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Walk On By

Steven Matz looked all right for a change for four innings Saturday night; looked a little too much like Jonathon Niese in the fifth inning; and never made it out of the sixth. Unlike Niese, the Mets’ latest vexingly underperforming lefty stalwart didn’t blame anybody but himself for his shortfall. He never does. Yoenis Cespedes hit a monstrous home run in his club’s best at-bat, versus the otherwise masterful Aaron Nola in the fourth, yet struck out with two on and two out to dash his club’s best hope, versus Ricardo Pinto in the eighth. By then, the Mets were down to the Phillies, 2-1. Chasen Bradford (1.1 IP, 0 R) had kept the Mets within a run after Matz’s departure. Erik Goeddel (1 IP, 1 R) pushed them back by two runs, which is where the game ended, at 3-1, the actual home team of Citizens Bank Park finally topping the home away from home team from New York. Somewhere in all of this, Amed Rosario showed off his backhand, his throwing arm and his bat — the first two to rob Ryan Hoskins of his potential first major league hit, the last to land himself on second with his own first double. His feet, however, did him no favor as he got himself thrown out at home on the back end of a delayed double-steal attempt in the second.

That was the game. It was a loss [1] flecked with moments of encouragement and frustration. There figures to be ample amounts of both as the Mets continue to break in youngsters and shed veterans. Rosario is now a fixture. Dom (or Dominic) Smith started again at first. Brandon Nimmo was elevated from extended in-game interview duty [2] to lead off and play right. And perpetually youthful if not exactly fresh-faced Jose Reyes was the late-announced starter at second, taking over for Neil Walker [3]. Walker joined the exodus of experienced players who are no longer of use to a team out of a race but, in one of those cognitively dissonant realities of the sport, is judged useful by a team in a race.

The destination for Walker is Milwaukee [4], where Neil is headed in exchange for a player who already has a name, but it will be learned by us later. The Mets are also sending the Brewers cash, which seems at odds with their way of executing trades, but every deal is different in detail if not tone. The tone here, as it was in the respective dispatchings of Lucas Duda, Addison Reed and Jay Bruce, was we need to figure out who we are for next year, and whoever we will be almost certainly won’t include you and your salary, so if you don’t mind clearing out your locker a little early to make our decisionmaking process a wee bit less complicated…yeah, thanks.

Neil Walker, who is from Pittsburgh, was pretty much who we thought he’d be when he came over from Pittsburgh in exchange for the unlamented Niese (who also came over or at least back from Pittsburgh, come to think of it). He hit pretty well. He fielded decently. He was, by all accounts, a heckuva guy. He just didn’t avoid injury and he forgot to morph into Rogers Hornsby, which is what his Met second base predecessor did the second he left New York. By not keeping offensive pace with Daniel Murphy, Neil Walker’s Met legacy became not having been Daniel Murphy.

This is where I’d love to interject, “But being Neil Walker was good enough.” Well, they did get to the playoffs in 2016 without Daniel Murphy, but also without Neil Walker when it mattered most. Neil certainly helped keep the Mets aloft amidst their fallow period last summer, but just as they were revving up, he went down with a bad back and never played after late August, thus excusing himself from direct Wild Card association. He sat out more time this year, though his partially torn left hamstring was hardly the difference between another run to postseason and wherever the current campaign winds up. By moving on to Milwaukee, Neil will miss another September in New York, leaving him what I’m going to assume is a club record. Neil hit 33 home runs as a Met, the 61st-most in franchise history (tied with Ramon Castro and Jay Payton) and likely the most by any Met who never hit one in September. Was he that unclutch? No, just that absent. Neil never had a Met at-bat in September, which thoroughly explains his complete lack of power down the stretch.

Not quite the right man in the right place at the right time. But a heckuva guy. And did we mention he’s from Pittsburgh?