If you don’t count the L.A. portion of their itinerary, the Mets have done a nice job of sticking it to the National League West this season. Against the Giants, Rockies, Diamondbacks and Padres, their combined record after Friday night’s 5-2 win over San Diego is 15-7. So if we can just avoid drawing the Dodgers in the first round of the playoffs, we’ll be fine.
Amazing what a two-game winning streak can do for your morale and to your perspective. The Mets didn’t lose to the Padres Friday, just as they didn’t lose to the Padres Thursday and — despite so many individual Mets striking me as fodder to fill as yet undesigned Padre uniform combinations (which is to say sinking into a state of noncompetitive 10:10 PM oblivion where few north of La Jolla and east of El Cajon will be aware of their existence) — I’m feeling pretty decent about my team at the moment. This season, at roughly the three-quarters mark, is holding serve…or is not allowing its inherited demons to score, since I suppose you should use some sort of baseball metaphor if you’re going to be discussing baseball.
It’s dangerous to float too far above a state of curbed enthusiasm with these Mets, for they tend to let you down the instant your thumbs rise up. They went 16-9 from the moment Kirk Nieuwenhuis hastened Western Civilization’s decline through the sweep of the defending world champions in San Francisco. Since that exhilarating stretch, they’ve gone 16-16, the very definition of inconsistency: win one, lose one sixteen times. A month and change of .500 ball looks good when you haven’t hurdled over that bar for a full year in five years — and it’s not bad when your captain is down and your closer is out. But it’s still .500 for a month-and-change after playing at a .640 clip for a few golden weeks.
Of course 2013 was never going to be about 2013, which is easy to say when you take the sophisticated long view but difficult to deal with when you’re in trenches for all 162. That’s probably why we get overly excited with anything that breaks up the 56-64 routine on the cusp of our team’s 121st game. That’s why the birth of Travis d’Arnaud’s major league career is a bigger deal to us than anything the newly arrived Bentley Buck does short of laying down a guitar solo in diapers like that suspiciously talented baby in the heavy-rotation Pepsi Next commercial.
Our long prenatal nightmare is over and d’Arnaud joins the Mets tonight at Petco Park. John Buck can take his time with his family and Anthony Recker can take a seat. Those who are expert at proffering such observations report Anthony Recker comes equipped with a very sweet seat, but when your backup catcher goes 3-for-3 and is still batting .193, his backside can go back up against some pine. It’s Travis time!
Naturally, I hope the best thing the Mets are projected to place behind the plate since sliced Grote meets, exceeds and obliterates expectations. I hope he aids and abets Harvey and Wheeler as Buck has for most of this year and hits as Buck did for most of April. I hope this is one of those positions we can legitimately stop wondering about for the rest of the decade. I hope Travis d’Arnaud is charging out from under his mask to greet one of our fully matured young guns halfway to the mound after the Mets notch their biggest win since 2006 or 2000 or the 20th century.
If Ike Davis is a part of all that, that would be swell. I wouldn’t bet on it. I’d like to. I’d like to trust in Ike the way we wove him into our championship fantasies when Ike was the one whose promotion to the bigs signaled a brighter Met future. Ike Davis was Travis d’Arnaud in April 2010. It’s August 2013. Ike Davis is barely Ike Davis anymore.
Friday night, he was, if just in passing. In the third inning, just after Marlon Byrd homered to give Jon Niese a 2-0 lead, Ike blasted off like Ian Kennedy was Cape Kennedy. It was ground control to major GONE! They’ve brought the dimensions in at Petco Park. They could’ve pushed them back. Wouldn’t have mattered. Ike was unstoppable in that swing.
There haven’t been too many of those kinds of Ike Davis swings. Ike’s troubles have been closely monitored and well-documented. His conversion into an on-base percentage machine lately, as pleasant as it’s been, has been operated by wind turbine, with no traditional power source apparent. Ike Davis, whose portfolio bulged with 32 home runs produced in 2012, now has all of seven in 2013. For as much as he’s shed the patheticism that sent him to Las Vegas in June, he’s batting .204 and slugging .324. It’s been a slog on top of a trudge on top of valley fever on top of an ankle that crumpled in Colorado. He’s not the Gold Glove first baseman we thought he’d be. He hasn’t collected the Silver Sluggers we dreamed he might. Albert Pujols’s departure for Anaheim did not clear a space on the National League All-Star roster for him.
And when he starts to click a little, instead of being encouraged that this is it, he’s turning the corner, I mope to the opposite field. There’s something about Ike since he came back that tells me he’ll do just enough to tantalize us — we’ll be sure that finally he’ll live up to where we saw him ascending in 2010 before inevitably settling into the rut that’s defined him post-2011. We’ll instinctively anger at someone who seems like a genuinely good guy and appears to be an outstanding teammate (have you ever seen one Met offer so many other Mets “go get ’em” pats to the shoulder, back and assorted body parts?). We’ll look at Ike and dwell on what we thought he could be, not accept what he is. It’s an old Met story that could apply to almost any Met who was called up to great fanfare but delivered ultimately spotty results. Right now, recent OBP and Friday night moonshot notwithstanding, that well-worn tale feels like it looms as Ike Davis’s destiny.
Thank goodness Travis d’Arnaud could never possibly disappoint us like that.