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The Death of Maybes

Well, Emily and I had fun for eight innings.

It was a lovely night, we warmed up for the game with my wife’s first-ever visit to Donovan’s [1] (I wouldn’t say it’s the best burger in New York City, but it’s very good — a bar burger executed perfectly), and during the mid innings I got to compare notes with an old Journal colleague and his daughter, Yankee fans making their first visit to Citi Field. They were big fans, with particular praise for the food and the fact that most of the fans in attendance weren’t psychotic. (Their words, not mine.) We chatted happily for a bit and then I went back to my seat and to Emily and the Mets fell behind again and then they tied it up again and then they took the lead and then bad things happened. Very bad things.

Izzy didn’t look right from the get-go, walking Logan Morrison, and the crowd started to mutter, no doubt recalling all those pitches last night.

(Brief digression about Monday’s game [2]: We went out to dinner, and leaving the restaurant I checked MLB At Bat and groaned to see the Mets down 3-1. Back in Brooklyn, Emily headed home while I went to meet friends at a bar. I checked in grimly … and saw it was 3-3! Lucas Duda had hit a home run; with a happy suspicion, I pulled up the play by play and saw that yes, he had hit it with two out in the ninth. I fairly skipped the rest of the way to the bar, walked in, looked at the TV, saw the bases were loaded, and three pitches later Mike Stanton connected. That’s 42 years of Mets fandom in a nutshell right there.)

Anyway, from last night to tonight: With Morrison on first, up came Stanton (whose arm really ought to subject to some kind of weapons limit). He popped up, but old pal Mike Cameron ripped a single up the gap to left-center which Angel Pagan barely corralled to keep the game from being tied right there. Izzy then hit John Buck, and up came Bryan Petersen with the bases loaded and one out.

On 0-2, Petersen hit a little grounder to Justin Turner, who I thought had time to come home. But it would have been close, and Buck was sort of in the way (reluctant kudos to him for terrific base-running, slowing up to ensure Turner couldn’t go for the quick tag and throw to first) and Turner by his own admission “kind of got into panic mode.” He threw it past Duda, and a horrible groan went through the crowd. The Mets skulked off amid a torrent of boos, a Daniel Murphy double-play grounder snuffed any realistic hope of a rally in the bottom of the inning, and we filed out, made numb by an awful loss [3].

(Oh, and Johan Santana’s on his way to New York to be re-evaluated for lingering shoulder discomfort. Fan-fucking-tastic!)

The Braves have hit a bit of a bump themselves, so the Mets are still 7.5 out of the wild card, which you can argue is not insurmountable, particularly with Atlanta coming to town on Friday. And this year’s Mets have been so confounding, so crazily Jekyll and Hyde, that there’s no way I’m going to declare them dead this time. They’ve jumped out of coffins before; I wouldn’t be surprised to see them do it again.

But honestly, they can’t seem to escape the gravity of .500, or the reality of the standings. (The Marlins are a .500 team too, and those last-place Nats in the rearview mirror are closer than they appear.) I’m thinking less about the number in the GB column than I am about the team we see too often during these recurring ruts — the one that can’t get consistent offense from its patchwork lineup, has a ragged bullpen, and has to contend with a right side of the infield afflicted by chronic dingbatry and doofusness. Teams like that don’t win, unless they’re in crap divisions like the NL Central, which we aren’t.

Now, there’s no shame in not winning — these Mets are being stripped down and rebuilt with better parts, and that will take a while. Nor is there shame in believing — musing about a maybe is a lot more fun than shaking your head and offering nos and nevers.

But August is when time starts to become the enemy along with whomever you’re chasing. August is when it creeps into your mind that your team’s flaws aren’t going to solve themselves this season. August, all too often, is the death of maybes.