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Leading the League in Agita

The Mets, for all the agita surrounding them, went to the other side of a fair continent and returned with a 4-2 trip. That’s not bad. In fact, it’s pretty far from bad.

So why are so many Mets fans — most definitely including me — so prone to rending of garments, gnashing of teeth and other emo displays?

I keep poking at that during this baffling year. As with most things, I suspect there are a lot of contributing factors: anger at the Wilpons for years of penurious ways (bad) and habitual dishonesty about the direction of payrolls (worse); frustration at seeing a promising start against a weak field eroded by injuries and bad luck; the echo-chamber effect of today’s 24-7 Twitter carping (cleverer than talk radio but perhaps equally corrosive); and the emotional see-saw of following a team that’s a weird mix of superb and awful.

Speaking for myself, I think a big part of my frustration is that superb pitching paired with awful hitting is a reminder of what could be if only the Mets weren’t so painfully out of balance in terms of talent (and, OK, luck). The Mets have 12 losses this year that would have been wins if they’d scored four runs, including four 1-0 losses. I won’t claim this is science, but give them those wins and they’d be 56-30, and anyone carping about the subpar defense would be pitied for their inability to ever be happy.

The Mets, as is often the case, didn’t help the reduce agita levels with a pregame mess. Michael Cuddyer [1] hurt his knee June 28, an injury the Mets initially described as not serious — “a bright spot,” Terry Collins [2] said. Cuddyer then didn’t play until July 3, played four games in a row after that (going 2 for 12 at the plate), and now hasn’t played the last two days. The Mets played short for nearly a week, sent Cuddyer back out there with poor results, then played short again. The knee will be looked at when the Mets return to New York, and if you’re betting there’s a DL stint coming, you clearly know your Mets.

None of this is new — here’s Jared Diamond of WSJ [3] describing what’s happened just in 2015 with the Mets and diagnosing injuries. And let’s recall Jerry Manuel [4] way back in 2009, addressing the subject of an injury to Gary Sheffield [5]: “They’re calling it cramps … surgery on Thursday.” (Manuel then pleaded for Kevin Burkhardt to delete the footage.) Like stabbing departing players in the back, this has been going on too long to blame on the same manager or GM; it doesn’t take an enormously talented detective to deduce what the source of the problem is.

But wait a minute, weren’t we talking about a 4-2 trip? Indeed we were, and today’s game lived up to the Just Imagine formula fantasized about above. The Mets got four runs, the first two on a Giants error and a fielder’s choice, the last two on a homer from Eric Campbell [6], whose starting assignment at Kirk Nieuwenhuis [7]‘s expense had been derided by everybody including — oddly and ill-advisedly — whoever runs social media [8] for the Las Vegas 51s. (I was among them, though Campbell vs. Nieuwenhuis isn’t exactly the second coming of Williams vs. DiMaggio debates.)

But as usual, the thing to watch was the pitching, and Jacob deGrom [9] was superb [10]. DeGrom is just a pleasure to watch: He starts like a dart-thrower, hand behind his glove, then explodes into a flurry of praying-mantis limbs that come whipping at the batter, one long arm flying towards home seemingly from behind his head. (And post-Tommy John [11], thank goodness.) A foot flying into the air signals the end of this unlikely wheeling of arms and legs, followed by an almost abashed step in the direction of first.

It looks chaotic, but it’s not — deGrom was essentially untouchable today, throttling the Giants over eight innings before giving away to a less-stellar but perfectly effective Jeurys Familia [12]. And with that the Mets are heading back home, to whatever comes next in this strange, strange season.

The Mets will go on, but the next nine games will be without me — I’m off to Italy. Be nice to Mr. Prince, y’hear?