Two weeks ago we could debate and decide which was the greater of two evils: a game disgracefully booted when the pressure was on or a game all but forfeited from the word go. Tonight provided the Reese's Peanut Butter Cup of answers.
You got your slipshod defense in my pathetic blowout loss!
You got your pathetic blowout loss in my slipshod defense!
The Mets lost every way they know how to the Yankees in the first Subway Series game ever hosted at Citi Field, which is just the showcase you crave for displaying that kind of versatility. They didn't pitch well, they didn't hit at all and their fielding was in a league of its own, namely the New York-Penn. The game was essentially over in the second when three Mets infielders committed errors. None of them was Luis Castillo, so that's progress for ya. I have special noises that only seem to emanate from my larynx during the Subway Series and those vocal alarms were sounded as Wright threw one away (AAUUGGHH!!), Cora flung another nowhere in particular (EEEEKKKK!!!) and Evans…let's just say if I were in a releasing mood, Nick would get the unhappy ending.
I suppose there's a little solace to be gained in that Pelfrey sort of regained his composure for a while after that. Didn't much matter since CC Sabathia pitched like a tenured professor, making it all academic. Sabathia's sole Shea Stadium seminar, in case you were wondering, was five years ago this month when I sat in Loge and watched him and the Indians roll over the Mets, also by a 9-1 thumping. He was unhittable then, he was unhittable Friday. Or maybe we just never hit him. The Met lineup then included Gerald Williams, Kaz Matsui, Ty Wigginton and Jason Phillips. The Met lineup Friday featured their spiritual descendants.
Thanks to the Phillies' inability to Play Like Champions, the Mets remain a half-game from first. Nights like Friday night, whether against hated intracity rivals or National Leaguers from anywhere, make every alleged contender look more suspect than viable, no matter how close everyone is to everyone else. At the characteristic risk of being a buzzkill — as if there's any buzz palpable after losing 9-1 — I don't see solely 1973 when I see this division mired in mediocrity. I see 1992, too. That season is synonymous with The Worst Team Money Could Buy monkeyshines, but that team was a paper contender into August because the National League East spun its wheels in the mud as one. After the Mets had played 100 games that year, 5½ was the margin that separated the top five teams. “Nobody wants it,” was the common refrain. Turns out Pittsburgh wanted it and took it pretty easily from there. Philadelphia or Florida or Atlanta could conceivably be this year's version of Pittsburgh. So could we…conceivably.
Is 1992 relevant to this season's story? No more so than 1973 when we're talking about a bunched-up division and an injury-riddled Mets team, even if we'd rather lean on the more pleasant parable. You Gotta Believe, but you also have to brace yourself. Mostly you have to do better than the Mets did against Sabathia, Brett Gardner and the rest of the Jeterless Yankees (who seemed about 10% less hateable with Captain Cock…y sidelined, but I was watching at home, so my condolences to anyone who sucked this one up in person). Going out in order for eight of the nine innings, especially when two were pitched by Brett Tomko merits the meting out of at least a little punishment. Dear Jerry: Please make everybody run laps or assist the grounds crew or something that would satisfy my bloodlust for accountability.
Better yet, make the infielders take infield.
Before Manuel gave up on the Mets' one potential rally by using Argenis Reyes as a pinch-hitter (presumably because Liván Hernandez wasn't available), Gary Sheffield took over the team lead in homers with his ninth…which seems awfully low for this late in the season. Sheff solved the Citi Field dimensions that, according to Tristan Cockcroft of ESPN, have helped no one's power production save for Chase Utley's and now maybe Gardner's. Citing the careful measurements taken by Hit Tracker, Cockcroft reports three-dozen balls that would have gone out of Shea — divided pretty evenly between the Mets and their opponents — have stayed within Citi limits. David Wright alone has lost six would-be dingers by moving next door. Thus it's not our collective imagination that the Dead Ball Era has made a high-priced comeback at Citi Field. You build a retro park, you'll get occasional retro side effects.
As Cockcroft points out, teams can find and have found other ways to score runs besides jacking balls over the capitalist equivalent of the Berlin Wall. Friday night, hitting it to Wright, Cora and Evans proved pretty effective in that regard.
Need a distraction from your diversion? Next time your team plays dead for eight of nine innings, use your downtime to read 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.