The Mets and the Marlins seemed destined for history. Dillon Gee and Tom Koehler scattered baserunners with alacrity. Daniel Murphy made terrible (bad flip), spectacular (heady assist) and terrible (dropped ball) fielding plays in rapid succession. Men entered from the pen and wrote off opposing batters. At the moment it seemed certain there was no way the Mets wouldn’t put this thing away in the twelfth, they appeared determined to resist victory. Oh, this budding marathon was picking up in intensity if not speed as Travis d’Arnaud came to bat. History, I tell you, was loosening up in the tunnel and planning on playing until dark.
No history at Citi Field Sunday. Just satisfaction. Force of habit now compels me to root for the Mets and the Marlins to forge 20, 22, 24 innings every time they converge. But twelve was a decent day’s work, I guess. And winning was very good. Most outstanding was Travis d’Arnaud rescuing the Mets from a very silly continuation of what we’ll loosely call hostilities. They had gone from bases loaded and none out to bases loaded and two out as the score stayed stubbornly stuck on zero-zero and the clock prepared to strike inning thirteen. The Mets have done enough marathoning with the Marlins for one season. The kid showed impeccable timing in ending it when he did.
Travis isn’t hitting yet, or he wasn’t until he delivered the game-winning single just past the diving form of Adeiny Hechavarria. Maybe he’ll commence to building his major league offensive credentials from this moment forward. More likely he’ll struggle onward for a spell. Young Jerry Grote struggled. Young John Stearns struggled. Todd Hundley was a no-tool player in his early ups. They all came around. D’Arnaud, however infinitesimal his numbers a month or so in, deserves every chance to measure up to his scouting reports.
No surprise that a fourth-place team depleted by injuries and never all that stacked to begin with should find itself scuffling for runs and depending on unproven talent to create them. We get that. We’d prefer d’Arnaud had come out of the box like 2010 Buster Posey; Juan Lagares and Matt den Dekker make like Fred Lynn and Jim Rice circa 1975; and Wilmer Flores be Scott Rolen from 1997 Jump Street. Yet we understand not all rookies are all-time rookies. It’s September and all that implies for a 67-82 outfit.
Terry Collins answers questions after games, even the wins, about how difficult all this must be. Yes, he says, it’s difficult. Gosh, he told a media inquisitor Sunday, we had to start four rookies today. He likes to say “nobody feels sorry for us,” all while strongly hinting that stinkin’ circumstances — injuries, weather, travel, whatever — are constantly conspiring against him and his team… him, most of all.
The “four rookies” aside would carry more weight if his rookies hadn’t been playing the Marlins, who’ve had four rookies in their lineup as a matter of course pretty much every other day since their founding. Again, it’s September. Everybody wants to see rookies if they can’t see a contender. Your rookies notched eight runs in four games against one of the few teams straggling to the finish line in worse shape than yours, yet still they and their handful of demi-veteran teammates eked out three wins. Say that, praise Gee, smile and enjoy the off day. Stop looking for pity while you’re insisting nobody pities you.
Collins will most likely return to manage the Mets again in 2014. I’m not exactly for it even if I’m not packing a great reason to oppose it. I can’t get excited about listening to his pregame or postgame comments and I don’t look forward to seeing him in the dugout. He’s steered three consecutive squads to losing records and might wind up bringing this one home with a lesser mark than the one before it, same as he did in his first two years. Yet I can’t really say he deserves to be let go. I’ve yet to read a single on-the-record, off-the-record, anonymous or deep-background sentiment from any Met since 2011 that finds fault with Terry Collins. Nobody who deals with him among the press corps has anything but glowing praise to offer regarding his performance and personality. His in-game management isn’t thrilling, but in my recollection, dating back to Gil Hodges, every manager has had a given moment or more of seeming to not know what they were doing, and that includes the great Davey Johnson and the great (if occasionally misguided) Bobby Valentine.
Terry will almost certainly be back. That’s not quite a torch-and-pitchfork situation, but I do wish he’d stop subtly dropping hints that when the Mets take a wrong turn, it isn’t quite his players’ fault and it’s definitely not his. In professional sports, the record tends to drown out interpretations when the record is attached to a winning percentage that permanently resides south of .500.
Twelve innings. One run. Hard to believe WFAN didn’t rush to sign up for another few years of this, eh?
Michael Malone loves his 1977 Mets clipboard, one of which I came to possess in 1979 but am pretty sure I dopily purged along the way. Read his tale of enduring promotional giveaway bliss, as published in the Times, here.