Don’t look now, but your woebegone New York Mets are winners of three of four. They’re hot!
My recent advice stands: Find something else to do with your summer, with the possible exception of every fifth day, and let the Christmas carolers be a reminder to check on the team’s financial condition. That, more than anything else, will determine whether you should pay attention in 2014 or wait for new ownership.
But the fact that you’re reading this suggests you aren’t any better at taking advice than I am at practicing what I preach, so there we were at 2:20 p.m., a time that will always suggest “Wrigley Field matinee.” Which is a thing to be appreciated even in the worst of seasons.
The Mets fell behind early, thanks to Dillon Gee surrendering a titanic shot to opposing pitcher Travis Wood, which seems more pathetic than it was — I’m not familiar with Wood but he looks doggone Hamptonesque up there. They fell behind, but they kept the snowball from turning into an avalanche leaving behind nothing but scattered orange and blue gear and pissy calls to the FAN. David Wright got them within one on a little bloop, they fell back again when Ryan Sweeney homered and thus avoided being called out at third while actually being safe, but in the seventh Juan Lagares got a 2-2 curveball that hung right over the middle of the plate. Wood gazed at the unrecallable pitch in horror for a split-second before Lagares mashed it into the back of the left-field bleachers for his first big-league home run. (Lagares would get the ball back when a bleacher inhabitant heaved it back onto the field, a tradition that’s fine at Wrigley and annoying everywhere else.)
An inning later Daniel Murphy — who’d hallooed the Cubs batboy into handing over his teammate’s dinger — golfed a Kyuji Fujikawa fastball to the back of the right-field bleachers for an honest-to-goodness Mets lead, leaving Bobby Parnell to record a spotless ninth and sending the Mets home with a 3-and-4 road trip when 0-and-7 would have surprised none of us.
A win in the daytime at Wrigley is always a satisfying thing, but the reason for this post’s title is that the clout that mattered came from Lagares. He’s 24, one of those maybe-prospects whose weaknesses get discussed as much as his strengths. Lagares, it’s generally agreed, shouldn’t be in the big leagues yet — he’s been rushed. Yet when the Mets acquired Rick Ankiel, they compounded the weirdness of that acquisition by keeping Lagares around as half of a platoon instead of sending him back and taking a peek at the barely glimpsed Andrew Brown.
Ankiel’s story is one to admire, yes, but all of that was long ago, and what you get now is a soon-to-be 34-year-old outfielder who struck out 35 times in 62 at-bats with the Astros, who decided even they could do better than that. Lagares is raw, but even as he’s struggled you’ve been able to see that sweet swing and the power potential. This is a platoon between “Maybe” and “Why?” — Lagares has a slim to moderate chance to be something, where Ankiel has an excellent chance at making us think more fondly of Jeff Francoeur.
Given that the Mets aren’t going anywhere near the playoffs this year, I’d sure rather watch “Maybe” than “Why?” All of our hopes for this club are bets on some future that isn’t slated to arrive until 2014 or 2015 … if it arrives at all. The uncertainty is corrosive and infuriating, but we’re stuck with it. Since we are, it would be a small mercy to see the Mets win or lose with guys who might be a part of that future, instead of worn-out vets whose role in the present is baffling enough.