Terrible uniforms! Good starting pitching! Bad bullpen work! Questionable strategies! An umpiring controversy! And, finally, a walk-off!
That’s quite a lot for one game, even with two extra frames, but it wound up as a victory for the forces of good, with Ruben Tejada whacking a clean single up the middle, then showing his most surprising speed of the year as he mock-fled his towel-waving teammates into short left field.
What should we take from this game?
First of all and most importantly of all, that patience is a virtue. This isn’t a Get Out of Contention Free card for the front office or ownership, who should explain what the plan is to get back to, well, meaningful games in September and the kind of payroll the National League’s New York franchise should have. But it is a reminder that young players need time to develop, and their birthdate is more important than how long you’ve seen them or read about them online. Travis d’Arnaud, decried as a disaster before his tune-up in Las Vegas, is 25 with an injury-shortened CV. Jenrry Mejia‘s just 24 and lost time to Omar Minaya and Jerry Manuel sabotaging his development in an effort to save their skins. Tejada feels like he’s been here forever, but he’s only 24. Zack Wheeler? 24. And Noah Syndergaard — somehow letting down the fanbase for failing to dominate Triple-A — is only 21. They’re going to have lousy weeks, make dopey mistakes and look lost at times. Which isn’t to say all these guys will develop into stars; just that it’s too early to say they’re failures. The only way to find out? It’s to let them play and live with their mistakes.
Speaking of mistakes, what happened to Eric Campbell and d’Arnaud in the eighth was interesting, to say the least. Christian Bethancourt dropped a single into short right, Curtis Granderson charged it, unleashed a throw — and Campbell cut it off. It’s impossible to say whether Chris Johnson would have been out at the plate or not — let’s leave it at “it would have been close” — and to me that’s not the critical question anyway. It’s what the communication was on the field and whether Campbell and d’Arnaud knew what they wanted to do as the play developed. If d’Arnaud thought Johnson would be safe and yelled for Campbell to cut it off, that’s fine. Same if Campbell thought that was going to happen and intercepted the throw. If d’Arnaud wasn’t sure what to do and/or Campbell automatically cut the ball off because he saw a Brave between second and third, that’s not good — and would be an example of the learning process that needs to take place.
Meanwhile, we’re all learning about the replay system and the wrinkles of it. The Mets won a questionable challenge in the ninth when the umps decided (after Terry Collins‘s entreaties) to review an apparent neighborhood play at second as Andrelton Simmons tried to turn a Juan Lagares bunt into a double play. Their ruling: Simmons had come off the bag and everybody was safe. (Terry then decided to confound even me by opting not to bunt in pretty much the only situation where it makes strategic sense.) Fredi Gonzalez was not pleased, the booth went into a tizzy, and I’m sure we’ll hear more about this one in the days to come. My instant take: I understand why the neighborhood play is allowed even in an era of endless replays, but that exemption was carved out to protect middle infielders, not so they could grab the few extra inches that might turn a force out into a double play. What Simmons did might have been OK by the current letter of the law (and it was a smart play), but I thought it violated the spirit of the rule, and the umpires decided correctly. That’s a case where an umpire’s judgment (backed up by New York looking at video) can still be part of the equation.
Anyway, I’m sure that play will spark further conversation, but let’s move on. Given a possible gift, the Mets promptly handed it back to the Braves and seemed ticketed for another infuriating/numbing loss. But they hung in there behind what was left of the arm of Carlos Torres (who was nearly killed by a scary-looking B.J. Upton line drive), long enough for Tejada to come through and send us all home, with lots to talk about. And for a night some of the conversation was even fun.