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Sluggers, Twirlers and Flyers

Apologies to anyone who wanted a late-night recitation of Metly things — your correspondent fell asleep somewhere between the conclusion of the game and the beginning of the chronicling.

Honestly, it was the proper reaction to the one of the longer, more pedestrian, less elegant baseball games you’ll see: terrible pitching, bad baserunning, lousy fielding. Particularly in right field, where Norichika Aoki was oddly insistent on playing right field practically in the corner by the foul pole — the same approximate point where you kept seeing VALDESPIN 1 as our right fielder chased yet another ball exploring the limits of Miller Park. I sometimes muse that come January I’d pay a good chunk of money to watch any baseball game, but I think I’d pass that one up even with three feet of snow outside. My word [1], to quote Keith Hernandez.

Keith and Gary had fun at least — they generally do — though depressingly little of it was related to baseball. At one point Keith was chattering merrily along about a bunch of books he’d just bought, and I really thought the broadcast was about to turn into an earnest discussion of the Marshall Plan and scholarship about it. It would have been preferable.

If you want bright spots for the Mets, I suppose you could count an Ike Davis homer, more solid hitting from Daniel Murphy, and signs of life from Lucas Duda. Though, really, I suspect the Ike homer is the only thing actually of note. Bobby Ojeda discussed it in the postgame (it’s one of my final evening memories before the “nap” that ate the night), but a lot of what’s ailed Ike during a very strange season could just be rust — the rust of a season that was lost and then followed by a less-than-full spring training. As we get to know Ike, it’s becoming apparent that we’ll always have to live with his flailing at off-speed pitches on the outer half and his self-defeating Grote-esque insurgency against the wickedness of umpires. He can make up for that if he’s reasonably productive otherwise and returns to his early consistency at first base, where his soft hands, long reach and calm demeanor have done wonders for all his infielders but most particularly David Wright. Every game gets Ike closer to shaking off the cobwebs of a lost year, so so much the better.

Murphy and Duda? I find it hard to believe their evolution as players has that much further to run. Murph has worked enormously hard to make himself into an adequate second baseman, which here isn’t meant as a disparaging term — he’s come a long way despite no natural knack for the position, full-bore media and fan pressure and the memory of two seasons ruined by knee injuries. A lot of people didn’t think he could do it; he did. But for all that, his defense probably tops out at so-so, and his moderate power of a few years back has disappeared. He’s a few degrees shy of Dan Uggla at a position where you want defensively challenged players to at least be Dan Uggla. Still, with this franchise needing a Marshall Plan of its own (and a treasury to fund it), Murph is the least of our worries. Good teams figure out how to solve Daniel Murphy’s shortcomings; bad teams are glad they have his strengths.

Lucas Duda, on the other hand, is a mess. He can’t play any outfield position, he’s blocked at first base, and as I’ve discussed before [2], he doesn’t seem to be one of those players who can blithely keep adding runs with his bat while not worrying about subtracting them with his glove, as Dick Stuart and Pedro Guerrero could. When he’s right, Duda has both tremendous power and a discerning eye for the strike zone — but I don’t think he’s going to be right until he’s a first baseman or a designated hitter. I suspect he’ll be traded over the winter in an underwhelming package, then thrive in another uniform. We’ll carp and complain, without remembering that a) his defensive worries had hurt his offense, diminishing his trade value and b) he wasn’t going to do any of that good stuff for us, unfortunately.

Finally, there’s Jenrry Mejia. His outing was a disaster — too many walks, too few missed bats — but the victory was simply being on the field. Garbage time is pretty useless for assessments, but it was made for players such as Mejia — zero-pressure settings in which they can get innings and experience with an eye toward reducing the learning curve when it will matter. Mejia ia still awfully young and has talent. Let him pitch, leave him alone and never, ever say the name “Jerry Manuel” or “Omar Minaya” if he’s within earshot.

Oh, and the game was briefly interrupted by a giant, masterfully folded paper airplane that soared over the field and came to rest near a bemused Murphy. You shouldn’t ever throw things on the field, but once in a very great a grudging exception to the rule — we’ll call it the Michael Sergio Exemption — can be allowed. Murph removed the airplane with a certain careful appreciation for its craft, handing it to a Brewers employee who took it away rather gently.

So it really is true that if you watch baseball faithfully, on a given night you might see something you’ve never seen before. My word.