The Mets, despite being admirable scratchers and clawers, needed a laugher. Or at least a chuckler. I no longer believe that winning builds character — it seems more likely to me that winning leads others to ascribe character to you — but you can convince me that eking out narrow victories and getting crushed by wide margins causes a young team to be exhausted by July.
Tonight the Mets could relax a little. After a rough first inning (made smoother by a Spider-Man catch against the wall by Mike Baxter), Dillon Gee was in control of the Padres and the game. After a Met three-spot in the fifth, he could cruise. His stuff was good but his location was better — Gee’s best pitch of the night might have been his last one, the culmination of a nine-pitch battle with pinch-hitter Chris Denorfia. It was a 3-2 fastball on the outer edge, at the knees, perfectly placed and unhittable. Denorfia leaned over the plate to regard it with faint hope, then leaned back in dismay as Gee trotted off the mound.
The other happy development in Metland? It was that David Wright went 0 for 3.
To be more specific, Wright went 0 for 3 (dropping his average to a mere .397) but the Mets still won.
So far, David Wright’s 2012 has surpassed the sweetest dreams of the most optimistic Mets fan. (I’ll grant you the existence of such a creature is generally discussed in the same breath as unicorns, yeti and the Loch Ness monster.) At the plate, Wright looks like his pre-Citi self, the precocious hitter for whom an 0-2 count wasn’t a death sentence but the Alfonzoesque prelude to the rest of the at-bat. In the field he looks smooth and sound in a way we haven’t seen since … well, since ever. In the on-deck circle or the dugout, he looks like what we always urged him to be — the unquestioned leader of his baseball team. It’s pinch-me stuff.
But Wright can’t be the whole story. Tonight’s Mets offense began with Lucas Duda banging a home run off the sign overhanging the Mo Zone. It kept rolling with a double from Mike Baxter and a single from Kirk Nieuwenhuis, young outfielders pushing Jason Bay and Andres Torres towards Where Are They Now? status. It concluded with a double down the left-field line from Daniel Murphy and a single rapped back up the middle by Ike Davis. Yes, there was an Ike Davis sighting — though nothing was sweeter than seeing Murphy ambling back to the dugout sending fist pumps and attaboys Ike’s way.
The hope is that Wright will remain to see the Mets emerge from the doldrums of ill luck and thin wallets. But if better times are in the offing, it won’t be because of Wright alone. That won’t work. A brighter future depends on complementary players emerging to share the load — to go 3 for 10 with three runs scored when Wright’s 0 for 3 and never sees second base. At least for one night, the supporting cast was there, and the reviews were excellent.
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Today is Rusty Staub Bobblehead Day, event and player both appreciated by Greg right here. Tomorrow is Banner Day, a wonderful Mets tradition now happily restored. I’m going to send you somewhere else to read about that — to the New York Times, no less. But you’re not really leaving home, because that essay is also by Mr. Prince. It is, to no one’s surprise, wonderful. Enjoy.