Y’know that saying about how you have to be a pretty good pitcher to lose 20 games? Well, if I can take the liberty of substituting that supposition with “supporter,” I think I’ve proven myself one of the better Mets fans of 2013.
I am Jerry Koosman, 1977.
I am Jack Fisher, 1965.
I am Tracy Stallard, 1964.
I am Roger Craig, 1962.
I am Al Jackson, twice.
I am a 20-game loser at Citi Field this year.
Your New York Mets, it has been noted, are a surprisingly decent road team or at least seem to be because they are so dreadful when not living out of a suitcase. On the road they finished the season at 41-40. If they had played to the concept of breaking even in their away games while making hay at home, we’d be talking about them in terms that are, at the moment, reserved for Atlanta, St. Louis and Los Angeles.
Instead, we’re attempting to figure out where they’ll draft (and how it theoretically affects who they might sign) within the context of Colorado, San Francisco, Philadelphia and every other club for whom 77 wins is an aspirational figure. Our Mets — the same Mets who toughed out a .506 winning percentage away from Citi Field — are 32-47 at home. At this time of year you can basically double that and deduce that if the Mets never left Flushing, it would always be something like 1977 in the 2013 standings.
The Mets have lost 47 times in 79 tries where they theoretically hold home-field advantage. As of Friday night, 20 of those losses belong to me, too. I’ve personally spectated/supported my favorite baseball team 33 times in 2013 and have come away whistling a happy tune about the result on a scant 13 occasions.
I’m 13-20 at home. Or 13-20 when I leave the house. It didn’t necessarily seem preordained. When Jordany Valdespin landed a grand slam on the roof of the Mo’s Zone on April 24, I was 5-1. Then came nine consecutive losses that left me, as of June 30, at 5-10. Yet when Jonathon Niese shut out the Phillies on August 27, I was 13-14, leading to the possible conclusion that my year was more streaky than sickly.
But one final skein came to clarify matters for me in September: three losses to the Nationals, two losses to the Giants, one loss at least to the Brewers, Closing Day’s mercies pending. It was Friday’s misstep versus Milwaukee that sunk me to 13-20 and has me keeping less than celebratory company with Kooz & the Gang.
It’s not the first time I’ve absorbed a 20th loss. In 2008, I registered 21 setbacks in The Log, but that had more of a Phil Niekro 1979 (21-20) or Wilbur Wood 1973 (24-20) vibe to it. Five years ago, when I threw myself into Sheaing Goodbye, I attended an unprecedented and since unmatched 44 games and came home from the last of them, on this very date one half-decade ago, 23-21.
So while there have been more losses for me in other seasons — I lost an entire stadium in ’08 to go with those 21 official setbacks; and worse proportions percentagewise — 6-10 in ’93 just about perfectly mirroring how bad that 59-103 team played home and away; and a handful of ohfers when my attendance was sadly and severely limited — three 0-1s and one 0-3 between the ages of 13 and 17…this 13-20 jumps out at me like the ball jumps off the bat of whoever leads off against Carlos Torres every time he starts and I’m on hand to observe it.
13-20 is a bad mark. The only worse one I can think of to have potentially garnered would have been 0-0.
Better, I think, to have lost 33 straight than never to have gone at all.
I didn’t go to Citi Field on Friday night to stave off 20 losses. I could have done that by confining myself to SNY. I went to spend eight lovely innings with the perennially Most Valuable Chapmans of Central Jersey. I went to exchange a few minutes of gratifying greetings with the Patersons of somewhere in Scotland — yes, people cross the Atlantic to enjoy Mets baseball, even this version of Mets baseball. I went to secure (thanks to Sharon Chapman’s characteristic generosity and attention to the special-promotions calendar) a gleaming Oktoberfest glass in the shape of a boot that will hold 42 ounces of beer or any beverage. I went, too, it turns out, to add an unadvertised Collector’s Cup to my cup collection after the Mets apparently had a gross or two left over from their last rousingly successful Collector’s Cup Night.
I went to pick peppers off my only sweet sausage with onions of the season when it occurred to me, with Oktoberfest in the air, if not now, then when? I went to exchange drink vouchers for our little group, patiently working with the concession stand personnel until we had two sodas and one Stella secured safely in one carton — it sounds simpler to arrange than it actually is. I went to alternately butter up Juan Lagares and Carlos Gomez from the second row of the Big Apple seats so maybe one center fielder or another (or both!) would throw Kevin Chapman a ball the way Angel Pagan did four years ago under similar circumstances (neither bought it). I went to loudly advise the guy on the video screen who’d been chosen to partake in the Topps guessing contest to hold his arrow “UP! UP!” when the clue was 1983 Rookie of the Year and his previous card had been Gil Hodges.
I went to keep an eye over left field on what R.A. Dickey was doing to the Rays as a Jay one year after he defeated the Pirates as a Met for his 20th win (how novel!) and to see if the Tribe could take advantage against the Twins. I went for probably my 54th chance meeting of the season with Matt Silverman. I went to make the 10:19 with ease facilitated by a game that was over in 2:40 at the end of a season that always expires sooner than you can fathom.
I went to witness starter Carlos Torres give up a leadoff home run to Nori Aoki the way I saw our best long reliever give up leadoff home runs to Andrelton Simmons in July and Denard Span earlier this month when he was also pressed into starting. I went to watch Martin Maldonado simultaneously put a dent in the Parts Authority sign and Scott Atchison’s ERA. I went to shake my head at Justin Turner batting cleanup. I went to marvel at Desperate Daniel Murphy showing more aggressiveness than discretion in the sixth when he ran and tumbled the Mets out of their last best chance to cobble together a genuine rally as he tried to score from third on a pitch that was undeniably in the dirt but easily accessible to the catcher.
I went so I could stand on the Shea Bridge for the ninth, the Chapmans having recently departed in deference to NJTransit, myself positioned to beat whatever line might develop at the Bullpen Gate exit for the beer boot since the beer boot wouldn’t be handed out until the game was over, which struck us as fairly sound if slightly inconvenient policy. I went so I could stare hard at Andrew Brown, Juan Lagares and Travis d’Arnaud and wonder if, at 4-2, they could keep me standing by a little longer, keep me waiting to pick up my glassware, keep me from making my first available train, keep me in the ballpark for as long as they could before there are suddenly no more records to keep after Sunday…but a foulout, a strikeout and a flyout quashed that fleeting fantasy in no time at all.
No avoiding 20 losses. No hint of the Mets being capable of playing in October or Oktober. Create your own sense of festiveness at Citi Field, however, and you can head for the 7 in a far better mood than your record would indicate.