Who among us doesn’t remember being a kid in the backyard, dreaming — if only for a second — of a career in the big leagues?
I’m Lucas Duda. It’s the last out of another ass-kicking administered by the Nationals. I’m standing sort of near the plate, looking out at Rafael Soriano standing sort of near the mound. My manager’s got his hands in his pockets. Over by the fence the umpires are huddled beneath headsets, talking to other umpires who are looking at something that already happened. I can taste the tension in the air. I can see it in the acres of empty green seats. I can sense it from the way the fans gathered at the top of the seating bowl have one foot pointed toward the exits, or are looking avidly at their phones, or are discarding trash on the concrete at their seats. This will determine whether we’re down three with two out and a runner on first via a hit batsman or down three with two out and nobody on at all. I’ve waited my whole life for this moment, and now it’s here, and it’s electric.
OK, fine, that’s unfair — a base runner’s a base runner, and if the umps had ruled Duda had been hit by the pitch (he hadn’t been) and Travis d’Arnaud had singled and Matt den Dekker had walked and Juan Lagares had hit a walkoff grand slam, nobody would be snickering about the awkward moments everybody spent waiting to be told what to do. But it was pretty ridiculous — the saddest replay review I’ve seen so far, regardless of the outcome.
But hey, that made it a fitting last at-bat for a truly sad game and a truly sad series.
On Wednesday night, I’d snuck a couple of peeks at the score while at dinner, and on the walk home I noted that waitaminute, the Mets were only down one and had runners on second and third with just one out. (I’d already missed Terry Collins‘s Dumbest Bunt Ever.) Emily and I completed our walk home while the umps were being fussed at over the latest random interpretation of the moronic, needless Posey Rule, and Emily turned on the TV while I was in the other room fumbling with At Bat. As Curtis Granderson stepped to the plate in At Bat Land, Emily said a bad word in the other room, and I knew the game was over.
Thursday night looked even more hopeless on the surface, and the only things keeping me going were a) the thought that this was one of those sleepy games where the team in the lead gets complacent until the moment they get bit in the hinder by something unexpected; and b) the sight of den Dekker and Lagares hunting down hapless fly balls like pinstriped cruise missiles.
But no, the sleepiness was mostly on our side. The Nats — the Jayson Werthless Nats, no less — annihilated us, plain and simple. We got our asses handed to us, as we have against the Nats at Citi Field in particular and at life in general for far too long now. It was alternately boring and unpleasant and I’m glad it’s over, except it isn’t, since we have to play these guys seven more times this year.
It’s a season whose psychic page has turned to next year, so let’s talk about next year. The Mets should have their good young starting pitching aligned, one hopes with Matt Harvey back in the fold and ready to throw pitches in anger again without being told to slow down or hold back or wait a minute or not make that gesture at the camera. The Mets’ bullpen should still be cause for hope instead of despair. We may enter the season worried about David Wright, and who knows what uniform Daniel Murphy will be wearing, but we ought to be excited or at least interested to find out if Duda and d’Arnaud and Lagares can build on encouraging years.
You can easily imagine that the leaves will come out and the night air will have a hint of summer and we’ll be talking with quiet but growing excitement about how these 2015 Mets are Not At All Bad and might even be Kinda Good. It will be the stuff of encouraging conversation.
And then I will force myself to remember this moment and ask a simple question: Have our boys shown they can beat the Nats yet? Because if the answer’s still no, well, then we need to have this conversation another time.
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Two things to leave you with:
1) Our pal Mark Simon chatted with Jerry Seinfeld about the Mets, baseball and standup and much more. Enjoy!
2) Our pal Heather Quinlan needs your help to reach her Kickstarter goal for ’86 Mets: The Movie. Please help her out — from what we’ve seen this movie will be amazin’ amazin’ amazin’, but it won’t exist without a last push from fans like us.