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The Road Goes Ever On

Your recapper will begin by confessing something usually kept discreetly behind the Faith & Fear curtain: his direct experience of tonight’s game was limited to the bottom of the ninth, watched while scowling/frowning at a phone in a friend’s living room north of Boston.

[1]

Well, fuck.

That bottom of the ninth was brief. Mercifully, one might say: at least Saturday night’s hopeless Mets loss was concluded in a tidy, sub-three-hour fashion. We’re into the philosophy of masochism now: Would you rather lose 8-7 in fury and indignation, or 2-0 while supine and helpless?

(What’s that? You’d rather win? Oh sweet summer child, get out while you can.)

I wasn’t wholly ignorant of the proceedings before that snoozy last half-inning, of course. I’m a Mets fan — if the game’s going on I do what I can even if life gets in the way. I’d registered that the Mets were behind 1-0 on a Nolan Arenado [2] homer off Steven Matz [3] — a first-inning blow, of course, as the Mets’ latest way of tormenting us is to fall behind early and then commence toying with our emotions.

On and on the game wound, with me checking in periodically to note that, hey, at least Matz hadn’t come apart like a cheap watch, as recent starters have done. There were no Met threats to note, but a 1-0 deficit doesn’t require much in the way of heroism — it can be undone by little more than a couple of well-placed accidents.

I registered that the Mets were a hit away from tying the game in the bottom of the 8th, and surreptitiously flipped over to GameDay to watch a static cartoon of Jay Bruce [4] do whatever Jay Bruce was going to do.

Jay Bruce did … well, you probably saw it. Look up a bit to see what I saw. The placement of the pitch left me fuming about the outcome, and not at all comforted by my app’s note that Bruce had flied out sharply to left fielder Noel Cuevas [5], a player I’ve never heard of and could easily mistake for, say, a limited-edition Christmas tequila.

That was it. The Mets gave up another run shortly before I returned to the world of WiFi, pulled up SNY and watched three Mets do nothing, completing the loss [6]. The trainwreck continues.

The trainwreck continues, and yet we hang around watching as brakes squeal and trailer cars jackknife and locomotives plummet into abysses. It’s what we do, out of habit and duty and most of all out of a desperate, apparently inextinguishable hope.

I knew I was a hopeless case years ago, when I refused to seek shelter from the days of Lorinda de Roulet and Mettle the Mule and the Mets beginning the free-agent era as baseball’s North Korea. (When the Mets grudgingly decided Gary Matthews [7] Sr. might make sense as an acquisition, they sent him a telegram requesting he contact the club. It worked out pretty much as you expected.) I endured Vince Coleman [8] reluctantly admitting that nearly blinding a child with a quarter-stick of dynamite wasn’t a good look. I lived through Jason Phillips [9] and Vance Wilson [10] and the terminally bored Shea scoreboard operators mixing them up, not that there was actually any appreciable difference between the two. I saw Kevin McReynolds [11] and Bobby Bonilla [12] return to teams that didn’t want them. I pretended that Victor Zambrano [13] and Mike Pelfrey [14] had brains. I knew¬†Tommy Milone [15] would pitch and Nori Aoki [16] would play the outfield and still cleared my schedule to see what would happen.

Which is a long-winded way of saying I’m disappointed but not devastated by an 11-1 team turning into a 17-145 one, or however this ultimately turns out. (Probably not that bad, but you never know.) As proof of that, almost before I’d absorbed the news that the Mets had concluded someone might fix Matt Harvey [17] but it wasn’t going to be them, I had a question: Who was being called up to take Harvey’s place?

I wanted to know, and it annoyed me that this piece of information wasn’t to be found amid seemingly infinite hot takes about grit and talent and blah blah blah. Who was the new Met? Was it … well, hell, I had no one in particular in mind, just someone we hadn’t seen before, who’d take his place in The Holy Books and — just maybe — our hearts.

Or not. I thought about Mac Scarce [18], whose Met identity was already hobbled by arriving in the Tug McGraw [19] trade and whose one-game tenure consisting of coming into a tie game and giving up a walk-off single to Richie Hebner [20], of all people. I thought about Lino Urdaneta [21], whose Met tenure was a success only because he arrived with an ERA of infinity. (It’s now and forever will be a cool 63.00.) I thought about Garrett Olson [22], whose Met tenure passed unnoticed while I yapped happily with a friend during a blowout game. I thought about Akeel Morris [23], who came and went while I was on a family trip to Mexico but still got a share of pennant prize money for his minimal contributions. I thought about Gerson Bautista [24], the only Met missing from The Holy Books because I don’t yet have a minor-league card for him.

They’re all Mets, just like Tom Seaver [25] and Keith Hernandez [26] and Mike Piazza [27] and Yoenis Cespedes [28]. Mets you might forget, granted, but Mets all the same.

The Mets didn’t call up a new player, alas: no Corey Taylor [29] or P.J. Conlon [30] or, I don’t know, Drew Smith [31]. They called up Hansel Robles [32], Ol’ Point to the Sky, who’s a candidate for the Harvey treatment himself.

But my reflexive facepalm was somehow comforting. Hansel Robles, Jesus Christ, I thought, or something along those lines. But I’ve thought that before. Hey, maybe Robles figured something out during this stint in Las Vegas. I’ve thought that before too. Or if not, maybe this will be the end and we’ll see if Taylor or Conlon or Smith have something to offer. I haven’t thought any of those things yet, but I know the blueprint. When the time comes, I’ll be ready.

Maybe these Mets will start hitting again. Maybe the pitching will emerge from this rough patch — because, hey, wasn’t Matz pretty darn good tonight? Maybe they’ll look more like that 11-1 team than the 6-and-whatever-it-is-now mess they’ve become.

Or, if not, the 2019 Mets will give us hope. Or the 2020 Mets. Or some science-fiction version of the Mets who will be here before we know it. And we’ll go on. We always do.