- Faith and Fear in Flushing - http://www.faithandfearinflushing.com -

The Times That Try Fans’ Souls

JOSH: Sixty-eight percent think we give too much in foreign aid, and 59% think it should be cut.
WILL: You like that stat?
JOSH: I do.
WILL: Why?
—The West Wing, “Guns Not Butter”

Saturday’s game really did put me to sleep. I nodded off with Jon Niese’s second or third pitch and wasn’t fully alert until LaTroy Hawkins was working out of a jam in the seventh. By then, the Mets were down an insurmountable 2-1, though there were a couple of moments late when — as I did the night before — I believed a rally could very well spark because these were the Cubs the Mets were playing, and somewhere deep down in the 1969 of my soul, the Mets can never not beat the Cubs when they really have to.

But that was probably the grogginess of a sleepy Saturday afternoon speaking. Besides, the Mets didn’t really have to beat the Cubs except that it would have been nominally preferable to the alternative [1]. It’s difficult to get worked up over your favorite team failing to seize an opportunity to improve to 25-38 from 24-38 and instead plunge to 24-39.

As if their no-frills won-lost record doesn’t already illustrate what they’ve been down to, our 24-39 Mets have lost 10 of 12; 35 of 52; and, dating back to July 8, 2012 (spanning two seasons, but what the hell, we’re the ones who are in it for the long term), 88 of their last 140. That last trajectory translates to a full baseball year of 60-102 under the management of Terry Collins, Sandy Alderson and, most critically, Fred and Jeff Wilpon.

When I go to a Mets game, as I did Friday night, and they lose — which has been the case on my last seven visits to Citi Field — it’s a bummer in the moment. When I’m lollygagging and merely absorbing the result via television these days, unless the circumstances are particularly grating [2], it’s become just one of those unpleasantnesses with which you put up now and then, like rain or traffic. Into every fan’s life, a little Mets must fall, except since last July the defeats are bumper-to-bumper and the ground sure has grown soggy.

Yet I’m left not feeling all that badly that the Mets bow in matter-of-fact fashion to the Cubs by scores of 6-3 and 5-2, even though the Cubs are considered a crummy team and I’ve truly disliked them all my rooting life. I follow the trend lines of 2-10, 17-35 and 52-88, and the clarity they present may not be comforting, but it sure is clarifying. The Mets of Collins, Alderson, Wilpon and Wilpon are a disaster. There’s no more reason to accept at face value their outright deceptions, their crafted nuances or even their sincere miscalculations. The general manager can trade studied reserve for stated passion [3] all he wants, but it’s all talk until the numbers say something else.

The manager is haplessly caretaking a vapid collection of the mostly talentless; the owners are undermining our confidence by their continued presence; and Alderson and his fellas…I get the hole they were asked to dig out from and I get the mix of financial constraints and time-lapse cleverness that’s somehow supposed to pan out in eventual competence en route to consistent contention. Yet there comes a point in a fan’s life when he’s got to see more than one great pitcher establish himself and a potential second one prepare for his debut. There comes a point when watching .371 ball played over a period of more than eleven months obscures your tendency to be the slightest bit reasonable about the vague outlines of a rumored improved future.

All who are emotionally invested in the well-being of this franchise are entitled to their talking points, whether it’s patronizingly informing the impatient that these things can’t get done right away (cue the overwrought Cashen 2.0 comparisons) or relentlessly recounting every crime against humanity and good sense committed by venal ownership and its clueless California stooge (cue the equally overwrought reminders of what the Madoff cloud hath wrought). Honestly, I sit in the Met-aphorical middle, whether at the ballpark or on the couch.

Things haven’t worked so far.
Things might someday.
Things might not.
I’d like them to.
I wouldn’t be shocked if they don’t.
But I’d really like them to.

None of this is a surprise or a solution. Sometimes a fan just wants to vent without being told much beyond, “Yeah, I know.” Sometimes a fan just wants to find a given 6-3 or 5-2 loss to be a relative pain unto itself, not another symptom of something devastatingly insidious and ultimately chronic. In the interim, when your team is collecting losses at such a prodigious pace, what’s one or two more to toss on the pile?