I saw this New York Times piece on my iPad and spent the next couple of hours trying to keep my blood from boiling.
I love the Times, but Jim Luttrell’s post is tone-deaf about Mets fans specifically, baseball fans in general, and ignores the actually interesting currents and tribes of the city in favor of shaking a tin cup for the permanently shallow and professionally bored. From the assumption that Mets fans check out once there’s no chance of the postseason to the invitation for readers to submit cutesy Lettermanesque items, the target audience is fair-weather fans, brainless NYC drones and snarky douchebags without portfolio, none of whom I have the slightest interest in reading about or hearing from in the paper of record.
Besides, those deluded enough to still go to Citi Field last night saw a whale of a ballgame — and were reminded that this year’s Mets team just keeps somehow finding a way. On Sunday the season flat-lined as the Mets lost Jose Reyes and then Daniel Murphy in the finale of their series with the Braves. Yet for all that, they came roaring back, tying Atlanta before succumbing to Chipper Jones for what only feels like the 58,000th time. But they fell short, and listening up in Maine, I just shook my head. Nine games out. Murph gone for the year. Back to baby steps for Reyes. Now it’s really over.
Tonight, after the Mets Pelfrey’d a 4-1 lead into a 4-4 tie, I figured they’d roll over and die. They’d lose to San Diego, then start losing two of three and three of four. And I thought to myself that I wouldn’t particularly blame them. Eventually even the best-motivated bunch has to conclude that’s five or six snakebites more than a reasonable person ought to bear. (I think one reason for my fury with the Times was their juxtaposition of the Getty Images snap of an anguished, white-faced Murphy being helped off the field with silly comment-trolling. Murph was one of the real feel-good stories of the year, and now his year was turned to ashes, too.) And indeed, things got worse as the potentially useful Pedro Beato continued to struggle and the singularly useless Ryota Igarashi continued to pitch like he normally does, landing the Mets in an 8-4 hole going to the bottom of the eighth.
But there were pleasures to be had after that anyway.
Like seeing Mike Baxter take his first swing as a Met and line a ball to deep left, where it clanked off Kyle Blanks’ glove for a gift double. Baxter’s from Whitestone and grew up a Mets fan, so he had people in the park by the dozens, and SNY caught them practically levitating with happiness — a nice moment even if we never hear from Mike Baxter again. After Ronny Paulino added a sac fly it was 8-6, and hey, youneverknow.
Like seeing David Wright, recently recovered from A FREAKING BROKEN BACK, spearing the third out of the top of the ninth with a headlong dive into foul territory despite the game being pretty clearly meaningless, at least as far as the Times is concerned. Still down by two, and prodigal son Heath Bell was coming in with chip still firmly on shoulder, but there’s a reason they play 27 outs, so we’d see.
Like seeing Jason Pridie hang in there for a tough at-bat against Bell, followed by an even better at-bat by Justin Turner, whose response to wearing the goat horns has apparently been to play even harder. Then Wright spanked a single up the middle and what the hey, it was 8-7. They’re going to kill me, I thought, imagining Jason Bartlett spearing a sharp Lucas Duda grounder behind second and turning it into a game-ending double play. But then the Mets had already done more than I’d expected — if they lost, I knew I’d be disappointed, but I was pretty sure I wouldn’t be mad.
Like seeing Duda — a hulking kid who seems painfully shy, doesn’t really have a position and has committed the cardinal sin of admitting to struggling with his self-confidence — get a bit lucky, rolling one past Bell lunging this way and Orlando Hudson sprawling that way to score Turner and Wright for a 9-8 win and a happy dogpile and a face full of whipped cream.
The Mets aren’t going anywhere this year — we know it and they know it and just in case any of us momentarily forget it, the baseball gods will remind us by trotting out back fractures and rolled ankles and old shoulder injuries and new shoulder injuries and hamstrings and high slides and who knows what else. But despite their open October calendars, these Mets keep scratching and clawing and biting and kicking. They win more than we think they can; when they lose, they often make us proud to be their fans anyway.
And so it turns out there are pleasures left to be had in this bizarre, star-crossed season.
You might even call them reasons someone who loves baseball might continue to go see it played somewhere.
You know what? Let’s not tell the New York Times.