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Not That Cute Anymore

Hmm. Who do we blame for that slow-motion train wreck, a one-run loss [1] that felt like the home team was down five?

Jacob deGrom [2]? That would be both cruel and inaccurate. DeGrom’s started all of two games in the big leagues and pitched well enough to win each time. He threw too many balls and got squared up by the Dodgers once they got a look at him, but I was impressed nonetheless. DeGrom’s got a good complement of fastball and breaking stuff and doesn’t scare — I liked that after Adrian Gonzalez [3] somehow tomahawked a high fastball into the Pepsi Porch, deGrom went back to the same pitch and used it to get Carl Crawford [4]. And he was particularly impressive working around Matt Kemp [5]‘s leadoff double in the fifth. Oh, and he can actually hit, which no other Met pitcher can say.

Nope, not pinning this one on deGrom.

The hitters in general? Well, it’s true that they didn’t get the hit when they needed it, but I think that’s more attributable to bad luck than Just So stories about heart and grit. If I’d told you the Mets would collect 13 hits to LA’s five and deGrom would allow three runs over six innings, you probably would have taken it.

Let’s see. How about some combination of Jeurys Familia [6] and Wilmer Flores [7]? Familia got the ground ball he wanted from the loathsome Hanley Ramirez [8] in the eighth with the Mets trying to stay within one. He fielded the comebacker on the mound, whirled, and saw Flores and Daniel Murphy [9] both waiting eagerly at second base. Familia hesitated, Murph shooed Flores away, and the Mets only got one out, surrendering a run. That run would matter as the Mets fell a run short in the ninth.

Definitely a bad play — Familia should have thrown it and trusted his fielders and Flores shouldn’t have been in the way. And they’d had a conference at the mound to discuss this literally seconds before, for Pete’s sake. (Take a second to fume. It’s OK — I’ll do it too.) But Familia’s a kid. His reaction was the same one I had and that you probably had too: What the …? Ohmygod, I’m gonna throw it, they’re gonna look at each other, and the ball’s gonna go into center. (Translate that into Spanish, but anyway.) Mistake, but a young player’s mistake that you can certainly understand.

Ditto for Flores — yes, he was in the wrong place. But perspective: Weren’t we all warned that Flores was somewhere between raw and inept at shortstop? So far (WHOOP! WHOOP! WHOOP! SMALL SAMPLE SIZE WARNING!!!!) he’s been better than we’d feared. A lot better, in fact. And it was only a couple of days ago that we were all rushing to the barricades to decry Terry for not playing him. It’s silly and self-defeating to hang him for a mental mistake born of overexuberance.

As for Murph, well, he’s not getting off the hook that easily. In the seventh, with two out, he was jogging when David Wright [10] smacked a ball that fell in and got behind Yasiel Puig [11] for a double. He only got as far as third. Would he have scored if he’d broken hard from first? You can’t swear that he would have, but the odds were a lot better than banking on Chris Young collecting a two-out hit. Bad, bad play. But if this is the first time you’ve realized Murph can be a hot mess on the basepaths, well, you’re not going to like it here.

But the math is still pitiless. Murph running hard is probably an extra run on the Mets’ ledger. And if Familia and Flores don’t divide up a mental mistake, that’s definitely a run off the Dodgers’ ledger. Which means it’s a time game going to the ninth and … yeah. It’s tempting to shrug it off as a little thing here and a little thing there, but that’s what bad teams do: They screw up the little things and lose games they should win.

Honestly, we need to look higher to find someone to blame. Give deGrom and Familia a break — it’s time for them to learn at the big-league level, and that means taking some lumps. And give Flores a break too. Instead, ask yourself how it came to pass that Flores was learning to play shortstop with the varsity. This is what critics mean by a lack of depth: If Plan A for shortstop is Ruben Tejada [12] coming back to life, Plan B can’t be Omar Quintanilla [13] and Plan C can’t be Wilmer Flores learning under live fire. That doesn’t mean endorsing overpaying for Stephen Drew [14] (I never did) or acquiring Ryan Franklin [15] or Didi Gregorius [16] on sellers’ terms — it means not getting backed into that corner in the first place. Same thing with the outfield: The Mets spent money to add Curtis Granderson [17], and economics dictate he’ll play full-time for better or worse. But if Chris Young continues to fail the audition, what’s Plan B? It better not be Eric Young [18] Jr. or sending poor Lucas Duda [19] out for more punishment or rolling what’s left of Bobby Abreu [20] out there on a hand truck and hoping balls are hit right at him. But that seems to be what it is.

Blame the front office if you want — so far, Young and Granderson and Bartolo Colon [21] aren’t earning them any Executive of the Year honors. If you want to be more logical, blame ownership for forcing the front office to invent a plan while having to guess at the budget. Or you can just throw up your hands, and say that whatever the source of the trouble, the outcome isn’t that cute anymore.