The last two nights, the Mets offered us a stirring reminder that while the playoffs may be out of reach, there’s still plenty of baseball to be enjoyed, whether you’re out at Citi Field, parked in front of the TV or wandering around with the radio as your companion. They played scrappy, fundamentally sound ball, authoring two late-inning comebacks against the Padres and leaving us all whooping and hollering like rising a game over .500 was our ticket to October.
But baseball will humble you, whether you play it or manage it or try to construct teams for it or just live vicariously through the people who do all those other things. And tonight, well, it was humbling.
The Mets, as is their habit, came back from an early deficit to put a scare in San Diego. (And then did it again in a several-bridges-too-far ninth.) But they’d gotten themselves into that early deficit by not delivering in the clutch, by making physical and mental errors, by getting lousy pitching, and by generally looking like a team of office guys playing softball with a keg at second. We’re looking at you, Dickey and Baxter and Pagan and Turner and basically everybody. Typifying the night, regrettably, was Ruben Tejada not sliding into home in the fourth, turning a Jason Pridie sac fly for a run into a mind-boggling third out. Asked by Terry Collins if he’d seen Justin Turner telling him to slide, Tejada said he had, leaving Collins understandably nonplussed. I flashed back to the ancient story of the hitter who ignored Charlie Dressen’s bunt sign, resulting in a blown suicide squeeze, and afterwards told his flabbergasted manager, “I didn’t think you meant it.”
At least Tejada turned in some admirable work elsewhere. Bobby Parnell was awful whether pitching or fielding, re-establishing a deficit once the Mets tried to claw out of it, and by then the game was basically down to whatever pleasures one could gleam from random sights and sounds. On the radio, there was Howie Rose taking the factoid about the last time the Mets had two eighth-inning comebacks in a row and spinning it into a great reminiscence about Danny Napoleon and how first-year-player rules of the time crippled his development. (Somewhere Casey Stengel is yelling, “Vive la France!”) On SNY, there was a good trivia question: Which four NL teams have never had a batting champ? (Us, the D-Backs, the Brewers and the Astros.) I found myself wondering why on earth Collins has one of those four-color pens, and if he’s the first person in history to find a use for green. (Emily and I decided the pen probably lets Terry click it about 14,000 times a minute to burn off excess energy.)
And what the heck kind of name is Tekotte, anyway?
These are the things you wonder when baseball turns humbling again. That, and when the next game is — the one that hopefully will wash away all traces of this one.
And that, at least, is where the good news comes in: Unless you’re a night owl, by the time you read this it won’t be so far away.