Thanks to the Cubs' vigilance on our incidental behalf since the All-Star break, the Mets have picked up ground on the Nationals, so we go to Washington holding a 17-game lead in the only race in which we are likely to participate for some time to come. I'd say we have a real chance to lock down fourth place with a good trip.
And that's all I've got anymore. I won't technically give up while the Mets are single-digits from first (9 games) or the Wild Card (7 games). Should they gather steam and enter August within five or so games of a playoff spot, their chances must be taken seriously.
Also, if my cat Avery grows wings, I'd urge you to consider him a bird.
But Avery's not going to grow wings. And the Mets aren't going to stop barrelling in the wrong direction. The only — only — thing we have going for us on the four of five days through the rotation that aren't spoken for by Mr. Santana is if we have to leap out of a burning National League East pennant race, the Nats will provide the mattress to break our fall.
Or as an erstwhile co-worker from Alabama liked to say, “Thank the Lord for Mississippi.”
Fernando Nieve, who would have had a tough time getting the ball ahead of Roger Craig, Jay Hook and Al Jackson when this franchise first drew breath, was the latest victim of the occupational hazard of being a Met Sunday night. He had been doing his job more effectively than most of his teammates for quite a spell. Fernando Nieve, international man of mystery when we grabbed him off waivers in March, was our No. 2 starter based on both merit and process of elimination. Now he's been eliminated by tough luck. He ran hard to beat out a high chopper in the top of the second and there he went, strained right quad and all. Nieve will go to New York for an MRI, which is the Met equivalent of that farm upstate where you tell your kid dear ol' Rover went. Vaya con Dios, Fernando. And while the Mets misdiagnose his condition, keep in mind that by changing one letter, Nieve can become Niese pretty quickly.
Natch, an injury where a guy has to be carted off the field doesn't mean he'll really be placed on the DL, not here. We're already carrying thirteen pitchers, if you want to count Tim Redding under that heading, and we've seen the Mets don't like to make moves that clear the roster of the lame and the halting in order to make room for the conceivably healthy. I'm guessing it's because they know once they say adios to a hurt player they will never, ever see him again. Apparently, the Mets organization — despite its implied and now stated distaste for celebrating its own history (part and parcel of its top executives' transparent disdain for their brand and their customers) — can be sentimental in weird ways.
The upside of the innovative four-man bench Omar Minaya has put at Jerry Manuel's disposal is it allows the manager uncommon latitude in terms of emergency fill-ins when starting pitchers pull quads. We lead the league in emergency fill-ins. Hell, we lead the league in emergencies. Enter Tim Redding, the most unlikely Mets pitcher extant considering the word is out that he's gone in all but body. One of the truly great headlines of the season appeared on page A75 of the Nassau Edition of Sunday's Newsday:
Redding is pariah in clubhouse
It's not because Redding expressed a thought that could be construed as hate speech or because he had a Ponzi scheme cooking that was just busted up by the Feds…and it's not because each Met has suddenly developed shame from being associated with other spectacularly subpar baseball players. It's simply become common knowledge that eight men out in the bullpen means somebody's about to take the proverbial pipe. On other, shall we say…professional teams, a fellow who has proven dreadful as a starter and useless as a reliever might have already been issued his golden ticket out of town and would, by now, be blaming his stratospheric earned run average on inconsistent use (you know Redding's going to do that, and at this point, who has the energy to argue the salmonella-infected chicken/rotten egg point?).
In Newsday, David Lennon somehow made me feel sorry for Tim Redding and his immensely undeserved salary. “Half the guys won't even talk to me,” the outcast pitcher said. (I wonder if the incommunicativeness includes his catchers refusing to put down one finger for a fastball, et al, or if Schneider and Santos simply avert their eyes from the mound.) Of course he's a pariah. We've known baseball works this way since we read Ball Four and Jim Bouton described what it's like to be sent down: “[A]s I started throwing stuff into my bag I could feel a wall, invisible but real, forming around me. I was suddenly an outsider, a different person, someone to be shunned, a leper.” It is tradition to avoid acknowledging the guy who almost any one of them in that clubhouse can be at any moment. There but for the bizarre machinations of the godawful front office go close to two-dozen men who have no business suiting up for a big league team — even this one.
But Tim Redding's still here. And because Fernando Nieve took an unfortunate tumble, Tim Redding was called upon to enter a scoreless game in the bottom of the second. He commenced to make it scorey. I thought for a fleeting moment that the pariah might rise up, save his season, save our season or at least give us something to savor between Johan starts. But no, not this year, not this bunch, not this pitcher. Three innings, four hits, three walks, five runs, two earned — though as Bobby Ojeda (who is the most scathing home-team analyst you've ever heard dissect a home-team loss) said afterward on SNY, “errors, schmerrors,” or words to that effect. Redding and his 7.16 ERA — still lower than Ollie's! — can go back to sitting on the bubble now, thankful that internal Met ineptitude has kept it from bursting altogether.
The Mets faced adversity and Atlanta Sunday and each creamed them decisively. Who says doubleheaders are dead?
But believe it or not, we still love our Mets. Thus, the first of three AMAZIN' TUESDAYS is coming to Two Boots Tavern July 21. It will be a Mets night devoted to reading, rooting and Roy Lee Jackson. Get all the details here. And get your copy of Faith and Fear in Flushing: An Intense Personal History of the New York Mets from Amazon, Barnes & Noble or a bookstore near you. Keep in touch and join the discussion on Facebook.