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You Learn Something New Every Day

To borrow a phrase favored by Josh Lewin, what did we learn on Saturday afternoon watching the Mets lose in the Bronx [1], other than Saturday afternoon Subway Series conflicts have diminished in appeal since Matt Franco [2] was in fullest bloom?

We learned the phrase “den Dekker” is Dutch for “not Lagares”.

This is linguistic clarification gleaned after the Mets center fielder of the moment lost three fourth-inning fly balls in translation. Mets fans with memories longer than a Yankee Stadium short porch home run will recall Matt den Dekker [3] was originally cast as the can’t miss defensive whiz in the attempted 2013 reboot of the Mets as a competitive baseball entity. Turned out den Dekker did miss — loads of time, due to the injury which opened the gates for Lagares to take his projected Gold Glove role — and could miss, specifically a trio of not easy yet not impossible chances hit in his general direction Saturday. They went for a triple, a double and a single, but when measured by cringe factor, the first was a boot and the next two were reboots. Given that Matt is 0-for-17 since his surprise recall from obscurity, one wonders what his particular major league acumen is at present. Someday, some kind soul might rediscover Matt den Dekker and lovingly recall him as the Billy Murphy of his time [4]. That day is not today.

We learned Ron Hunt [5]’s spiritual grandson Brandon Nimmo [6] owns a record that somehow wasn’t Ron Hunt’s when the day began.

Brandon, when not leading with his grin, has spent 2018 putting his body into enough pitches to gain first base without swinging or taking. Standard-issue players only get hit incidentally. Brandon is clearly custom-made. By uncomplainingly accepting two more plunkings, Nimmo moved past not Hunt but Lucas Duda [7] to claim the mark for most hit-by-pitches in a single Met season. He has fifteen marks overall on his body, not counting the couple he tried to sneak in when the umpires were being picky and ruled he made no attempt to elude what was coming at him. Some give some; Brandon gives all.

Hunt, the godfather of taking one for this team, did establish the franchise HBP record in 1963 with 13 and held it alone until 1997, when John Olerud unassumingly tied it. Duda’s impression of a tree trunk fooled pitchers into dinging him on the anatomy fourteen times three years ago. Nimmo has taken bruising to a whole new level. Congratulations?

We learned everything and everybody conspires against the Mets.

Not just those pesky Yankees batters who hit balls toward den Dekker. Not just those flinty Yankees pitchers who throw balls toward Nimmo. No, the whole universe. Why else would umpires eject two men wearing Mets uniforms who were, at most, only half-involved in the outcome of the game? First, home plate ump Larry Vanover tossed Pat Roessler, the hitting coach, for daring to point out what a crummy job Vanover was doing calling balls and strikes. Then, Hunter Wendlestedt thumbed Asdrubal Cabrera [8] from the proceedings because Cabrera still gives a damn. Cabrera was called out on appeal of a checked swing and reacted in disgust, spiking his bat to the ground. Instead of Wendlestedt admiring that somebody assigned designated hitter participation for the day still has enough of a pulse to remain engaged in the outcome instead of strolling detached from defensive duties back to the dugout as presumably most DHs do in the overwrought softball league, the umpire who decided he himself is the attraction removed Asdrubal. Not pictured: Mickey Callaway racing to his player’s defense. Cabrera would be replaced with Devin Mesoraco. Not pictured: Devin Mesoraco doing much in the way of hitting, designated or otherwise.

Also conspiratorial, as long we’re into conspiracy theories, was Miguel Andujar being awarded second base despite fan interference on ball he hit to right. Some dope representing everything we identify with fealty to that facility’s host team reached several feet over the fence with a glove and treated his find as a home run caught. Proving we’ve come a long way since Jeffrey Maier was hailed by a besotted city for his precocious ingenuity, Andujar was penalized two bases and awarded only a double. He should have been ruled out. So should have a majority of the 47,102 in attendance just on principle.

We — or at least I — learned there is no hope for the hopelessly hopeful.

What a crummy game this matinee had become by the ninth inning, with the Mets trailing, 7-3, and Aroldis Chapman on the mound to nail down the non-save. Kevin Plawecki, who keeps his usefulness to himself, walked to lead off. Amed Rosario poked an infield single under Andujar’s glove (serves him right for conspiring with that doofus the right field stands). Still, what’s gonna come of it? Ty Kelly was sent up to pinch-hit for Matt den Dekker…is a sentence you wouldn’t expect to read from a description or account of a Major League Baseball game, but, you know, Kelly walked on four pitches to load the bases. Son of a gun, it brought Jose Reyes to the plate with at least a chance to do the very same thing. Four balls, none close to being ruled strikes by even this pack of crooked umps, resulted in a Mets run. Nimmo was next and Nimmo did a Nimmo, which is to say he set that hit-by-pitch record. It was now 7-5 and I wouldn’t get up from where I sat. Understand I wanted to get up for a diet cola refill a dozen or so pitches earlier, but I got it in my Mets fan head that something was happening, so I better not budge. The All-Star closer on the other side was wild as a March hare in July and if the Mets could figure out a way to stand by while he continued to self-immolate, well, call me Matt Franco in 1999 [9]!

