The Mets’ playoff chances are dead, but after two months without a pulse the team itself is alive.
No, it doesn’t matter. But it’s still nice to see — baseball is a far better companion when your team not only wins but plays with a little panache and offers you some hope for the future.
David Wright singled to left for his 1,416th career hit, meaning he’s three away from claiming the franchise hits record for his own, displacing Ed Kranepool. The last few steps of such chases can often turn agonizing, so it’s unwise to even think about this, but three more Wright hits before Citi Field empties late Thursday afternoon would provide a nice moment for a fanbase that could use as many as possible. Thursday afternoon, of course, already looms large on the calendar. Hmm.
Ike Davis connected for his 29th home run and then for his 30th, then reacted the way Ike Davis tends to react, giving a mellow thumbs-up to “a cool milestone, I guess” and then explaining that the difference between his first and second halves is that “I’m just not awful. … I felt like I had never played baseball before. I kept saying I’m not going to play this bad forever. I don’t think it’s possible for anyone to do that. You guys can pick up a stick and do better than I did.”
Davis has had a very strange season, one you could choose to see as a parable about patience, or perhaps offer up as a Rorschach test. For the former case, let’s recall that on June 8 Davis was hitting a Baysian .158, with 5 homers and 21 RBI. That was the low point; from there he began an agonizingly slow climb towards the distant heights of the Mendoza line. He got to .200 on June 27, slipped above and below that waterline for a while, then left .200 behind for keeps on July 4 — call it Ikedependence Day. He crested .210 for good (let’s hope) on August 4, then topped .220 (ditto) on August 25. He’s now at .227, his high mark for the season, with 30 homers and 88 RBI — the same season, amazingly, in which approximately 99.9999% of Mets fans (including me) were convinced that what Ike needed more than anything was a trip to Buffalo.
If you’re in the Rorschach camp, well, obviously 30 homers and nearly 90 runs driven in ain’t bad at all — last year’s club leader in both categories was Carlos Beltran (15 HR, 66 RBI), despite the fact that Beltran spent the last two months of the season as a San Francisco Giant. Yet Ike’s power numbers mask some pretty profound deficiencies at finding his way to first base unless it’s by trotting: He’s tied for 15th in home runs, but tied for 308th in WAR (Wins Above Replacement) with such notables as old friend Omar Quintanilla. Ike’s 2012 WAR is 0.2 — a rounding error compared with Wright’s gaudy 6.3. A better first half would do a lot to help those numbers, it’s true, but still. Enjoy staring at that inkblot.
Jenrry Mejia, meanwhile, had a strange game of his own. Mejia’s fastball has a lot of natural, enviable life, cutting and darting everywhere, including out of the strike zone, while his curve is pretty good as well. And Mejia looked a lot better than he did in Milwaukee, where he didn’t get a single swing and a miss. But that’s not to say he looked great — it was touch and go whether his pitch count would allow him to last five innings. Happily, he did — and a barrage of Mets runs led to his first career win.
Mejia has been poorly served by the Mets so far in his career — Jerry Manuel and Omar Minaya wrecked his development by bringing him north when he should have been still working up the minor-league ladder, he blew out his elbow, and even this year he’s been yo-yo’ed between starting and relieving. If I’d told you in April 2010 that Mejia would win his first big-league game on Sept. 24, 2012, you would have guessed that a whole lot was going to go wrong.
And you would have been correct — a lot has gone wrong. But despite that, Mejia is shy of his 23rd birthday, with a live arm, a rebuilt elbow, and the most precious thing of all — time.