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Poison Pen

Checking in on the Mets from afar — There was only hit, and it was by Hamels? K-Rod did what? — while bouncing around between Florida and Rhode Island and various airports, I didn’t quite realize how mad I was at them. Until I sat down to watch an otherwise anonymous, playing-out-the-string game in Houston and realized I was seething before first pitch.

I wasn’t mad at the actual Mets, really, with the exceptions of ones who assault people outside of the family room. Rather, I was mad at the inept organization that keeps shoving lousy baseball at us and thinking that Shake Shack and Mr. Met make it OK.

I devoutly hope the Mets can wiggle out of their contract with K-Rod, though I’m not going to get up on my high horse about it, since it’s no secret that I loathe his childish histrionics and his general crappiness and would like nothing more than to excise him from the roster. But the news that the Mets are in fact trying to do that just reminded me of how stupid his contract was in the first place, particularly the obscene vesting option that Omar Minaya seems to issue as often as he does fumble-tongued bromides. (Hey, maybe Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo have relatives they can be induced to assault?)

Then there was the presence in the lineup of names such as Hessman, Castillo, Blanco and Francoeur — evidence that Jerry is up to his old tricks again.

Adam Rubin nailed this one pretty good [1] at ESPN New York: Jerry Manuel’s lineup tonight was not in the best interests of the Mets. This limp, sad team is dead and buried for 2010, and the priorities have to shift to further developing the promising kids on the roster — Davis, Thole, Niese, Tejada, F-Mart — for 2011. Viva Mike Hessman and all, but there is nothing about him to discover that’s of conceivable long- or medium-term interest to the Mets. The same goes for Henry Blanco and Jeff Francoeur, while Castillo only remains on the roster because of the Mets’ dogged refusal to accept the concept of sunk costs. Yes, Ike Davis has had a tough second half, but it’s the kind he has to learn from. Yes, Ruben Tejada’s bat isn’t ready for the big leagues — but so goes a rough apprenticeship. Jon Niese was pulled from the game with 100 pitches thrown, relatively few of them stressful, in favor of a tomato can named Elmer Dessens who did his damnedest to lose.

Every game given to retreads instead of rookies is a game stolen from their futures and that of the ballclub, one that slows down the transformation of the Mets into a team worth watching again. This is the same thing Jerry pulled during garbage time last year, sending out Fernando Tatis for game after game while Nick Evans rotted on the bench. I’ve given up screaming about Jerry’s in-game cluelessness, because it’s not like Omar can call down and order Jerry to stop bunting or get an obviously ineffective Manny Acosta the hell off the mound before it’s too late. But what Jerry’s doing now is the kind of negligence that can and should be checked. Tonight as in 2009, it seems like Jerry is concerned with putting lipstick on a pig of a season and making his own record look better. An understandable impulse, but one that has to be reined in by a responsible front office. Unfortunately, there’s been no evidence of such a thing in these parts for a long, long time.

And it leaves me in a dark place as a Mets fan. I’ve been there a few times before, and it’s ugly and no fun. I got there when the horrid Roberto Alomar was backpedaling through vague pivots and Rey Sanchez was blaming losses on rookies, and when Jason Phillips was staggering around first base — stretches of games during lost seasons in which my fury at the pathetic shabbiness of the product on the field overwhelmed my lifelong loyalty and curdled my fandom into a desire for revenge. Games in which I watched the Mets stumble around and waited for the release that would come from being able to spew disappointment and rage at them.

That’s what I was feeling last night, and I recognized it when Niese didn’t bat for himself in the eighth: Jerry had done something I disagreed with, and I found myself grinning, though I suspect it was more like baring my teeth. After which, of course, the Mets somehow won [2]. Yes, they did — which will startle someone reading this post years from now who got to this point figuring they must have lost 22-0. No, in fact a cursory glance at this game would show a lot to like: Niese was marvelous, David Wright and Hessman were superb in the field, and Hisanori Takahashi closed out the Astros 1-2-3 in the ninth and was (presumably) not accused by anyone of assault afterwards. Hell, the Mets even signed top draft pick Matt Harvey, and presumably for more money than that awful gasbag Bud Selig wanted them to spend.

But once you’ve reached poison time, positives like this barely register. Instead, you figure Harvey will reach the big leagues throwing 92 at best and having been ordered to scrap successful pitches. Instead, you note that Dessens was pounded by everybody but the batboy, and saved only by his fleet outfielders. You note that Pedro Feliciano got the win despite a body of work that consisted of committing an absurd error on a comebacker and giving up a long drive into the gap. You note that the Mets went ahead on a wild pitch, one that Jeff Francoeur naturally swung at. And then you think about Jerry and Omar and the Wilpons and the whole sad mess and you go back to seething, and wish that you could just fast-forward until enough time has passed for the poison to drain and fandom to be a good thing again.