This time I saw it coming — a brutal regression to the mean in the second half of what had been a heartening season.
Funny thing is, it didn’t make any difference.
Once again I went to kick the football of postseason hopes, and once again the Mets pulled it out of the way, and once again I howled AUUUGGGHHH! and landed on my back, abashed and amazed.
Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me three times, and I must be a fucking Mets fan.
For a while I was mad. Mad at the bad defense, the terrible bullpen, the sudden bouts of inattention and leadassdom, and most of all mad at myself for spending half a season admiring the fine raiment of naked wanna-be NL East emperors. And then I tried to convince myself that I didn’t care, which wasn’t true.
But not all old patterns are bad. Because somewhere between last night’s horror show in miniature and tonight’s entertaining little victory, I got back to the second-half-of-the-season Mets place I needed to be. I accepted what the Mets are, and what they’re not, and I let go of the rest.
Last night, thanks to Greg’s astute post, will go down as the last night we thought Josh Thole could be the answer at catcher. I was on a bar crawl with friends, and so glimpsed the emerging nightmare somewhat dimly on an overhead TV in Williamsburg. I fell asleep with the Mets making some pointless noise in the eighth, woke up, confirmed they’d lost, sulked briefly at a replay of the Quentin play and then got on with my day. But around 6 or so tonight, I found myself thinking: “8:35 start. I’m recapping. Hefner-Volquez. Cool.”
Which it was. Edinson Volquez was wild, the Mets were patient and aggressive in the right portions, and Ruben Tejada and Ike Davis and Daniel Murphy all had good games at the plate. Mike Baxter had a pretty good game too, arriving at first five times on walks. Jeremy Hefner continued to impress, giving the Mets six pretty good innings and not looking like he was going to throw up from nerves talking to Kevin Burkhardt. The Mets won, and assured themselves a winning record on a trip that seemed certain to be their season’s walk to the gallows.
It wasn’t a perfect game: Most notably Bobby Parnell was horrible again, turning in an all-too-typically head-shaking outing. I don’t know if it’s his own fault or he’s being badly coached or what, but Parnell just seems confused on the mound, unable to execute any kind of game plan and perform the way his talent should allow him to. He’s his own worst enemy, in Pelfreyesque fashion, and it’s gone from irritating to verging on Maybe This Should Be Somebody Else’s Problem territory.
But, again, acceptance. It was a fun game, one we’ll remember as the night Baxter drew all those walks and everyone laughed at poor Tejada because he couldn’t get the donut off his bat.
And with acceptance comes being interested in the answers to certain questions again. Like if the Mets can get some value out of Hefner, who certainly deserves to continue to get the ball in some role. Like seeing if Josh Edgin can keep it up and be the reliable reliever sought for so long. Like seeing Jason Bay finally put out of his misery as a starter so that Jordany Valdespin can show what he can do as an everyday player. Like hoping Murph finishes a comeback season in style, hitting .300 and continuing to improve at second base. Like seeing what David Wright and R.A. Dickey and Tejada can do with the rest of their superb seasons. Like seeing Matt Harvey take the ball every fifth day and remind us of the future that’s coming. Like seeing if .500 or a bit better is attainable.
The Mets’ fundamental problems won’t be fixed by the answers to these questions — that will take time for some players to develop further and some front-office work to get new players. But I’m looking forward to seeing what we find out the rest of the way. And I’m looking forward to baseball. Which is the whole point, right?