You can lose one game to the Cubs, who are professionals no matter their record. You can appear helpless at the left hand of Travis Wood, whose command was sharp and approach was impeccable. You can waste Johan Santana’s six strong innings because sometimes great pitchers on good nights are outdone by lesser pitchers on their best nights. You can commit a couple of Little League errors in cringe-inducing succession because blooper reels sooner or later capture everybody’s most glaring missteps on video. You can, as the manager advised, put it behind you, grab a good night’s sleep and go get ’em tomorrow after a compressed travel itinerary maybe left you “flat”. And you can reason the winning of them all has yet to be achieved by any team.
Still, it was a rather disgraceful performance by the Mets on Monday night. Not because they lost, not even because of how they went from losing a close one to falling apart amid somebody else’s laugher but because there was a sense that they shouldn’t have to win after playing such a grueling slate for the last month. Gosh, they just played 22 consecutive games against contending teams preceded by three against their division’s currently non-contending perennial champions, and they worked so hard to get to…what was their record against the Phillies, Cardinals, Nationals, Yankees, Rays, Reds, Orioles and Yankees once more?
Twelve wins. Thirteen losses.
If that’s the case, what exactly were they letting down from?
Playing a tough Subway Series? You mean the one that’s on the schedule every single year?
Playing in front of raucous crowds under intense scrutiny for three games? You mean as a New York team playing in its own ballpark?
Playing teams that have winning records and playoff hopes? You mean the way the Mets do?
It’s not one loss on a Monday night to the 25-48 Cubs that bothers me. It’s not David Wright’s unsettling refusal to USE TWO HANDS! finally biting him that bothers me. It’s not Lucas Duda’s Your Son Is In Danger Of Failing Right Field notice from his Continuing Education class that bothers me, even though I’m now reflexively cringing when Met defenders habitually gather for informal caucuses under fly balls. It’s not that they couldn’t touch let alone knock Wood, though maybe patience isn’t always a virtue on strike one. It’s this idea, which Terry Collins almost telegraphed beforehand (echoed by the writers and broadcasters around the team before and during the game), that whaddaya want from these fellows? They had a late flight and they had a big (one win, two loss) weekend and, besides, they’re the Mets.
I threw that last bit in there myself, but that seems to be the subtext. They’re the Mets. They can only compete for so long at a high level. They can only be expected to succeed to a certain extent. They’re undermanned and overburdened. Playing a team like the Yankees for three games is going to take a lot out of them. Playing the Yankees on top of playing those other good teams had to be excruciating for them.
Maybe that will be true in the long run. Maybe a team whose bench feels thin because they had to DFA Vinny Rottino to make room in their bullpen for Justin Hampson has been more mirage than previously acknowledged. Maybe the statistical four-way tie for the final playoff spot in which they’re engaged despite losing three straight is a temporary condition. Maybe we’ll next hear that adjusting to Wrigley’s winds or ivy is too much of a challenge for them or that it’s difficult to get up for a last-place team after battling a first-place team or they’re looking ahead to four in L.A. or to the All-Star break two weeks from now.
And because they’re the Mets, maybe we should just go with, as Terry said postgame, “They’re human beings.”
So who exactly are on these other teams?