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Their Departures

Each year I find a page in a notebook and write the name of the year and METS at the top. If Opening Day is on TV, I sit there and write the players down in order of their appearance.

If the Mets hit first, the players go in the book in the order they bat, and it doesn’t count until you’ve come to the plate. If the Mets are in the field, said order (of everybody or the guys who didn’t bat already) goes like this: Pitcher first, since the game starts when he throws the ball. If the first pitch is put in play, the fielders go in the book in the order they touch the ball. If the first pitch isn’t put in play, the catcher is next, then the fielders in scorebook position order. (So shortstop after the third baseman.) One way or another, this process yields the first nine of the season. I put the date of the game to the left of the first Met of the year. Each Met gets an (N) if he’s new and a (D) if he’s a big-league debut. (If you’re keeping score, this year has yielded a relatively paltry 16 Ns and six Ds.)

That first game generally yields a few relievers, a pinch-hitter or two, and a defensive replacement. Five days or so into the season you’ve got a shrinking number of names per date and just a few players from the Opening Day slate of 25 yet to record. The backup catcher sometimes has to wait, along with a middle reliever or two. Sometimes the fifth starter has to twiddle his thumbs — or there’s a player being carried on the roster who’s not ready for duty but not on the DL. Sometimes there’s already been a roster juggle or two.

One way or another everyone gets recorded and pretty soon each new player has a date to himself. (This year’s book has an odd exception — May 15th saw the arrival of Jacob deGrom [1] and the return of Juan Centeno [2] and Josh Edgin [3].) The last Met on this year’s list is Dario Alvarez [4], who arrived on Sept. 3 and has logged a whole 1 1/3 innings since then. (Whatever happened to Wilfredo Tovar [5], anyway?)

It’s a fun ritual in April and dutiful recordkeeping after that. But in recent days I’ve been struck by the idea that there are goodbyes to go with all of these hellos.

This has been a September to dismember, with Met after Met hanging it up early because injuries became too much. David Wright [6] is done. So is Vic Black [7]. And Dana Eveland [8]. And Juan Lagares [9]. And Dilson Herrera [10], just when we were starting to fall in love with him. And deGrom, because he’s out of innings.

And now Travis d’Arnaud [11], because he needs elbow surgery.

Add in starting pitchers making their last appearances (barring, I suppose, some 28-inning catastrophe) and you’ve got fewer and fewer Mets with anything to add to their 2014 CVs. Opening Day starter Dillon Gee [12] is done, disappointed in how things went. Zack Wheeler [13] is done, with big steps forward to celebrate even as he knows he has stuff to work on. Jon Niese [14] had to depart early [15] tonight because of a racing heartbeat, which he says isn’t serious. I hope he’s correct. (I also hope he’s traded, but we’ve covered that [16].) Fill-in starter Rafael Montero [17] will wrap up his year tomorrow, and then the starters will be down to Bartolo Colon [18].

And with Colon on the mound we’ll be down to other lasts. Middle relievers who come in and depart will be done not just for the day but for the year. Same for pinch-hitters, and guys subbed out for better defenders. Bobby Abreu [19]‘s final act that day will be his final act as a big leaguer. Eventually, 2014 will have shrunk to a final nine. If the Mets are hitting, there will be a final batter. If the Mets are in the field, there will be a final play, a last ball thrown that matters. Maybe it will land in Matt den Dekker [20]‘s glove. Or be secured by Lucas Duda [21]. Or wind up nestled in Anthony Recker [22]‘s mitt.

Whatever happens, the season will have shrunk to nothing. There will be no more records to keep. Until after the dark and the snow we find ourselves here again, to start anew.