How many duck-and-cover games have the Mets played in Soilmaster Stadium, anyway? And how many of those ended with some fleet, scrappity Marlin hitting a ball just past the first baseman’s glove, or just through the drawn-in infield, or just hugging the third-base line, or just catastrophic enough in some unanticipated way to spell doom for the Mets?
It didn’t escape me that Emilio Bonifacio was perfectly cast as the latest in that long line of spoilers, but for some reason I figured we had this one, despite Mike Pelfrey pitching like Mike Pelfrey and the Marlins clawing back more often than a movie serial killer. Maybe I was just in a good mood. Or maybe it was that the Mets, for once, had added a presumably capable player to the lineup instead of being deprived of one.
Yes, David Wright was back, and looking every bit as thrilled to be back as you figured David Wright would look. And he played pretty well too — his pair of opposite-field RBI doubles were very welcome, even if some ducks were left paddling serenely on the pond in between those at-bats. Plus it was pretty funny watching him succumb to peer pressure and display the Claw or the Spotlight or whatever that hand gesture is.
But Wright wasn’t the only source of positive vibes. Tonight I realized that at some point in the past couple of weeks I stopped thinking of Daniel Murphy as an enigmatic player on a hot streak and started thinking of him as what he actually might be: a pure hitter who’s good enough with the bat that his average (at best) defense is more than aceptable. And I found myself nodding my head at Terry Collins’ postgame discussion of how Bobby Parnell’s learned to use his fastball to make his slider an effective weapon even when he’s not perfect with it. (Witness the one he used to erase Bonifacio — the location wasn’t great, but the change in speeds and the surprise were enough to freeze Emilio.) Parnell seems like he’s gaining confidence by the day, and could take over the closer duties after a little more mentoring (and five saves) from Jason Isringhausen.
Which is where I began floating off into a reverie. Suppose the Mets re-sign Jose Reyes — as I loyally/stubbornly/crazily think they will. To Jose, add a healthy Wright and Ike Davis, the decent-enough Angel Pagan, whatever we can get out of Jason Bay and another year of bringing Josh Thole along in tandem with a veteran at catcher. Plug Murphy in at second, with late-inning help from Ruben Tejada. Right field comes from a prospect who replaces Carlos Beltran, or perhaps Lucas Duda emerges, or if all else fails something can be made up out of hopefuls and platoons and spare parts. That’s not a bad lineup. (Oh, and here’s betting they eliminate the Mo Zone with Wright’s sanity in mind.)
On the pitching side, you’ve got Jonathon Niese, Dillon Gee, R.A. Dickey, Johan Santana and a fifth starter. (I don’t want to talk about Pelfrey, because he’s horrible and I can barely stand to look at him any more. If you’re in a more rational frame of mind, there’s a great discussion of Pelf and his future here.) Parnell closes and the middle relief is the same crapshoot everybody deals with. That’s not a terrible staff.
Would that team make the Phillies quake in their boots? No — but it would be a pretty good squad with mileage left on the odometer, several Omarpalooza contracts off the books, and the chance to take a next step forward and be truly formidable even as the Phillies find themselves spending too much money on players who aren’t aging well. (On Opening Day 2013 Ryan Howard will have the range of an old car up on blocks and five years left on his mega-contract. Good luck with that one.)
Watching your team lose a baseball game can make you think nothing will ever go right again, so I should be careful about even daring to think positive about this team, with its uncertain finances and horrific luck staying healthy. But I can’t help myself, and right now I don’t want to be talked out of it.