For a decade now Emily and Joshua and I have spent a week at the end of the summer on Long Beach Island, the 18-mile strip of beach just north of Atlantic City.
Greg and I traded assignments this week; he got stuck with Wednesday night’s game and the interminable spectacle of whatever it is Daisuke Matsuzaka does between pitches , while I drew tonight’s game and Dillon Gee facing the Nationals.
Emily and I went to dinner, which took much longer than expected because it’s Labor Day weekend and everything here is packed. We watched the early innings unfold via Gameday, frowning at Wilton Ramos’s homer and nodding happily at Ike Davis’s answering shot. By the time we left the restaurant we were in the middle innings; Gee and Jordan Zimmermann were setting hitters down in the time Dice-K uses to contemplate the rhythms of the universe before turning his mental energies to the possibility of throwing a pitch. We headed up the island for our last ice cream of vacation (boo) with Howie painting the word picture of an urgently needed insurance run thanks to Daniel Murphy’s hustle and Ryan Zimmermann’s excess zeal, and returned home to find Gee in trouble and the game in the balance.
This is what I get for marveling at how quickly things have gone I thought as Steve Lombardozzi slapped a homer to right and Scott Rice faced off against Bryce Harper. It seemed obvious to me that Harper would tie the game and the Mets and Nats would play into the 15th or 16th, with some disaster awaiting us as it always seems to in Nationals Park.
But no: Murph bobbled Harper’s grounder. But wait: The Nats star was too busy emoting to watch the play and make it dangerously close. Nifty plays by Omar Quintanilla, Ike Davis and a called strike three from LaTroy Hawkins sent the Nats home , and in regulation to boot.
All very good, but as I gave a somewhat perfunctory fist pump I realized something unhappy: It’s been five years and five LBI vacations since the Mets had anything to play for while my family was giving summer a last hurrah and sendoff. LBI means garbage time, with the Mets playing something fiddle to the beach and dinner and ice cream and bike rides and most everything else. The sole remaining intrigue of games watched here concerns possible waiver-wire deals  and September call-ups. (Well, OK, and occasional aces going for MRIs , which proves no news really can be good news.) If we’re here, it means the Mets are done and the next season is starting to come into view.
That’s a pattern I’d love to see broken. The Mets should be leaking out of radios (or iPhones) on the beach and causing craned necks in bars and being debated nervously by like-minded folks across the aisles at breakfast, instead of being reduced to a shared hat or jersey that leads to a sympathetic nod and eye-roll and a grunt about waiting till next year. Vacation is wonderful, but mine could use some more drama — I’ve had quite enough of sitting pennant races out.
Pennant races? We’ve even fought for pennants! Relive Game 6  of the 1999 NLCS with Jason and others, via SNY.