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The Force Is With the Mets

First off, no, I wasn’t at Star Wars Night — to the shock of people belonging to two fanbases for which I am a rare Venn diagram overlap. Why not? I don’t really have a good reason beyond being busy and tired. Besides, I have the memory of being a stormtrooper for an evening at Citi Field [1] to sustain me. That was a very fun night, but also not the kind of experience one necessarily feels the need to replicate.

So instead I sat at home, annoying all of my Twitter followers instead of just some of them by merrily mixing Mets and Star Wars references, and hoped that the Mets would be able to defeat the forces of the dark side for once.

Which, happily, they did.

It didn’t look like it in the beginning, not with Carlos Torres giving up a home run to Andrelton Simmons on the second pitch of the game and hanging curveball after curveball in the early going — the fourth was particularly terrifying, with Simmons hitting a long fly that banged off the outfield wall in foul territory, followed by Jason Heyward smoking a ball in the direction of Utleyville that stayed narrowly but blissfully foul. But Torres got a little help from Juan Lagares’s arm and his own gumption, holding the Braves to just a lone run over six innings that were not bad at all.

Which was when the Met rebels launched their attack against Kris Medlen, an unprepossessing pitcher who’d never had much trouble beating them. Daniel Murphy and David Wright singled to start the bottom of the sixth, and with Marlon Byrd looking at a 3-0 count,  there was reason to be hopeful … just not in the way we expected. Byrd banged into a fielder’s choice to leave us in the same situation but an out worse, sending Ike Davis trudging to the plate — the same Ike Davis who’s become the Jar Jar Binks of the Mets galaxy, with fans unamused by his pratfalls and ready for him to be written out of the saga.

But even Jar Jar had his day; Ike Ike smashed a Medlen offering off the fence in right-center for a 2-1 Mets lead. Which was followed, in equally unlikely fashion, by a John Buck RBI single and then a Lagares sac fly. David Aardsma, Scott Rice and LaTroy Hawkins kept Atlanta at bay, allowing Bobby Parnell to climb back on the hill he had not occupied with particular distinction [2] on Monday.

Tuesday was different; Parnell struck out a pair of Johnsons and got Simmons to ground out for the finale, a no-muss no-fuss appearance that was thoroughly welcome.

The 2013 Mets, as we’ve said many times in many ways, are an odd bunch. They’ve frequently found a way to rip out our hearts … but for all that they have a knack of making amends, showing up at your door the next day with flowers and apologies and behavior that makes you want to forgive them [3]. And now, after all this, they’re two games behind the Nats and three games behind the Phillies in the Calvacade of Meh that is the National League East, with the merely decent Braves atop the division by default.

Dare to dream? That’s a bit much, even during the 40th anniversary of the Ya Gotta Believers. But perhaps you can dare to dream of daring to dream.

* * *

By now you’ve heard that Ryan Braun has fessed up to Biogenesis malfeasance in a way that’s simultaneously clear and thoroughly nonspecific, and been suspended for the rest of the year. That semi-confession has served as a tacit admission that he was lying a year ago, when he waxed eloquent about fair play and integrity after escaping a drug suspension when a panel of arbitrators ruled that the man who’d collected his urine sample hadn’t followed the proper procedures in keeping it sealed, secure and refrigerated for the weekend before taking it to FedEx for shipment and analysis. (Sample Braun speechifying back then: “I’ve tried to handle the entire situation with honor, with integrity, with class, with dignity and with professionalism because that’s who I am.”)

Braun skated on a technicality, but what left a bad taste in people’s mouths then and has sparked outrage now [4] is that he insinuated that the collector had been at best negligent and at worst malign, saying that “there were a lot of things that we learned about the collector, about the collection process, about the way that the entire thing worked that made us very concerned and very suspicious about what could have actually happened … We spoke to biochemists and scientists, and asked them how difficult it would be for someone to taint the sample. They said, if they were motivated, it would be extremely easy.”

In the last couple of days some folks have explained those comments not as veiled accusations about the collector, Dino Laurenzi Jr., but as a ballplayer’s translation of lawyerly parsing of chain-of-custody issues. Which I find utterly unconvincing: You can’t read Braun’s comments about the collector or the process without the context of his pious, flag-wrapped paeans to his own rectitude, or without the open character attacks made anonymously by members of his entourage to reporters at the time. (For instance [5], this was emailed to reporters then: “Laurenzi would have unfettered access to lab equipment and, if he was so inclined, would provide him the necessary resources and opportunity to tamper with the test.”) When you look at all of that together, of course Braun was insinuating misconduct by Laurenzi — it would take a determinedly blind lawyer or a besotted Brewers fan to think otherwise.

I no longer get too worked up about PEDs. This is for a number of reasons: mostly weariness, but also the knowledge that ballplayers have always looked for an edge and not particularly cared where they found it, as well as the strong suspicion that omniscience would leave us unhappy about what some beloved Mets were up to during the steroid age. Confronted with all this, I’ve steeled myself never to be surprised by who might get caught injecting what, or by how they might try to weasel out of it.

What angers me about Braun doesn’t really have anything to do with PEDs, or even sports. Rather, it’s that it’s indecent and appalling when someone with power, wealth and fame uses those advantages to smear people who lack them. That’s what Braun did, and that’s what he should answer for — not what went into his body, but what came out of his mouth.