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The Pursuit of Happiness

Super-exciting spine-tingling headline-grabbing narrative-changing straight-to-the-SportsCenter-open wins are great, of course. But the key to playing in October is racking up the more mundane sort of victories. Which is exactly what the Mets did Tuesday night.

Of course, only by recent pinch-me standards could the Mets’ 5-1 dispatching of the Marlins be considered dull. Jon Niese [1] pitched a terrific game, as has been the rule since Memorial Day, except for one night when his mind was understandably elsewhere. It looked like Niese might get nothing to show for it, however, as the Mets were hitting in buzzards’ luck, smacking balls right at Marlins when it most mattered.

But this is the 2.0 release of the 2015 Mets. In the days of lineups with Danny Muno [2] and Darrell Ceciliani [3] and Eric Campbell [4], I might have written off Florida’s 1-0 lead as too high a mountain to climb. Last night, though, I simply shrugged and waited. The Mets were getting good pitches and whacking them. The game, one imagined, would come to them.

Which is what happened. In the top of the eighth, with the game tied, Lucas Duda [5] hammered a ball over the head of right-fielder Cole Gillespie [6], one of many Marlins who looks like he’d have trouble getting a legal drink. It was hit too hard to be a double, but Travis d’Arnaud [7] promptly followed with a parachute over Adeiny Hechavarria [8]‘s head to put runners on first and second with nobody out.

Enter Wilmer Flores [9], and a Terry Collins [10] call that seemed far too conservative: He had Flores bunt. First and second with nobody out is the one situation where a successful sacrifice does increase the chances of scoring at least one run, but Flores has been cracking balls off and over walls. Curious. Wilmer popped up the bunt to the catcher, followed by a swinging strikeout from Ruben Tejada [11].

Terry then made another interesting decision, sending Campbell to the plate as the pinch-hitter.

Campbell didn’t hit the ball hard, but he hit it in exactly the right place to drop in, and the Mets had taken the lead. Then, merrily, the game’s luck sought its median, with Juan Lagares [12] and Curtis Granderson [13] rifling extra-base hits for a 5-1 lead that stood up [14].

If I sounded dismissive of Campbell earlier, it wasn’t in reference to his being on the Mets roster; rather, it referred to the role he was put in, something that wasn’t really his fault. Campbell isn’t an everyday player, at least not in this stage of his career. But there’s no shame in that; he has good baseball instincts and a sense of how to approach an at-bat, which makes him pretty valuable in his current, proper role as a reserve.

Before the Mets finally reloaded their offense, nearly every Met had been pushed into a role that was too much for him, with Quad-A guys asked to hold down starting jobs and poor Lucas Duda [5] told to anchor an offensive attack that consisted of nothing but Lucas Duda. Now it’s different — guys can look up and down the lineup and see capable bats. Lone missed opportunities were frequently enough to kill the Mets earlier this year; now, they’re bumps in the road.

Which brings us to the title of this post. If you were thinking it referred to the pennant chase, well, absolutely. But I was also thinking of the original meaning, the one which puzzles kids and civic-minded adults reading the Declaration of Independence today. Jefferson and his fellow drafters didn’t mean “happiness” in the sense of gamboling about on a picnic, but something that reached back to Locke and Aristotle. Their meaning was more akin to using one’s talents fully in pursuit of excellence. Figuring out where you fit, essentially.

Which is what the Mets are finally doing.

And are still doing. After the game, the Mets sent away Alex Torres [15], he of the anti-concussion turban (laudable) and excessive walks (less so), for newly imported Eric O’Flaherty [16]. David Wright [17] (remember him?) plans to work out with the team this week and then start a rehab stint next week if all goes well; Terry is already talking about where he might fit in the batting order. And on the off-day, Terry will be in Port St. Lucie, explaining to Rafael Montero [18] why the Frank Francisco [19] Plan for Injury Management (remember this [20]?) is unacceptable. If Montero emerges from that Come to Jesus moment the way the Mets hope, he could be another power arm to the pen and help keep his fellow young guns away from their dreaded innings limits.

Will all of that work out? Probably not — it’s baseball, after all. But if enough of it does, the Mets could wind up happy indeed — in every sense of the word.