The game begins in the spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall alone.
That, of course, is by Bart Giamatti, a sweet, sad salute that will be quoted as long as there are baseball fans. But there’s a wrinkle Giamatti didn’t cover. The transition from summer to fall feels a lot less elegiac when your team is spent and playing such horrible baseball that you’re either bored and infuriated.
When that happens — as it has been happening to the Mets for the last week — you want your team to cut it out already, to exit stage nearest as soon as possible. It’s time for football, or catching up on season box sets of shows you didn’t watch because 7:10 was taken, or whatever it is you do with the winter. You’ve known for a few weeks at least that they aren’t going to win, but now they’re playing out the string with all the intensity of a McDonald’s cashier, and you can no longer stand the sight of them.
You know you shouldn’t do this. You know these last few games are precious, that pretty soon you’ll be starving for the merest morsel of Mets news or opinion or rank speculation. But you can’t make yourself remember that, because right now if David Wright makes one more error or Angel Pagan takes one more bad route or Manny Acosta serves up one more meatball you really might slam your head into the desk or hurl the TV out the window or do some other rash thing.
The Mets just finished a 1-8 homestand that went awry pretty quickly, what with hatgate overshadowing a well-done 9/11 tribute, and ended with Terry Collins incandescent with rage. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear Terry decided to make his charges walk to Atlanta — they’re down around Trenton somewhere about now, rolling bags dragging. Terry is hoarse but still yelling. By limping to the finish line, the Mets are threatening to undo what had been a pretty good story of overachievement and resilience, marked by encouraging campaigns for a number of young, useful players.
There’s still time to correct that. But not a lot. And yesterday, even the weather seemed engineered for a grimmer tale. The day started off relatively warm and summery, and the Mets hung in there in the early innings. But then the rain came, and so did the Nationals’ bats, and when the wet weather trickled out it was cold and clammy and the Mets were beaten again and somehow it was fall.