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

Lowering Your Gaard

One of the first things we learn as kids is that you can’t win ’em all. We know this, and when we’re disappointed to realize it really is true, we remind ourselves that it wouldn’t actually be fun to win ’em all.

From a fan’s perspective, rooting for a team on a crazy roll isn’t really so different than rooting for one that can’t get out of its own way — we confuse very recent history with eternal destiny.

When your team’s losing daily, you get hypersensitive to players’ body language and random portents and umpire bias and everything up to and including monsters under the bed. It’s self-evident that they will never, ever win again, that such a thing is in fact impossible. If they’re up 9-3 with two out in the ninth, a meteor will hit the stadium or the Rapture will occur. Something will happen, and only a damn fool would bet against it. Until finally they win a game and it’s not a big deal and you feel kind of sheepish about the whole thing.

Winning’s like that too. Well, except it’s a lot more fun. We’re down 3-0? Ah, no biggie. The late rally will just make it more dramatic. They’re just missing pitches, or balls aren’t quite falling in, but another time through the order and the reversion to the mean will be sweet, just you wait and see. Until finally they lose a game and it’s happened and you don’t really want to discuss how an hour ago you were so smugly unperturbed.

That’s pretty much how Sunday’s soggy, chilly matinee with San Francisco went. Noah Syndergaard [1] was pitching just fine and obviously a little bump was no big deal … until he was out of the game and Hansel Robles [2] had sent inherited runners home and then he’d lost. Michael Conforto [3] was going to wreak havoc like he does every at-bat until he was striking out and flying out on the first pitch and then he’d taken an oh-for. The Mets were going to come back and win until they’d made that impossible by losing.

It happens. Afterwards, I found myself thinking — as I do more and more — about how many baseball games turn on something very small.

No, not Ron Kulpa’s called third strike on Asdrubal Cabrera [4], though that was pretty, well, sight-deficient. I’m thinking about Bruce Bochy [5] sending Buster Posey [6] from first with one out in the fourth. If Posey doesn’t break, Brandon Belt’s one-hop grounder to Neil Walker [7] is a sure-fire double-play. Instead, Posey was already steaming into second, causing Walker to momentarily eye Matt Duffy [8] coming home with the first run and then reluctantly take the out at first. With one more out to get, Syndergaard threw Hunter Pence [9] a fastball that hit 98 but had too much plate; Pence blasted it into the seats above the Mo Zone. More stuff happened, including the call that deserved an umpire’s mea kulpa, but essentially that was it.

Look, good call by Bochy — he’s got those rings for a reason. But as with most baseball narratives, most successes and failures are Just So Stories, ruled on after the fact. If Belt hits a liner to Juan Lagares [10] in right, it’s a different kind of double play and someone out there is grumbling about Bochy trying to force things instead of trusting a disciplined team of hitters and the left arm of Madison Bumgarner [11].

Games get won even when your team appears star-crossed, just like games get lost even when you’re reveling in being bulletproof. You could look it up [12]. Next time I’m feeling hopeless or overly buoyant, I’ll try to remind myself to do that.