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We’ll Always Have Papelbon

Jordany, we hardly knew ye. Actually, we knew ye surprisingly well for someone who played relatively little — though I guess for all the exhibitionist Instagrams and clubhouse clucking [1], we didn’t know everything relevant there was to know. Now we know for certain we won’t be seeing you in September at Citi Field…though we could’ve figured that out [2] on our own.

Las Vegas 51s infielder/outfielder Jordany Valdespin was one of a dozen players suspended for 50 games [3] as part of Major League Baseball’s Biogenesis PED investigation. Valdespin’s legalistic statement [4] issued upon his suspension allowed only that “I made certain errors in judgment during the 2012 season and I accept full responsibility for those errors. I look forward to regaining the trust and respect of the Mets’ organization, Mets’ fans and my family, and look forward to contributing to the Mets in 2014.”

Really sounds like something a human being would utter, doesn’t it?

There are rules against ingesting performance-enhancing drugs. There is testing for it. There are dangers to your well-being from taking them. If you still use PEDs in this environment, you proceed at your own risk on multiple fronts. If you get caught, you brought it on yourself. It doesn’t make you evil, but it does indicate you were pretty reckless in going down that road. Even accounting for whatever edge Jordany Valdespin was seeking to obtain so he could be a better baseball player and make more money, there’s no good defense for those “errors in judgment” from a player few have ever felt much need to defend.

Yet I always instinctively defended Valdespin [5] based partly out of a sense that everybody deserves somebody sticking up for him, and partly because I really loved that home run he hit off of Jonathan Papelbon [6] last year. I was also quite fond of that grand slam with which he beat the Dodgers [7] this year. And I liked the occasional pinch-hit home runs in between. I hoped a few more similarly dramatic extra-base hits would jump off of his bat and thus wished he had been given more chances to start [8]. Since there weren’t too many other Mets blasting dramatic home runs to win games, I probably gave him every benefit of every possible doubt floating around his admittedly unusual persona [9]. Granted, I assumed all the anonymous eye-rolling from those who’d spent time in his company didn’t materialize totally without provocation, but I also had the feeling he was being overly piled on.

Translation: He hit some really big home runs that made me very happy. How bad a kid could he be?

I’ve come to realize lately how results-driven I’ve become as a fan. There are players on the Mets’ 40-man roster with whom I profess to have fallen in baseball love over the last few seasons. Then they slumped and failed to come out of it. Y’know what? I stopped being in baseball love with them. Fine fellows, I’m sure, but I guess I’m pretty superficial. Hit for me, Ike. Field for me, Ruben. Then I’ll wear the t-shirts I bought with your respective names on them with pride.

Never found a VALDESPIN 1 shirt in the team store, but I would’ve snapped one up. I seem to have a soft spot for wayward knucklehead types who produce. I used to wear a RODRIGUEZ 75, at least until he was escorted out of the ballpark in handcuffs. I removed K-Rod from my active t-shirt rotation shortly thereafter. I’d like to think I’d remove hypothetical VALDESPIN 1 in the wake of his suspension. I couldn’t prove I would.

If there were a BYRD 6 for sale and it wasn’t too expensive, I’d grab one of those, too. Marlon Byrd’s been nothing but a model citizen and cleanup hitter this season. Before this season, he was suspended 50 games for the same kinds of errors in judgment to which Valdespin copped when confronted. When Marlon made those errors [10] (unlike the one he made in right on Sunday [11]), he wasn’t on the Mets and I didn’t care when he was found out. Then he came to the Mets and has been as good as any Met this year not named Matt Harvey. Marlon did PEDs? Yeah, I think I heard something about that. Great guy! Great leader! Great Met! What was that again about his previous indiscretions?

Jordany Valdespin wasn’t the biggest story to come out of the Biogenesis case Monday. Nor was Cesar Puello nor Fernando Martinez nor anybody who agreed to not contest a suspension. The big name in all of this, of course, was Alex Rodriguez, America’s most notorious PED villain. A-Rod isn’t going along with his suspension for now. A-Rod has too much money on the table. We mock A-Rod because he’s so…A-Rod. The fans of his team have generally expressed disgust with him. Should Rodriguez get an injection from the fountain of youth over these final two months and lead his team out of its funk and into the playoffs, watch for him to be hailed for overcoming adversity and showing the heart of a true champion.

That’s not to indict the morality of the fans of Rodriguez’s team. We hail Byrd without thinking twice. If Valdespin somehow returned to the Mets in 2014, got clubhouse religion and regained (or gained for the first time) all that trust and respect his statement mentioned, and then went out and hit .350 for the first two weeks of April, he too likely would be judged to have overcome adversity in our eyes. And if he was still batting up a storm by the beginning of May, VALDESPIN 1 might be for sale at Citi Field and I’d probably snap it up still.

We fans are a very transactional people. I am, anyway.