After pitching the Mets to a complete game victory over Cincinnati, Mike Pelfrey told Kevin Burkhardt his team is focused on making the playoffs and then, if the matchups break right, eliminating Carlos Beltran and the San Francisco Giants. He said it with a straight face and I listened without laughing out loud.
Oh, the Mets aren’t likely to make the playoffs, but why tell them that? Why tell them the competitive portion of their season is over just because one of their two or three very best players is no longer one of them? Why bother explaining to them the niceties of the standings and how there are too many teams in front of them; and that they’re too many games behind the one at the head of the list; and that there aren’t, quite frankly, enough very good players among the lot of them to take this slightly above .500 song of a season and make it exponentially better?
That portion of reality is irrelevant when a team has 58 games remaining, isn’t mathematically eliminated and accepts that no day begins with a foregone conclusion of how it will end. I would have guessed the Mets, gutted of Beltran, might mope into their next contest and mope out of it with a desultory loss.
I would have guessed wrong.
It wasn’t so much what Pelfrey articulated after the game that convinced me 2011 isn’t wholly kaput but how Jose Reyes appeared when it started. After beating out an infield hit (gracious hometown scoring where Joey Votto was concerned), Reyes didn’t seem to be in mourning. He sported a magnificent smile and made with the spotlight/claw toward the Mets’ dugout. That’s when I had the sense that this team, whatever its fondness for Carlos Beltran, wasn’t going to sit shiva while the Reds went to town on them.
Pelfrey (9 IP) was the Pelf he rarely if ever is. Murphy (4-5) was the Murph he always is…just blessedly less adventuresome. Wright (4 RBI) was as Wright as rain. Reyes was Reyes, which is about as good as anybody could be. Duda was a slugging right fielder, which was very helpful since we just traded one of those to San Francisco for Zack Wheeler.
The Mets were a beautiful team Wednesday night. They continued to make us proud, whether their playoff talk was sincerely delusional or delusionally sincere — even if they were permanently minus one of the most beautiful players the franchise ever hosted.
If you loved watching Carlos Beltran as a New York Met, you were very lucky to have had that opportunity for the bulk of seven seasons. I know I was.
If you didn’t love watching Carlos Beltran as a New York Met, that’s your problem.
Too many thousands of words have been wasted huffing at those who found fault with Beltran’s style or performance or whatever it is he didn’t do or how he looked when doing all that he did. I’m not sure why we expend our proverbial breath assailing those who decided they’d rather not appreciate the value — or relish the beauty — in a player who could do everything and did it often. It’s enough, for me, to celebrate Carlos Beltran, the best center fielder the New York Mets ever had, not to mention probably their finest right fielder (offense and defense inclusive) of the past decade.
I loved watching him track fly balls. I loved watching him line pitches into the gap. I loved watching him overcome the aches in his knees and race to third. I loved watching him not give up. I loved the grace always. I loved the enjoyment late. I pity more than excoriate those who didn’t. Their loss for seven seasons.
Our gain. And we’ll see about this Wheeler kid.