On Friday night, after getting to be part of a conversation with Dwight Gooden, Greg and I were in the right-field stands, watching Matt Harvey finish up his domination of the Nationals.
“How is it this team isn’t in first place?” I asked him. “Doesn’t it feel like they should be?”
That’s what a 7-4 road trip that could easily have been a 9-2 road trip will do to you. That’s what happens when you feel uplifted by the subtraction of guys who hadn’t been getting it done and the addition of guys who have yet to disappoint you. That’s what happens when the rest of your division is a morass of meh — two underwhelming contenders by default, a rebuilding project that hasn’t figured out that’s what it is, and a cynical fraud perpetrated by a shameless huckster. That’s what happens when it’s the 40th anniversary of a little team that could despite most of a year in which it couldn’t — an anniversary that we hold dear even if the people who run the Mets aren’t interested in giving it its due.
Greg didn’t gently suggest that I’d had a few shandys too many, or point out any of the approximately 75,000 flaws with my argument, starting with the standings. We chatted happily about the resurrected Mets, as David Aardsma (“first in the Baseball Encyclopedia and in our hearts”) retired a pair of Nats.
We were still chatting dreamily about what might be when Terry Collins strolled to the mound and signaled for Josh Edgin.
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150 years ago next week, two massive armies met at Gettysburg, a little town smack-dab in the middle of territories now claimed by the Pirates, the Phillies and the Orioles. The Confederate army was led by Robert E. Lee; the Union army by George Meade. They fought for three days. On the third, in the mid-afternoon heat, some 12,500 Confederates assembled to attack Union positions across a thousand yards of open field. Their charge ended with a few soldiers in gray reaching a jog in a stone fence called the Angle before being thrown back by Union reinforcements. That place is known now as the High-water Mark of the Confederacy — the closest Lee’s troops came to forcing an ending to the war different from what actually occurred, and different from the ending that became inevitable when the assault on the Angle was thrown back, with nearly half the troops who set out across the field never making it back to their lines.
I’ve stood at the Angle. It’s a sobering place. But looking across the field, you realize that no sane person would call the High-water Mark of the Confederacy the high-water mark of anything. Rather, it’s apparent that it was the horrible culmination of miscalculations, mistakes and the delusion that beating long odds was a character trait instead of a brief-lived pattern. The men who made that crossing didn’t have a chance, and their commanders shouldn’t have sent them. The disaster was foreordained.
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I don’t know why I brought that up. Must just be that the anniversary’s near.
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Anyway, the Mets lost on Friday night. They won today. Dillon Gee pitched well. Josh Satin looks good — amazing what young players can do when they actually get a chance to play. The Mets bullpen didn’t do anything that made you want to scream. Daniel Murphy had an adventurous, pratfall-rich trip from second to home that involved balls bouncing off infielders and caroming off Murph himself and rolling through the grass while umpires and coaches scattered. Until the play was finally over it was impossible to say with the slightest degree of certainty that Murphy would be out or safe; he was Schrodinger’s Baserunner.
It was fun. The Mets looked good. The Mets look better than they have in a while, in fact, and that’s a relief after the horrors of the spring.
They’re not going to be in first place or anywhere close to it at the end of the year, so let’s not throw anything valuable away on a lost cause. But it’s something.