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Baseball’s Weird Cousin

The Mets lost, 10-8, and no, this is not a blog malfunction. They essentially played the same occasionally hopeful, ultimately deflating and consistently ridiculous game on Wednesday night as they did on Tuesday night.

This time around … oh, must we? I suppose that’s why you’re here and we’re here, so yes, we must. Things started well enough, as the Mets sent eight men to the plate in the first and emerged with three runs.

The idea of scoring runs early is a new thing in Mets Land and to be applauded. Actually, the idea of scoring runs at all is a relatively new thing in Mets Land and to be applauded. Alas, that’s only half the battle — you also have to score more runs than the other guys, which proved difficult.

Seth Lugo [1] had never pitched in Colorado, which is an excellent idea until you can’t avoid it, a reckoning that arrived on Wednesday. Lugo, alas, didn’t fare quite as well [2] as Logan Verrett [3] did in his mountainous debut: his curveball wouldn’t curve, without which Lugo is basically unarmed. He gave up a monster shot in the first to Nolan Arenado [4], was undone by a Todd Frazier [5] error and a whole lotta hits in the second to make the game 4-4, and then was immediately in trouble again in the third. That inning was it for Lugo, who departed with the Mets down by two.

Coors Field being Coors Field, the Mets came back, scoring four in the fifth with a little bit of everything, including a Dominic Smith [6] triple aided by some strangely pacifistic Rockie defense and a bases-loaded walk. That lead threatened to make Paul Sewald [7] a winning pitcher for the first time in his baseball career, which apparently offended the baseball gods: approximately five minutes later, Robert Gsellman [8] gave up a three-run pinch-hit homer to someone named Ryan McMahon [9]. Kevin Plawecki [10] then came to the plate in the sixth with the bases loaded and one out, but swung at ball four and pulled it to Arenado at third, which is not a good idea. That was essentially the ballgame, minus the usual mile-high scratching and clawing [11].

Lord knows being a Mets fan is a constant slog through shadowed valleys, but I don’t understand how Rockies fans do it. Watching this brand of baseball is exhausting, the entertainment equivalent of plowing a field full of old munitions. When your team wins you feel like you got away with something, and when it loses you feel like a mark for showing up. I don’t know if I could take 81 games of this in any season, let alone a rebuilding one in which you know the local nine is going to get beaten to a pulp 50-odd times. I suppose my cap is tipped.

Bonus content, because I don’t want to leave you good folks with that: The three volumes of The Holy Books feature cards for not only every Mets player but also every Mets manager, and yes, that does include interim skippers Salty Parker [12], Roy McMillan [13] and Mike Cubbage [14]. Cubbage got a Topps TV card as a coach, which I deemed good enough for my purposes; because I’m insane, I made custom cards for Parker and McMillan, an undertaking that led to a belated but real appreciation for the thoroughly amazing baseball life [15] led by Francis James Parker.

But this year presented a problem: Topps no longer seems to make manager cards, even in nostalgia-laden sets featuring designs from years when skippers received their cardboard due. There were no manager cards in last year’s Topps Heritage set, which recreated the burlap design of the ’68 series, and there are none in this year’s ’69-replica Heritage set, either. I know one Mets collector lunatic isn’t a market, but this is disappointing given the attention to detail that Topps has brought to Heritage.

A baseball-card story I love: 2011 Heritage was based on the ’62 design, and Topps went all in on the historical parallels where the Mets were concerned. As in the original ’62 set, there was no Mets team card, most of the Mets were photographed from the neck up, and many of them weren’t wearing caps. Topps even trotted out an “error” card featuring David Wright [16] as a Red, mimicking Don Zimmer [17]‘s post-trade card in which he’s wearing a Mets hat but correctly identified as Cincinnati property. (Seriously, the effort was extraordinary. See for yourself: Thanks to the good folks at The Trading Card Database [18], here’s the 2011 Topps Heritage gallery [19] and here’s one of the original Mets [20].)

I tried to solve my missing-manager problem by pulling a fast one: I used Topps’s own custom-card service to try and order myself a Mickey Callaway [21] utilizing the 2018 design, blowing through the website’s warning that copyrighted photos would be rejected in hopes that no one was really checking.

Narrator’s voice: Someone was checking.

Oh well, on to Plan B: a ’69-style Callaway I could make myself, like the one we should have gotten in Heritage. This turned out to be a bigger undertaking than I thought: I’d never noticed that those ’69 manager cards had really tricky backs, with pen-and-ink headshots of the managers, bespoke cartoons and names spelled out with overlapping letters.

But I persevered, and am proud to report that I’ve won through to the uncertain reward of having my very own Mickey Callaway card. Perhaps I will hold it up as a talisman next time a middle reliever hits in the seventh inning.