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Wilderness Trails

The season is lost. The Mets are lost. We as Mets fans are lost. A dark forest surrounds us. It is wilderness out there.

Who’s going to lead us somewhere worth going? Judging by Wednesday afternoon’s how Monteroish he became [1] shortly after he got here in August of 2016. Before he was a Met, he wasn’t bad. Once he stayed a Met, he was pretty good. Very good, at times.

That Bruce confounded the general expectations for him was in line with how he went about being a Met in 2017. I called him the Contrarian. He wouldn’t give reporters the answers they seemed ready to jot down, whether it was about having surely been uncomfortable playing in New York initially, or arriving in St. Lucie haunted by the knowledge that he wasn’t truly wanted there, or if he was surprised that he was hitting or fielding or coping as well as he was. He was fine being a New York Met was his story, and he stuck to it. Played like he meant it, too.

But we don’t know where we’re going, so holding on to someone of Bruce’s ilk — experienced lefthanded right fielder with an expiring contract of some heft — is itself contrary to the sense of wherever it is we’re eventually going. Twenty-nine home runs and seventy-five runs batted in became thickets that needed clearing so we could get a better picture of what lies ahead. We’re so lost that we no longer have practical use for Jay’s brand of production.

Bruce numbers aren’t worth much to a solidly out-of-contention fourth-place enterprise. They were worth something to the AL Central-leading Cleveland Indians, though. You’d figure more than a Single-A relief pitcher who was drafted low and has yet to be rated high, but this August’s trade market is another place where we get lost. Jay Bruce for Ryder Ryan? [2] That doesn’t quite look right, but it got dark early here, so it’s tough to see clearly. The Tribe took on the remainder of Bruce’s salary, letting the Mets off the hook for several million dollars.

Ah, I can see clearly now.

Having not been in on the negotiations among the Mets and their various suitors — only the Indians and the Yankees have been identified as interested — I don’t know for sure there was a better all-around deal to be had for Bruce. “All-around” [3] implies the Mets not having to eat any of Bruce’s contract. That’s probably important in the uppermost echelons of Mets decisionmaking, and you can probably read “probably” there the same way you read “probably” above regarding Montero’s ability to lead the Mets anywhere worth going. No, the Mets definitely wanted someone else to pay Bruce all he was due. Any prospect-level minor leaguers who got bundled in from there were presumably considered a bonus.

We’re still lost. What remains to be found in this season’s final fifty-one games is compelling evidence of who can do what for 2018. No matter how many home runs, no matter how many RBIs, thirty-year-old Bruce wasn’t likely to be a part of that. Others whose names will circle the rumorsphere won’t, either. You know who you’ll be looking to show us at least a little of the way between now and Game 162. You hope that along the wilderness trail we won’t trail too often or too much. The short-term journey to nowhere in particular is more enjoyable when we win now and then.