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Losing the Way It Oughta Be

The Mets lost, and it was annoying — after a drought in the clutch, they came back to tie the game against the Diamondbacks and their dreadful uniforms, forcing the business of determining a winner to extra innings.

Then Erik Goeddel [1] came on as the latest reliever, and it was immediately clear that he didn’t have it. He spiked balls below the strike zone, sent them sailing wide of it, and looked like a man who’d backed himself into a corner. The sarcastic cheers for strikes were inevitable — and so, it seemed, was the outcome [2].

A.J. Pollock [3], whose season has been disappointing enough to grant him honorary Met status, passed up a 2-0 fastball right down the middle — a decision many Arizona fans probably characterized as excessively polite, given Goeddel’s desperation and lack of command. Goeddel threw the same pitch again, and Pollock did his job, clubbing the ball over the wall for a 3-1 D’backs lead.

The Mets fought back. Michael Conforto [4] homered off perpetual annoyance Fernando Rodney [5], he of the askew hat and arrows fired heavenward. But that was a cosmetic victory. Yoenis Cespedes [6] — who’d earlier driven in the tying run and actually shown interest in playing the field energetically — popped up, Wilmer Flores [7] came out on the short side of an 11-pitch battle, and Dominic Smith [8] flied out to left. Thanks for coming everybody and please get home safe.

“Safe” is far from assured for this year’s Mets — the latest to fall is Steven Matz [9], who will undergo surgery to relocate an irritated ulnar nerve, meaning his season is over. The surgery itself isn’t particularly worrisome — Jacob deGrom [10] had it last season and showed no ill effects — but the subject is. Matz’s career has been a litany of arm woes, from the Tommy John [11] surgery that felled him before his first professional pitch to the maladies that have now curtailed all three of his big-league seasons. Matz is left-handed and obviously talented, but it’s reached the point where the first question he has to answer is “Can this guy stay on the field?” So far the answer is “no,” making follow-up questions of little import.

Still, I found myself not terribly bothered by the loss. Part of that, I’ll admit, is being on vacation — the first few innings unfolded while I was engaged in a vigorous three-way battle for family mini-golf supremacy. But more than that, it’s that I’m content watching the young Mets earn their stripes — and take their licks.

I rooted for Curtis Granderson [12], Jay Bruce [13], Rene Rivera [14] and other departed Mets, but they weren’t pieces of the team’s future, and watching them finish out a lost season had become a singularly pointless exercise. I’d campaigned for weeks for the Mets to move the lame-duck veterans and let the kids play. Once they finally did that, complaining about the results would be laughable.

Sure, the game’s looked too fast for Amed Rosario [15] at times, and Dominic Smith doesn’t look like he’s enjoying his introduction to the ungodly breaking shit they throw in the Show. But it’s by enduring those moments that Rosario and Smith will learn. They need to play, just like Brandon Nimmo [16] and Kevin Plawecki [17] do.

Robert Gsellman [18] might benefit from a Dale Carnegie book tucked into his stocking this Christmas, but since declaring that he doesn’t care, he’s pitched like he does. The Mets need to see if he can keep doing that — and they need to provide new challenges for Paul Sewald [19], Chasen Bradford and the other young relievers once starters such as Gsellman depart. Hey, that even includes seeing if Goeddel can work back-to-back days.

On Monday night the answer to that last question was “no.” But that’s all right. Testing the capabilities of Addison Reed [20] and Lucas Duda [21] stopped being relevant sometime this summer. It was time for the Mets to prepare a different exam, however much we may not like the class’s initial grades.