Over the past three games, the sub-.500 Mets have scored 20 runs and allowed 20 runs against the sub-.500 teams directly adjacent to them in the standings. It’s been like a sporadically entertaining round-robin of mediocrity.
But they’ve won two of these three games, which is good news for those still keeping track of the Mets’ daily doings, yet must rattle the front office’s fealty to the sacred nature of run differential, at least for the small sample at hand. What’s the point playing .667 ball across 27 innings when the scoreboard suggests you’re no better than a .500 enterprise?
It’s September. All we have left are small samples. On Tuesday night, when the Mets’ eight runs withstood the Marlins’ six (the math checks out, even in arithmetically challenging Miami), there were a couple of delightful small samples one might be tempted to extrapolate to high heavens. Juan Lagares, for example, went 4-for-4, was on base five times, scored three runs, drove in two runs, stole two bases and robbed himself of a triple at the wall. Only the last part isn’t true. The David Wright who’s been bumming us out for months ceded his spot in the lineup to the David Wright we vaguely recall revering for most of the preceding decade. David registered three hits (including two of the extra-base variety, for goodness sake), drove in three runs and pronounced himself “dangerous,” which is the David Wright equivalent of holding third base high above his head and unsubtly hinting that Lou Brock could take a seat.
Lagares is unstoppable and Wright is reborn. All our problems are solved. When you watch the Mets, you tend to take the good and decide it’s a permanent condition. Unless you’re the type who watches the Mets and decides only the bad is indicative of reality. You could be forgiven for the latter, but you might as well go with the former. It’s September. It will all be gone soon, so enjoy what there is to be enjoyed.
You know when I knew the season was over in every sense except officially? When I received the annual Metropolitan Hospitality e-mail telling me I could book my holiday party at Citi Field. The invitation showed up on August 21. At a juncture of the calendar when other ballparks are accepting tentative reservations for postseason galas, the Mets are already clearing their ballroom for the next affair.
Then last week, I shared 7 train and LIRR space with the U.S. Open flock. Visitors from all over the world wondered what that other facility with the red bricks was for — the one few of their fellow mass transit passengers were streaming toward. It was another sure sign that the season doesn’t have much season left to it…and a cruel reminder that we’re light years removed from how George Vecsey described the Flushing Meadows ideal in 1986:
“The Open is still my favorite two weeks of the year — tennis in the afternoon, baseball a few nights at Shea, no bridges to cross, no Bronx, no New Jersey, everything coming true for the Mets…”
Nothing comes true for the Mets anymore, except the truth that September serves as a vestigial appendage left over from happier times. The team goals are nonexistent. The individual goals are all that’s left. Aside from the annual vague desire to “see what the kids can do,” maybe three specifics remain.
1) Get Lucas Duda to 30 home runs.
Duda has 26 dingers. He has also stopped being Wally Joyner or whoever it is we have rushed to anoint him the second coming of since he lit the West Coast ablaze. If Duda reaches the big three-oh, he’ll deserve our applause, but also our pause. Remember the last first baseman whose second half propelled him to 30 homers? He plays for Pittsburgh these days. Not that Ike Davis’s precedent is destined to equal Lucas Duda’s near future, but I’d insist on two consecutive solid years before comfortably declaring a void has been effectively filled on a going basis.
Sidelined Daniel Murphy gave us consecutive solid years and by all rights should be going for 200 hits and/or league-leadership of said category this month, but lots of shoulds go unanswered around here.
2) Get Jacob deGrom the Rookie of the Year award.
Jakey’s been coming up on the outside, his Mane ’n Tail flowing in the late summer breeze, but will it be enough to catch speedy Billy Hamilton and whoever else among the freshman class has been galloping along since April? This is one of those individual goals that is out of the individual’s sole control. It’s been fun watching deGrom insinuate himself into the ROY conversation; it’s been less fun realizing players from New York’s National League franchise appear not as favorites in these races but dark horses.
Also conceivably in the running are Jeurys Familia and Travis d’Arnaud, each of them having accomplished a decent amount of self-establishment in the second half of 2014, but both probably off the pace as a result of uncertain starts. If we have a horse in this, it’s the one in whose name and number some depleted department is selling four otherwise unfillable Field Level seats.
3) Get Lagares the Gold Glove.
Our big hope here is Juan has become such a cult sensation among the set that actually pays attention to spectacular defense that the buzz that surrounds his every grab filters up to the managers and coaches who vote on the totally meaningless but indisputably glitzy award. Again, how sad is it that we have this all-world center fielder in New York — Willie! Mickey! The Duke! — and he’s relatively obscure? More highlight footage, more provisional praise and more 4-for-4 nights would surely help his cause. (Also, to be brutally frank, Carlos Gomez being hurt doesn’t hurt.)
What, you might be wondering, does Juan Lagares’s hitting have to do with him winning a Gold Glove? You must be new to the Gold Glove. Charitably speaking, offense serves as subliminal advertising for a player’s defense. Mostly, names are made at the plate no matter how many runs are saved in the field.
Drive for show, putt for dough, or something like that.
Let’s say all our individually wrapped goals are met. Duda totals 30 homers and, if he fully reheats, 90 ribbies (just like Ike!). DeGrom becomes the first Met to accept Rookie of the Years honors since Dwight Gooden three entire decades ago. Lagares glitters like Carlos Beltran and Tommie Agee did in their day. Their quests will fill September with a little something besides undistributed Curtis Granderson Poster Day posters (somebody in promotions has his finger on the pulse of the fans), and that would make the annual countdown to inevitable oblivion a wee bit more palatable.
I’d prefer September revert to its intended role as potential conduit to October — when “Metropolitan Hospitality” is supposed to be expressed via “ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Citi Field for the first game of the National League Division Series” — but we can’t have everything. Or all that much of anything.