In baseball circles over the years, there has been a certain cachet attached to the Oriole Way, the Dodger Way and the Cardinal Way. I’ve never heard anyone allude to, with or without irony, to the Met way.
But maybe they should…sans irony, no less.
The Met Way, the relatively ideal version, was on display Friday night in Philadelphia. The kinks aren’t fully worked out yet. Consider what we saw as the pilot program. Or Met Way 1.0.
This Met Way is achieved when the Mets are…
Pitching Solidly Consistently
What is more solid than a quality start? Ever since the term came into vogue in the mid-1980s, it’s been easy to mock it by its parameters: at least 6 IP, no more than 3 ER. At its outer limits, that adds up to a 4.50 ERA, which fails to scream quality or even competence. But that’s the worst you could be if you achieved the absolute minimum requirements of a quality start. Implied in a quality start is that you’ll go longer than six innings and/or give up fewer than three earned runs most of the time. Thus, the practical magic of R.A. Dickey and the fourteen consecutive quality starts he has proffered dating back to last July 25. His ERA in that span is 2.41, indicating if the Mets had fielded well and hit some, they conceivably could have won all of those starts. As it happens, the Mets have gone 8-6 in those games. The Mets stopped being much good right about the instant Dickey got really rolling in 2011, but it wasn’t because of their starting pitcher. He was quality.
And he remains quality. He remains quality to the point of being more consistent than any pitcher in baseball. Fourteen quality starts don’t sound like a big deal? Then why does no other pitcher anywhere have as long an uninterrupted streak? Dickey’s been the epitome of the man who gets the job done with his fourteen in a row. Not Justin Verlander, not Clayton Kershaw, not last evening’s opponent Cliff Lee or any of his Phillie buddies and certainly not Aaron Harang, who dared approach the greatness of Tom Seaver for nine straight strikeouts in Los Angeles before realizing there is only one Tom Terrific and (thankfully) falling short of a record-tying tenth.
Dickey the knuckleballer won’t strike out nine or ten in a row. Dickey the battler hasn’t gone eight full innings in any of his fourteen consecutive quality outings. Dickey the team leader reaped only four wins as the streak reached twelve over the final two months of ’11 — but, oh man, is he solid.
Jumping On Top
In the very first inning, while Lee sought location, the Mets knew exactly where they wanted to go. Ruben Tejada led off with a double to left. Daniel Murphy followed with a double to right. Two outs later, the animatronic Jason Bay sprang to life with a booming opposite-field home run to deposit three runs in the Mets’ Citizens Bank account before a Phillie batter could as much as approach the teller’s window. They say you have to get to the great pitchers early. The Mets listened to what they say and rode that 3-0 edge to a 5-2 victory over the great Cliff Lee.
The Mets are now 1-2 without David Wright. It felt like the world would end without him in the lineup. Perhaps it still will. But Team Day To Day flourished another day without their best hitter because it found alternative hitting sources. Like the unexplored depths of Jason Bay’s power reserves; like the easily overlooked bat of Scott Hairston, who got to the great Lee later, in the fifth. Hairston platoons, more or less, with Kirk Nieuwenhuis in center field. That was Andres Torres’s gig. Injury happened. The Mets have persevered. We’ll see how much perseverance a likely extended absence of Wright might reveal. It’s not ideal. But it does happen. With experience in such matters, perhaps the Mets will not be overwhelmed when it inevitably does.
The Mets were born to make mistakes. They’re only human. It’s what you do, or don’t do, when the mistakes are completed. Josh Thole being tricked in the second inning by Jimmy Rollins — who apparently wasn’t even trying to trick him — could have opened the floodgates to Met humiliation. Everybody has a fistful of disastrous Met baserunning boners catalogued in the subconscious…and in the second everybody had a new one prepared to be placed in the front of the brain.
Not that anybody was putting “brain” and “Thole” in the same sentence.
Thole’s on first with one out. Dickey bunts. Lee tags Dickey pat of the way to first. Thole races to second, preparing to slide. Rollins, seeming devious but acting mostly casually helpful, puts up a hand as if to say, relax, you’re in. Thole reaches second standing, turns tail and jogs back to first?
Rollins, no dummy, calls for the ball and fires to first. Thole, no scientist of rocketry in this scenario, attempts to remain vital on the basepaths. He speeds up as he heads from second to first. But he’s tagged out by Freddy Galvis, covering the bag.
I once saw Barry Lyons picked off second during an intentional walk in the ninth inning of a tie game. I’d say this was worse if only because Lyons essentially just stood there, while Thole had to make this happen. And happening as it did against the Phillies, late ’00s/early ’10s ruiners of everything potentially Amazin’, it had disaster written all over it.
Thankfully, the writing was in easily erasable pencil. Thole looked like a dope there for a minute, but no harm done ultimately. When, in the bottom of the very same inning, Jason Bay threw out John Mayberry, Jr., at second on a questionable decision to attempt an extra base, I took it as a sign — a far more fortuitous one than Rollins flashed Thole — that we’d get away with our most glaring imperfection of the night.
Not that another one didn’t crop up before the night was over. In the ninth, second baseman/potential third baseman Murphy totally Bucknered what should have been the final out of the game, E-4, cutting the Mets’ lead to 5-2, creating tension where there should have been handshakes. The murmur muttered all across Metsopotamia was of the “oh no” variety, yet y’know what Frank Francisco did? Struck out Shane Victorino for a new final out.
That’s what dependable closers on unshakeable teams do. Or so I’ve heard.
Looking Good..No, Great…No, GORGEOUS!
And I thought the home uniforms had been upgraded after fourteen years of shadows and fog. The whites and the pins pale by comparison to the away grays and their eye-popping blue accents. It’s not like I didn’t know it was coming. It’s not like I wasn’t on hand when the Mets paraded Lucas Duda into Caesars Club last November to model it. But maybe Duda just doesn’t quite cut the figure to show off a fall line. For whatever reason, the Mets in their roadwear on SNY last night simply dazzled me.
I have opinions on uniforms just like any Mets fan does, and like anyone whose rooting roots were planted circa 1969, blue is my choice by instinct. Yet black (save for the dissonant shadows set against the rarely worn pinstripes, a combination which always inflamed my headaches) never much bothered me. As long as it said Mets in distinctive script on the chest — or NEW YORK away from Shea (save for the characterless 1988-1992 visitors’ version) — I wasn’t generally distressed by whatever the Mets wore or didn’t wear on a given day or night.
Then I saw the refreshed road uniforms in action and I practically swooned. Somehow the Mets pulled off the toughest trick of all. They remained faithful to a classic yet managed to improve upon it. I stared and stared and stared and tried to figure out what was so strikingly different from not just the half-measure road grays of 1998-2011 (total absence of ebony, obviously) but also the revived NEW YORK of 1995-1997, let alone the editions in which the Mets — and I — came of age between 1962 and 1973.
It has to be the long undershirts. They are bluer and crisper than they were in the heyday of Hundley (just before black infiltrated) and the twilight of Beauchamp (just before “Mets” replaced “NEW YORK”). The sharp sleeves — and socks, in Dickey’s case — go so well with the caps. And they all accessorize the pants and jersey to a tee.
I have never had a conversation of this nature or texture in my life about any other clothes, and I doubt I ever will. The Mets road uniform, though…that (as a friend of mine who was eager to expound on this topic relentlessly until it was rightfully repaired would attest) is something else. At last, it is something else. It’s something beautiful. It’s beautiful enough to wear at home. It’s beautiful enough to wear on off days. It’s beautiful enough to wear in the offseason. It’s just beautiful.
As could be the Met way, if the Met way becomes more than a one-time thing.