Joshua was very excited about his first-ever night game, crafting a highly detailed case for why he ought to be able to have ice cream very late in the proceedings. I’d been harangued long enough to stop listening very attentively by then, but I believe the gist of it was ice cream in the eighth or ninth inning would allow him to maintain his energy levels way past his bedtime. We did not agree on whether or not this was a positive. (Ice cream was secured in the sixth, by the way.)
Despite my deep worry about my son’s faltering fandom during these dark times, he was on point where R.A. Dickey’s quest for 20 wins was concerned, and with regards to David Wright’s pursuit of Ed Kranepool’s all-time hits mark. And he wouldn’t leave the house until we’d secured “a real Mets hat” for him — no Mr. Met, no reverse colors, but an orange NY on a field of blue. That was reassuring too.
Unfortunately, the effort to keep one young fan true to the orange and blue was almost entirely self-generated. How shall we describe tonight’s Mets game? Well, we could describe it more or less the same way we’ve described a good dozen or so Mets games in recent weeks:
1. The starting pitching was very good.
2. The offense was very bad.
3. The energy level was listless, even counting the 30% to 35% of the house that was rooting for the Phils.
4. The Mets lost.
Dickey will now have to win two out of his final three starts to reach 20. Ah, 20 wins. It’s an arbitrary number, which is fitting since “win” is one of baseball’s most arbitrary stats, not significantly more useful in summing up a player’s value than the game-winning RBI, that long-banished staple of mid-1980s Topps cards. (What dumb stat has done more damage to game strategy: the win or the save? Interesting question.)
Still, baseball was a struggle between the head and heart long before anybody heard of sabermetrics. I want Dickey to win 20 because it’s an evocative number, one that makes me think of Seaver and Gooden and Cone. (I always forget Jerry Koosman and Frank Viola, the former because he had the misfortune to labor in Seaver’s shadow; the latter because he’s not that memorable.) “Twenty-game winner” makes me think of bright promising Aprils and chilly exhausted Septembers. It makes me daydream in that marvelous way baseball encourages, simultaneously looking back in sepia nostalgia and imagining brilliantly colored futures.) Wins are a stupid stat, sure, but one buried too deeply in head and heart alike for me to extract.
Barring something bizarre, there’s no way Dickey can win his 20th in front of a home crowd, which is a shame. (So was the absolute lack of response to his 200th strikeout, though in fairness I saw nothing on any scoreboard that told fans the milestone had been reached.) The possibility of winning that 20th game at home has slipped away amid the recent Mets futility — as Dickey’s chance of winning 20 at all now threatens to slip away, too. Which isn’t what any of us would have wanted, but part and parcel of what’s befallen our franchise since a week before the All-Star break.
I’d hoped Joshua would see Win No. 19 in his final Citi Field visit of the year; failing that, I hoped he’d at least get a barn-burner or a taut, tense little jewel, something that would remind him that baseball’s fun. He got neither. What he got instead was to be expected, unfortunately: an archetypal 2012 second-half Mets game. And so it goes.