The Mets on Saturday lost their third dull game in a row by the same dull score to the same dull opponent. With a win Sunday, they can forge the same dull 74-88 record they compiled last year. They still have a chance to finish in third place, which would be a step up from fourth, where they have finished for four years in a row — but with a loss Sunday, they could finish fourth again. We know they will finish with one of the draft picks that can’t be forfeited should they sign an upper-tier free agent, but it’s considered unlikely they’ll sign somebody of that ilk. Oh, and the manager who has steered them to the last three years of non-winning non-contention reportedly will be back.
Terry Collins is set to return with a two-year contract because, the informed consensus has it, the Mets were never going to be any good anyway. Whether Collins will make a genuine difference in their performance in 2014 or 2015 doesn’t seem as vital to the Mets’ front office as do Collins’s vaunted communications skills and the vague sense that 2011 through 2013 could have been worse without Terry so effectively telling his players what’s what. Also, since nobody thought these Mets were going to be any good anyway, it would be somewhere between cruel and pointless to take it out on such a decent person and too much trouble to dive headfirst into another nationwide managerial talent hunt.
Something akin to a Cult of Mediocrity prevails in Flushing. The team’s lack of evident progress — win totals stuck in the 70s for a half-decade and no more than three position players on hand who can be penciled in confidently as Opening Day starters for next year — is generally dismissed as something close to irrelevant within the perpetually nebulous big picture. The manager holds the fort and is acclaimed as unquestionably worthy of extension. The general manager, consistently hailed for his sophistication, occasionally makes noises about the need for improvement, but tangible steps forward have been slow to develop and sluggish in materializing. The notorious/penurious ownership…well, who can say for certain what resources it will be able or willing to direct toward roster construction in the months ahead? If you can’t divine anything about ownership’s intentions, it just seems unfair to hold the general manager or the manager or the coaches or the players overly accountable for subpar results. Raise a fuss over wins and losses and you’re condescendingly written off as an unenlightened crank.
The single best reason to watch the 2013 Mets hasn’t been available to shine for more than a month and may not be around at all next season. Injuries seem to befall this bunch no less frequently than they did their predecessors and the organization seems chronically incapable of adequately plugging the holes they produce. Most of the system’s minor league teams competed for championships this summer, yet among the young players we’ve seen come up — the ones who are theoretically essential to fortifying the foundation of a brighter future — encouraging flashes of promise tend to be dimmed by cautionary signs that most of them aren’t close to producing as fully formed major leaguers.
The long term may beckon with bountiful rewards for the Alderson group’s hard work and shrewd planning as well as for our steadfast faith. The short term, however, just keeps growing longer.
In nine or so innings, the Mets will stop going nowhere and simply go home. After a decent interval, we’ll forget how hopeless the lot of them looked at end of this season and commence to convincing ourselves how much better an enhanced version of them will appear come spring. That hopefulness, sprung from the heart and nurtured by habit, is the critical element that ensures baseball’s ecosystem functions properly. The whole thing breaks down without people like us knowing better yet acting otherwise.
We shall hope. We always do.