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Milestones Minor and Miserable

The first week of the season is about getting reacquainted with your team: remembering all the things that make you happy and a few of the things that don’t, checking off boxes and generally luxuriating in the part of the year when any fan can run down every game played so far and how it turned out. Very soon the season will have become a blur of games and series; right now everything stands out in sharp relief.

The Mets hit a minor milestone Friday night when Zack Wheeler [1] pitched and T.J. Rivera [2] pinch-hit, meaning all 25 players from the Opening Day roster had seen game duty — as well as the bigger milestone of Wheeler pitching in a game that counted for the first time [3] in nearly 1,000 days.

Another roster milestone came Saturday night, when Paul Sewald [4] was summoned to shore up the relief corps, replace video star Ty Kelly [5] (seriously, this is hilarious [6]) on the roster and become the 1,027th Met to labor between the front lines. Which may not seem significant, except his presence averted what I’ve been calling the Akerpocalypse — the first time since 1974 [7] that Opening Day ushered in a Mets roster with no new players. Jack Aker [8]‘s arrival for bullpen work ended the Akerpocalypse in mid-June of ’74 (so it really shouldn’t be named for him, but hush up you); Sewald put things right much faster than that.

Unfortunately, that was the only thing Sewald put right in his big-league debut — he was terrible. Still, I’ll give him a pass based on understandable nerves and the fact that last night Mets No. 1 through 1,026 wouldn’t have done much better.

Because that was the night’s other milestone: this was the first game of the season that found me thoroughly disgusted [9] by the proceedings. In the winter you’ll often catch me staring out at the frozen hellscape of the backyard and declaring that I’d do anything to watch even the lamest, lousiest, lossiest regular-season baseball game; last night was proof that I don’t mean it. What do I do when it’s spring and there’s baseball like this? I stare at the television and wait for it to be winter.

Robert Gsellman [10] was lousy, with his sinkers floating up instead of diving down, leading to pitcher whiplash — particularly when Marcell Ozuna [11] sent one luckless baseball to Mars. The rest of the relievers weren’t much better: Hansel Robles [12] was awful; Josh Smoker [13] staggered in the beginning, probably because he’s wearing Jon Niese [14]‘s No. 49 before it’s been fumigated to rid it of accumulated alibis and excuses; and a gassed Rafael Montero [15] took a last-man-on-the-bullpen-depth-chart beating and still needed help.

But the pitchers had company: the Met defense was iffy again, with Curtis Granderson [16] misplaying a fly ball into a triple, and the offense was dismal. If you missed it, well, so did the batters, who spent the night flailing helplessly at middling fastballs. It was a godawful mess whether you were looking at Granderson, the completely lost-looking Jose Reyes [17], the possibly injured Asdrubal Cabrera [18] or human windmill Neil Walker [19].

I was left to seek solace in a milestone that so far is just rumor: the potential sale of the Marlins and baseball ridding itself of serial con man Jeffrey Loria.

I’m too dispirited to do a deep dive into my hatred of Loria and his baseball team — the archives await [20] if you want a refresher. As is often said about pinata middle relievers, I heartily endorse Anyone But Loria as a successor to the actual Loria. Anyone But Loria might decide the Marlins’ ballpark could use an aesthetic beyond Cokehead Pachinko Parlor and hire someone to overhaul their Neon Concussion uniforms. (Seriously, look at the Marlins’ backs — even the fonts look like they were chosen mid-seizure.) Anyone But Loria might put money into his franchise instead of slurping it out of 29 other clubs and Florida taxpayers. Under the aegis of Anyone But Loria, the Marlins might actually be able to fill their park with more than enemy fans, passing rubes, transplant lookyloos and a handful of impressively determined masochists.

Anyone But Loria would be better in every conceivable way but one: we’d still have to play 19 games against the Marlins and at least 10 of those would be a near-lock to leave me in a frothing rage. It was true in 1993, 2005 and 2017; I’m sure it will be true in 2029, 2041 and 2053.

The milestones click by, but some things in baseball are eternal.