- Faith and Fear in Flushing - http://www.faithandfearinflushing.com -

Those Guys!

I love the way the Kansas City Royals play baseball. They’re impossible to strike out, they pressure defenses on the basepaths, and they play a wild-eyed, high-stepping game. Which is pretty much the way they look on infield defense too, smothering balls and getting filthy and recording outs.

It’s exciting, fun stuff.

The only problem with that — and unfortunately it’s a pretty huge one right now — is they’re doing that exciting, fun stuff against my baseball team.

If you really want to, focus on the negatives. Jacob deGrom [1] lost his command in the middle innings. The Royals’ scouts came up with a plan for neutralizing the Mets’ strengths. Our young arms may have reached the point where fatigue is a factor. DeGrom might be tipping pitches. The Mets hitters’ bats might have been replaced with sawdust and soap bubbles. Rob Lowe and Fred Savage — the stars, if you haven’t heard, of THE GRINDER ON FOX — may have fixed the whole thing.

Some, all or none of that may be true. (OK, probably not all of it.) I’d rather just give credit to the Royals. They’ve played great baseball and thoroughly earned their 2-0 lead.

An hour after you’ve been whomped isn’t the best time for perspective, but I’ll try. Game 2 was a hot mess [2], but if the first pitch of Game 1 isn’t hideously misplayed, Alex Gordon [3]‘s homer becomes a cosmetic smudge, we all shrug and say that Jeurys Familia [4] was due for one of those, and the series goes back to New York tied 1-1. The difference between that situation and the one we’re actually in isn’t very big.

Well, except for the fact that that isn’t what happened. That first pitch of Game 1 [5] was botched, Gordon’s home run was a lot worse than cosmetic, and 0-2, well, it ain’t good. But it’s not grounds for panic either. I can recall a World Series in which a Mets mistake was the difference in a crisp Game 1 and they followed that up with a Game 2 gag job, but wound up as immortals.

Hey, ya gotta believe.

And if that isn’t working right now, try dispassion. Remember that the postseason is a randomness machine from which we conjure stories. That randomness doesn’t account for everything — the lack of missed swings in Games 1 and 2 wasn’t the product of rolling dice, and neither was the really good infield play from Mike Moustakas [6] and Alcides Escobar [7] and Ben Zobrist [8]. But it’s a factor, and a bigger one than we like to admit when things are going well.

Mid-July’s crummy series is a reason for fans and columnists mutter for a couple of days; late October’s crummy series is a referendum on character. But that should be on us, not on our baseball team. The Cubs are home after a four-game series in which they never held a lead for a single solitary inning, which is pretty much as thoroughly as you can get beaten. That didn’t mean the Cubs were a bad team that tricked dummies into thinking otherwise. But neither did it mean that the Mets were invulnerable. There’s no defense against a magical Daniel Murphy [9], but there’s also no way to conjure one into being. All a team can do is prepare the best it can and play the best it can and hope the pixie dust rains down in its dugout instead of the one across the field.

We’re in the World Series. Twenty-eight other teams’ fans are watching the Mets and the Royals and wishing winter hadn’t arrived quite so soon for them. On Saturday I’m going to be in the stands watching the Mets play a World Series game. I’ve never had the chance to do that, and I’m so excited — just like I’ve been so excited since the Nationals faded away and the champagne fountained in Cincy and Jeurys jumped for joy in L.A. and Travis d’Arnaud [10] came chugging out from behind home plate in Chicago.

I hope Saturday night will end with me high-fiving random Mets fans, strangers made friends by shared blue and orange and the intoxication of having fought back to a tie. And if not? If the Mets face an elimination game Sunday or the walk down from the Promenade takes me into winter? I’ll still be pretty damn glad that I was there to see it and everything that came before it.

When baseball is at its most beautiful I never let myself forget how cruel it can be, and at its cruelest I force myself to appreciate its beauty. This game’s had a hold on me for nearly four decades now. I couldn’t get loose even if I wanted to.