Y’know what they say about not believing all that much of what you see in April and September? Throw the mythical month of Metuary into that mix of incredulity. Metuary is that span of time when the Mets aren’t the Mets. They’re just whoever’s in Mets uniforms playing whatever positions Mets normally play.
Natch, it’s not that easy to dismiss a busful of strangers on a train when the train keeps rolling down the regularly scheduled tracks and other teams keep sending their troops to meet us at the station and steal our cabs. Non-transportation translation: You’ve gotta play these games with whoever you’ve got. You’ve gotta play these games wherever they put you. That mistakes will be made because certain players shouldn’t be playing certain positions and certain players are woefully miscast and certain players are becoming overly depended upon given that they’re just not that good — hey, all of that describes Willie Harris! — is immaterial. You go out there, you need to score some runs, make some plays, win some games.
I know Terry Collins agrees with that. I heard Terry Collins mention that as steam seeped from his ears, fire raged in his eyes and climate change came to his cheeks. It was comforting to hear the manager is aware that no matter how much Mets are trying, it’s severely dismaying that almost no Mets are succeeding.
We’re talking about whoever happens to be Mets this week. Technically, it’s pretty much the same bunch whose heads we were patting for being such good Buffalo soldiers when they were gamely persevering and sporadically succeeding. That seems over now, and they seem overmatched. We’ve been going into these battles without Wright, without Davis, without (for a few days that are mercifully ending) Reyes and it shows. We have fourth outfielders playing third base, ad hoc second basemen playing first base, would-be second basemen playing shortstop and…who’s on second again?
Please, no stale “Hu’s on first” asides. The whole team’s hitting like Chin-lung Hu. And it’s fielding like Lou Costello.
The manager has had it with the bizarre misadventures that seem to mangle the Mets when seventh innings roll around. Good for him. Bad for him that he’s “running out of ideas here,” though I’m sure he’s already thought of “expect my team to execute like [bleeping] major leaguers.” Which these Mets find ways not to. They’re mishandling of leads isn’t egregious, but the subtlety — just missing tagging bases; not being alert to bunts; going for unlikely DPs while opposing runners cross plates — doesn’t make the end result any more palatable. And if bad luck and questionable judgment doesn’t do them in, suddenly hopeless relieving confirms they won’t accidentally encounter good fortune on their way to yet another dull, dispiriting loss.
Metuary is surely the longest month of the year.
What we have to keep reminding ourselves is that these aren’t, for the most part, superb, top-of-their-craft professional athletes. They’re more like regular guys…ordinary people pressed into baseball service. Even without the injuries to the essential pieces, this wasn’t going to be a finely honed outfit in 2011. If you were told on the eve of this season they’d be a few games under .500 after a third of it was over, even if you weren’t also advised that certain significant players would be out substantial chunks of time, you would have (had you been reasonable and realistic) shrugged and said, “Sounds about right.”
Yet it’s all wrong when you’re a spectating party to it on a going basis. It’s all wrong when you watch the Mets’ lineup and the Mets’ defense tell the Mets’ starting pitcher to go ahead and waste six solid innings, we’ll take care of the seventh. It’s all wrong that even when the Mets hold a lead for two-thirds of a game, you’re fairly confident that the final fraction won’t be favorable. It’s all wrong that the Mets can’t low-key a rebuilding year the way the Pirates might. It’s all wrong that the Pirates are now a better team in the standings than the Mets are. And it’s all wrong that, reportedly, the only way we can retain our franchise shortstop is to (reportedly) jettison our franchise third baseman.
But that’s a 2012 and beyond-type issue. We’re trying to negotiate 2011 for now, a year that offered no payoff upfront and is somehow finding a way to yield less than that on a nightly basis.