortunate thing was Julio Lugo demonstrating he's about as qualified to play shortstop as Ramon Martinez — his lazy, flat-footed non-pivot let Jeremy Reed stay out of a double play, after which the Mets tacked on the two runs they'd need.
So, Mets win. But forgive my utter lack of optimism, for reasons too numerous to be enumerated even on this wordy blog. Here are just a few:
1. Johan doesn't pitch tomorrow. Or on Sunday. Or Monday. Or Tuesday.
2. Gary Sheffield has been an admirable addition to the team so far, but sticking him in front of the Green Monster is cruel.
3. Jose Reyes remains in the limbo the Mets insist on using instead of the disabled list, perhaps because they think 22 or 23 players is better feng sui than 25.
4. Ryan Church, who even Jerry Manuel would admit is a very good outfielder, is now hurt.
5. Luis Castillo still has no range.
6. We all love David Wright, but when he fields a routine grounder and looks to first you can see him break into a sweat.
7. I don't know who the hell's going to play first, but I do know it's going to be a left fielder.
And then there's Ramon Martinez.
Early in the game, Gary Cohen said (with that slight tension in his voice that lets you know perfectly well what he thinks) that he'd talked to a Mets' assistant GM about what alternatives to Martinez the Mets had as Shortstop Plan C. Gary discussed the Tejadas and Coronados and Malos before explaining that the Mets settled on Martinez as the best man for the job. Left unspoken was the reason a baseball team would consider Ramon Martinez the best man for any conceivable assignment, but from hard experience with this front office I know the reason: It's that he's old.
Oh, sorry — I wasn't speaking Metese. It's that he's a veteran.
older more veteran I get, the more it irritates me to see baseball teams — by which I mean my baseball team — throw away precious roster spots on players whose fitness for duty should be established by holding a mirror to their nostrils. Wilson Delgado. Marlon Anderson II. Miguel Cairo. Abraham Nunez. Ricky Ledee. Brian Daubach. Gerald Williams. Michael Tucker. Jose Offerman. Ricky Gutierrez. Jeff Conine. God spare us from this sad parade of tomato cans, has-beens and never-was's whose “experience” somehow outweighs their embalmed uselessness as ballplayers. (And don't tell me unearthing the occasional Fernando Tatis justifies the accumulated roster time given to those stiffs.) To this dreary list we now add the return of Ramon Martinez, a player who had a brief flurry of hits last year when we were all mad at Luis Castillo and therefore willing to overlook the fact that a couple of weeks earlier Ramon had failed to go first-to-third in a game the Mets lost to the Nats, 1-0.
Look, I don't know much about Ruben Tejada or Jose Coronado or Jonathan Malo, and I confess to reflexively overvaluing young players. But I will bet those three kids at least have the potential to do something more than hitting .240 and playing average defense. That's Ramon Martinez's ceiling, with a distinct possibility that we see even more of his by-now-familiar floor. I know, he had an RBI single tonight. Great! Sell high!
Emily and I have a ritual in our house of saying “hit it to anybody” when there are two outs, a ritual sometimes amended for nervous/comedic effect when some Met is being conspicuously stone-gloved. Tonight I found myself saying, “hit to anybody — except Wright, or Martinez, or Castillo, or Murphy, or Sheffield, or Pagan.” Which left, I realized, Reed and Omir Santos and whoever was pitching. I kept looking for defense replacements and realizing they weren't coming — that if the all-aces Bobby Parnell or Frankie Rodriguez let the MPH dip below 95, some Red Sock might subject us to a ball that would have to be gloved by Ramon Martinez and then again by Daniel Murphy. That's a terrifying prospect, one we'll have to endure as long as the Met front office insists on playing with guys who should be on the DL on the bench and guys who should be on the golf course at shortstop. In which case we'll all need another vacation soon.
Vacation or not, you should spend time with Faith and Fear in Flushing: An Intense Personal History of the New York Mets, available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble or a bookstore near you. Keep in touch and join the discussion on Facebook.