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

Of the Mets and Infinite Regress

“Rock bottom” gets thrown around a lot in sports, and is invoked as a good thing. No, rock bottom isn’t a place you want to visit, but if you do find yourself there, at least you can’t go any lower. The only possible direction is up. Throw in a pinch of resilience, a sprinkle of rosy memories and a tincture of optimism and rock bottom starts to seem OK. The team that’s arrived there, you see, has Had Enough. It will pull together, rise up and do other hazy but dramatic-sounding things. Scarred but smarter, phoenix-like blaze and all that.

Thursday night’s Met loss [1] wasn’t quite as rock-bottomish (bottomesque? bottomnal?) as Wednesday night’s [2], which I realize is praise that’s faint bordering on invisible. Rafael Montero [3] pitched like a guy who throws 84 instead of 94, was horrifically inefficient and soon forced to depart, but you probably saw that one coming. (And Rafael really ought to be going.) The relievers acquitted themselves well enough, with Paul Sewald [4] and Josh Edgin [5] doing stalwart work, and there were no managerial maneuvers to get exercised about.

But that was about all that was passable. The Mets’ hitting was appalling, though some of that blame should fairly be reapportioned as praise for the debut of San Diego’s rather wonderfully named Dinelson Lamet. Still, the Mets put the leadoff man on in the third, fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth and converted that into exactly one run, largely because they were 1 for 10 with runners in scoring position. The Padres never had a lead larger than two runs, but it felt like 20.

If you actually went to Citi Field on this clammy night to witness the Mets play listless, deeply boring baseball in weather a Scotsman would consider deplorable, I’d like to simultaneously tip my cap and gently suggest you make better life choices. Honestly, the Mets should have paid you — and even then, my first question would be a skeptical, “How much?”

Granted, every team has stretches where you wonder how they’ll ever manage to play tolerable baseball again. Hell, the 2015 Mets looked ready for contraction and then rebounded all the way to a World Series. But the 2017 club sure has a lot of stretches like this — this year the fitful bouts of competence are islands in a trackless sea of ineptitude.

Which gets us back to the idea of rock bottom, and reminds me of the world’s most folksy cosmological argument. (Trust me — this is going somewhere.) You’ve heard the story: a scientist is explaining the solar system to an audience and a listener interrupts to tell him he’s wrong. The world doesn’t revolve around the sun, but rests on the back of a turtle. The scientist, amused, asks what the turtle rests on and is told that it rests on the back of a second turtle. The scientist smiles and goes in for the kill, only to be pre-emptively dismissed with the blithe assurance that it’s turtles all the way down.

In one form or another [6] the anecdote goes back to the 16th century, but in this country its earliest appearance seems to have been an 1838 New York Mirror account of a schoolboy talking cosmology with an old woodswoman. (As one does.) That version is a bit different: the old woman rejects the schoolboy’s explanation that the Earth is round, because it’s obviously flat and sitting on a rock — and, as you may have surmised by this point, it’s rocks all the way down.

Rocks all the way down, hmm. That would mean there’s always another rock bottom.

I’m not a scientist, but my observations of the 2017 Mets suggest the old woman had it right.