Except it’s not 1999. It’s 2018. Chapman was pulled by his manager. Mesoraco’s manager, having little if anything to choose from on his bench, left Devin in to wreak havoc versus Chasen Shreve. Havoc wasn’t having it. Mesoraco slapped his way into a twin-killing One more run scored, but the bases all but emptied. There was a little fuss at the end, with Wilmer Flores up and Reyes on third, but the chemistry was not right. The game ended in an undesirable 7-6 decision. For all it mattered, I could have budged.

We learned the identities of two Oakland Athletic minor leaguers who are now two New York Mets minor leaguers.

Meet third baseman Will Toffey and relief pitcher Bobby Wahl. Meet them eventually, I suppose. Toffey is a Rumble Pony, Wahl a 51. Neither is a flaming hot prospect. Both are our concern because they — along with a satchel crammed with International Slot Money — were traded by the A’s to the Mets for more or less the best righthanded reliever we ever had, Jeurys Familia [10]. Familia registered 123 saves as a Met. The only righty closer with more for us was Armando Benitez; I’ll take Familia. I would have continued to have taken Familia, especially had there been myriad saves to be had in our near future. Few are on the horizon, so business is business, and business dictated farewell to the arm that touched off more celebratory soirées than any in Mets history. Jeurys was on the mound when we clinched everything we clinched in 2015 and 2016, four preludes to champagne showers in all. The Mets have only poured bubbly over one another twenty times. Close your eyes and you’ll see Familia in the highlight reel of your mind.

Maybe those two minor leaguers will become major contributors. Maybe that International currency will be invested wisely. Yay, if any of it works out for us. I’m never thrilled to say goodbye to somebody who helped us prevail, especially when we’re doing so little of that of late.

These are the saddest of possible words:
Toffey and Wahl and slot
A pair of A’s and a bucket of bucks
Toffey and Wahl and slot
Exchanging our closer from all those wins
Not that Jeurys was devoid of sins
But Familia memories should elicit grins
Toffey and Wahl and slot

We learned Yoenis Cespedes [11] has a couple of heels giving him hell.

We learned that late Friday night, actually. Callaway learned it later Saturday morning. Or so he said. Or he clarified that he knew what was up all along. I don’t know. Who listens to what Mickey Callaway says in hopes of learning anything anymore? While the Cespedes mess indeed represents a blob of bad form on the part of this disorganized organization, I think it’s worth remembering a player who lifted us to unimagined heights in 2015, in conjunction with Familia and a cast of characters that is no longer extant, is hurting. Imagine this franchise, under this ownership, going to the World Series. It’s beyond the imagination in 2018. It wasn’t on the radar as late as 2014. It was barely wishable as late as this date in 2015. But along came Ces on July 31, and up the ladder we went.

In light of Yoenis’s contributions to the Mets briefly standing for something better than they did before and do now, I lean toward thinking he’s not solely at fault in whatever communication mishap has bogged down his return to action. In West Wing terms, Yo’s actions align with President Bartlet keeping his MS quiet. The lot of us has responded as Toby Ziegler did: in stunned disbelief that nobody thought to mention it until now. None of us has been Donna Moss asking if the president is in pain. Maybe that strain of thought, whatever the heft of President Cespedes’s contractual status and the irritation inherent in his characteristic diffidence, should cross our minds a little. In non-TV terms, I hope he feels better soon.

Ces did return on Friday. Homered and everything. Then he revealed his heel problems and reported that if he opts for the surgery he indicated he ultimately needs, he’ll be out quite a while, deep into 2019. By no means is that what anybody wanted to hear, nor was it the avenue by which we would figure something like it would be said. We were reminded Saturday what a Met lineup without Yo looks like. Callaway used two DHs and got nothing for his trouble but one ejection and a devastating double play. When we get back to baseball played like it oughta be, Cespedes will have to stand on two aching heels and man left field or first base. Also unimaginable. We’ll see what an MRI and a visit to a specialist yields. Maybe the Mets will put out a press release when they know something. They don’t at this time retain a general manager who speaks on issues fans would want to know about.

They still have fans, somehow.