It was billed in some quarters as a battle of aces. Ours slipped out of the deck in the fourth inning. Theirs ran the table, collected the pot and was home in plenty of time for Cops.
So much for Pelfrey vs. Halladay. Just as well we still have Santana to deal as we await (and await and await and await…) the series finale at 8:05 tonight. And while no news is good news from a 10-0 drubbing in which the Mets were schlubbing, absorbed a clubbing and were in desperate need of subbing, there is one truth that remains.
It’s still early.
It was still early when we were descending to 2-6 and 4-8, though we acted as if the window was shutting on a season that had at least 150 games remaining. It was still early when we were 14-9 and riding roughshod on four different opponents whom we lapped at every turn. It continues to be early this Sunday morning, no matter the unpleasant thud! that resounded from the Citizens Bank Park grass as one ball escaped Jose Reyes’s grasp, another fell away from Alex Cora and an eight-game winning streak crashed to Earth.
Funny thing about the sport in which it legendarily gets late early: it does, yet it doesn’t. Sometimes you know a season is over before it’s over — in 1993, the Mets were done by the middle of May, probably sooner. Sometimes you know no such thing — in 1999, the Mets had to do the near impossible to survive after having played a presumably definitive 159 games, yet they did just that and kept playing, memorably so, for several weeks longer. Most of the time, however, 24 games is just 24 games, especially when they’re the first 24 games of a season. Unless you’re 20-4 (which only the 1986 Mets were) or 4-20 (which even the 1962 Mets weren’t), it’s still early.
There was a strain of Mets fan who didn’t want to hear it when “early” was a synonym for let’s show a little patience. Patience had worn as thin as Gary Matthews’ batting average in these parts, and eight games or twelve games was as much a sample size as we needed in order to know that the rest of our season would be played an under an intractable doom. Another segment of the fanbase chafed when “early” was bandied about in a different cautionary context, as in perhaps we’re not really on a pace to win our next 139 games. For these folks, this was a blasphemous, mean-spirited interpretation of a beautiful 14-9 record.
We’re in first place!
We’ve won ten of eleven!
We just pounded the Phillies!
In other words, tell your early to shut up.
In the spirit of Joni Mitchell, I’ve looked at early from both sides now. At neither 2-6 nor 4-8, I didn’t want to hear that these bums could be trusted to turn it around and, ten rabbits in eleven hats later, I didn’t want to hear lots of luck, lousy opponents and uncommon hotness were primarily at work. I wanted to believe, more than anything, that I knew what was going on. I wanted to be certain that my team sucked/ruled.
I didn’t. And I’m not.
It’s still early, no matter how you care to examine it. It’s too early, despite our recent run of exhilarating success, to say we’re home free. It’s too early, despite our reluctant referral to Dr. Halladay, to say we’re screwed. We’re all gonna be right sometimes about how bad this team and several of its players in particular really are. We’re all gonna be right sometimes about how good this team and several of its players really are. We’ll come together in about five months, underscore our favorite data points and prove how much we knew all along. That much — probably — is certain.
But it’s too early for that. We’re still finding out what 2010 has in store for us, which is fine. It’s a baseball season, the thing for which you wait an eternity to arrive. Why you’d want to know how it ends not even four weeks after it began is beyond me. Put your certainty aside. Read one page at a time. No skipping to the final chapter. It isn’t written yet.
It’s still early. Take that as you will.