This weekend was my annual get-together with my college pals, and while I’m never happy to miss a Mets game, Mets-Royals is about as missable as it gets.
Like my blog partner, I have nothing against the Royals — in fact, I have a certain distracted, information-free affection for them. Back in the late 1970s, a Kansas City Royals cap was the first thing I ever bought with my own money, which arrived a few days before my birthday with a note from my grandparents. My parents took me to Herman’s Sporting Goods at the Smith Haven Mall, and I returned with a deep blue hat with a white KC on it, to the bafflement of friends, neighbors and myself. Maybe I bought a Royals cap as some sort of youthful rebellion against Yankee hegemony, since they were the fated October opponent back then. Or maybe I bought a Royals cap because that was where my eye had alighted when I panicked and decided I had to make up my mind what to buy or my parents would take me home and I’d have nothing.
Let’s say I bought the Royals cap out of youthful rebellion and all that. It sounds better.
Anyway, I noted in passing that the Mets had beaten the Royals in extras one night and lost in extras the next night and David Wright had departed for the foreseeable future. Our friends dispersed and it was early Sunday afternoon and frankly it sounded pretty nice to spend a couple of hours watching the further-reduced Mets try to knock off the thoroughly anonymous Royals.
Which is where everything went wrong.
You know how in “A Clockwork Orange” Alex is temporarily cured of his drooglike ways through aversion therapy, forced to watch violent movies with his eyelids propped open until mere images make him sick? Well, if for some reason I ever need to be forcibly separated from baseball, this is the game the re-education police should pick. I think two showings of this debacle would leave me screaming and retching at the first stanza of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.”
I mean, what a travesty. The fifth inning was the obviously excruciating part, with Marlon Byrd losing balls in the sun and John Buck chasing balls behind the plate and Royals running pell-mell around the bases — by my count Met incompetence gave Kansas City nine extra bases, which is enough to take you from incredulous to furious to numb to resigned to accepting and then back around again. Yes, Byrd’s been a wonderful find and a good leader and all that, but the Royals were playing with the same G2 star up there the same 93 million miles away, and they didn’t give the Mets any extra bases. The Mets are always tired, or beat up, or whatever the excuse happens to be, but the maladie du jour never seems to give the other guys any trouble, and I’m sick of it.
The less immediately infuriating but ultimately more aggravating part is realizing that with David Wright the Mets are a mediocre team but without him they’re fricking horrible, which is the kind of thing we all should immediately grasp but tend to forget. Wright is so modest and classy and consistent that we discount him unfairly — OK, sure, maybe he’s vanilla, but he’s the super-high-end rare Tahitian vanilla that bearded dudes here in Brooklyn sell for $18 a pint and you rhapsodize about it until all your friends are either bored into a stupor or have trucked down to Gowanus or up to Bushwick to wait in line and buy their own.
For the next month the Mets will be serving Safeway Select, and the idea of a steady diet of this is dispiriting to say the least. As Ron and Gary talked about various Frankenstein defenses of Daniel Murphy, Josh Satin, Wilmer Flores, Justin Turner, Ike Davis and Lucas Duda I found my spirits sinking until I wanted to burrow into the earth. Which combination of these players at which positions would be best? None of them, frankly — the whole thing makes me want to hibernate until Opening Day 2014.
I mean, OK, if I had to pick I’d call up Flores to play third, put Duda at first and pretend Ike doesn’t exist. But just watch the Mets return Duda to left, move Young to second and send Murphy to third, making sure every defensive position is as weak as it can possibly be. You know they’re going to do it — the only mystery is what crackpot rationale they’ll come with to try and sell it.