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Rosario Isn’t Built in a Day

The Amed Rosario Era commenced Tuesday night in Denver. Also, the Michael Conforto Era, the Steven Matz Era, the Jose Reyes Era and all the other eras on which we blithely bestow the names of the callups whose debuts we breathlessly anticipate continued. We don’t necessarily think of those as eras in progress. The unalloyed delight is in the debut. The unforeseen bedevilment is potentially in all the details that follow. When you’re dealing in potential, you are compelled to take every possible outcome into account.

Rosario — No. 1 on your scorecard, No. 1 on our must-see-ASAP [1] list — shifted from concept to reality by taking the field, taking his cuts and, ultimately, booting a ground ball that set up the losing run in the ninth inning. Somewhere down the road, on a night when we no longer notice that we’re in the midst of the Amed Rosario Era any more than we notice now that we’re still in the midst of the Wilmer Flores Era [2] and the Travis d’Arnaud Era [3] we ushered in eleven days apart four Augusts ago, one ground ball not played cleanly in one random ninth inning won’t much register except maybe as backstory.

Remember when Rosario made his debut at Coors Field against the Rockies? Remember that ball DJ LeMahieu hit with Charlie Blackmon running from first after Hansel Robles walked Blackmon on a full count to lead off the ninth when it was tied? Rosario broke one way, and then the other, and he couldn’t recover, and he couldn’t smother the ball, and next thing you knew, Nolan Arenado dropped a ball into center and Blackmon came home with the winning run. Remember?

Maybe you will remember. Maybe you won’t. Maybe it will stick in our collective mind to serve as convenient counterpoint to how dependable let alone spectacular Rosario became, how he absorbed a defensive lesson and kept improving in all facets of his game as he grew into the superstar we all knew he was destined to be. Or maybe we’ll come to see the seemingly innocent misplay as the harbinger of how Rosario really wasn’t ready and was never going to live up to his outsize hype. Probably it was just a ground ball at the end of a first game in the majors that you wouldn’t have given much thought to beyond “damn, that sucked,” if it was any other shortstop booting any other ball. The Mets were so far out of the race in 2017, what was another loss in the middle of a losing summer [4] anyway?

A win would have been highly preferable on what we wish to consider an auspicious occasion. A win was within reach — not only within reach of Rosario, but all of his teammates who combined to lose, 5-4, in frustrating walkoff fashion. The Mets as a whole couldn’t quite get their mitts around this game any more than Rosario could grab hold of LeMahieu’s grounder. If they had been capable of swooping up more close ones prior to the dawn of August, Amed might still be honing his craft in Las Vegas.

Though we wouldn’t have cared for that, either. He’s here, we cheer, get used to him.

When we get our initial glimpse at one of these megatouted youngsters on whom we’ve been waiting patiently or otherwise, we are conditioned to look for the good. There was plenty of good from Rosario on Night One. The first Met born in the year 1995 (!) got to other ground balls. He was credited with one putout and seven assists. He showed a strong arm. He could have shown a quicker release on what wound up the first hit Matz gave up, in the fifth, when Steven had us believin’ that his recent troubles were disappearing into literal thin air. In his fourth at-bat, Amed beat out an infield hit and scurried to second when the throw that wasn’t going to nail him got away. One AB earlier, he’d taken a three-two pitch that was too close to lay off, but at least he didn’t betray an alleged antsiness to swing too much. In general, he looked quicker than any Met has looked this season — certainly less lethargic within the infield — and seemed no less promising than universal analysis of his prospects indicate he truly is.

Rosario didn’t make good on all his promise in one game. Nobody does. Even the best of Met debuts (remember Matz’s? [5]) aren’t all-encompassing perfect. Raw rookies can always get better. The good rookies who do get better are the ones who keep us coming back for more. We will be back for more Amed Rosario. His era has only just begun.

I’ll be in Sharon, Conn., this Friday evening, taking part in the Hotchkiss Library’s annual summer book signing. If you’re interested in attending, check out the details here [6].