A one-night pass was issued in advance. When the Mets sweep the Yankees, you cannot in all good faith complain about the next loss, even if it is to the frigging Marlins at their frigging boondoggle aquarium in front of a few dozen exotic fish and maybe a few dozen more curious onlookers. Shaun Marcum threw six fine innings but couldn’t quite make it seven. Jacob Turner, of course, turned into the second coming of Mordecai “Three Finger” Brown, except with a fully armed right hand. It made the five-game winning streak a vague memory and reminded us that the 2013 Mets are a precarious proposition on a night-to-night basis, no matter the opponent…but especially when the opponent is the homestanding Miami Marlins, who beat almost nobody ever, but us alarmingly frequently.
I’ll admit that after the Mets had blazed their way from desolation to the fringe of prospective mediocrity, I was kind of perusing the standings with a purpose, scoping out the schedule strategically and wondering about Wild Cards. I might put that project on indefinite hold for now. Too bad the dream of not being terrible has been doused again, but, hey, one-night pass, right? The Mets were going to suck sooner or later. Would you rather it have been Friday night in dim, dull and dreadful fashion against one of the few teams that are palpably worse than they are or have had it happen anytime between Monday and Thursday?
I do know this: We have however many games left this year and they will matter to me as Mets games do. They’ll matter to you within the parameters of your sanity and other plans. I mention this fact — the kind you’ll find on the nose of your face it’s so plain — because during what passes for Subway Series hype these days, I kept hearing and reading a common condescending refrain: this is the Mets’ last chance to be relevant in 2013.
Excuse me? Relevant to who? I’m a Mets fan. The Mets are relevant. Period. Their games may not wind up relevant to a pennant race, which is unfortunate. They may not wind up drawing many eyeballs to their network or fannies to their seats as the months wear on, but I’ll be watching and I’ll (likely) be going and they will be intrinsic to my pursuit of happiness. That’s what being a fan is about. Your team may not captivate you at every given moment, but they’re always relevant to you. I know they are to me.
To those media members who don’t or won’t try to understand how that works, I’m sorry you can’t figure out how to create a decent column or segment out of them. I’m also sorry you lean on the crutch of “this will be the highlight of the Mets’ season” when the Subway Series rolls around, and that’s before you know how it comes out. Listen, I enjoyed the hell — the hell — out of the Mets’ four-game sweep of the Yankees, but at the risk of taking your lazy nonsense too literally, use your heads, for crissake. You don’t know what the highlight of any season is going to be. And you don’t know how it’s going to be processed individually, let alone collectively.
One year ago tonight, you didn’t know that the Mets of 2012 were going to put up a highlight for the ages. I was pretty sure we got our highlight for the season when Johan Santana pitched the First No-Hitter in New York Mets History, but you know what? There were other highlights. There were lowlights, too. I probably haven’t gone a day without happily thinking about that no-hitter (regardless of Terry Collins’s endless buzzkill mea culpas) yet the season went on, y’know? There was R.A. Dickey knuckling his way to 20 wins and a Cy Young. There was Ike Davis occasionally blasting out of his doldrums. There was Scott Hairston doing things from time to time that suggested his might be a valuable bat to keep around. There were moments and innings and games and series that expanded the Mets fan experience for the better…and plenty that contracted it for the worse. The story didn’t just stop. When you’re paying attention, it never does.
The Mets play 162 games in a regulation season. Since we’ve been doing this blog, they’ve never won fewer than 70 games in any one of them. Do you have any idea how many times some above-average win has been referred to as “the best” or “the biggest” win of a given year? And do you have any idea how quickly they are brushed aside by the next one? Some stand the test of time and others need a nudge to nostalgize, but great wins do keep coming. Sometimes they don’t come in bunches, but they do arrive. They’re enchanting as they happen and they’re beautiful in hindsight, but none is ever the last win standing.
In 2004, the Mets swept the Yankees three games at Shea Stadium for the first time. It was such a welcome accomplishment that it felt like history stopped. It didn’t, though. We didn’t sit around dwelling on the heroics of Ty Wigginton and Richard Hidalgo for the next three months. The season continued. There were wins that, at the instant they went final, topped the victories over the Yankees from early July because the Subway Series had subtly receded into the past and this latest win, whatever win it was, was what just happened. And the win that just happened had the added value of obscuring the losses that had more recently mounted. (This was 2004; there were a lot of losses in the second half.)
This doesn’t go just for Subway Series and dismal seasons. Think back to September and October of 1999. Was there a more dramatic win down the stretch than the night the Mets singled Greg Maddux into a corner before John Olerud rocked his world via grand slam? No, nothing could top that…not for another couple of nights until Robin Ventura delivered the must-win run in the eleventh inning of the must-win game versus the Pirates…and not again for two more days when Melvin Mora scored on the wild pitch in the bottom of the ninth to force a one-game playoff. And nothing could top that. Except maybe for Al Leiter’s two-hitter in that one-game playoff. Or besting Randy Johnson in the opener of the actual playoffs. Or Todd Pratt winning that round of those playoffs. Or Olerud keeping the Mets alive in the next round. Or Ventura ending the fifteenth inning the night after that.
Baseball’s genius and generosity is that it’s always giving us more. In 1999, there was every reason for a Mets fan to pay attention to all of it. In 2004 and 2012 and (probably) 2013, your reason is that you are a Mets fan and you shouldn’t want to miss the irreplaceable good thing even if it takes some stoic sorting among the myriad bad things to find it and treasure it. In the end, listless losses in Miami notwithstanding, the effort tends to be worth it.