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Appreciating the Little Things

In a lost season, you appreciate the little things. Sometimes because they might grow into big things, and sometimes just for themselves.

You appreciate two-out singles by Phillip Evans [1] (yet another victim of the Great Jose Reyes [2] Fiasco) and Amed Rosario [3] to tie the game and then give the Mets a two-run lead.

You appreciate that the timing of those hits delivered a first big-league win for Corey Oswalt [4], who’d been removed either because his hand was sore or because that’s what Mickey Callaway [5]‘s Big Book o’ Managing told him must to be done. (Any and all explanations by the skipper are automatically regarded with suspicion.) That win came after a string of outings in which Oswalt deserved such a reward but one wasn’t forthcoming, because the Mets.

You appreciate a game marked by fine defense on both sides. There was Jose Bautista [6] making a nifty running grab (his second fine play in as many days) in right to save one run (and maybe two) in the fourth. There was Bautista, again, alertly short-circuiting the San Diego fifth by nabbing pitcher Clayton Richard [7] at second on a dunker in front of him. There was Freddy Galvis [8] (temporarily) rescuing Richard in the fifth on an errant throw to second which he converted to a nifty spin and tag of Kevin Plawecki [9].

And hey, there was Brandon Nimmo [10] making a marvelous leaping catch to take away a home run from Austin Hedges [11], only to have the replay meanies correctly note that Nimmo had trapped it off the back wall. Nimmo sold it, too — a little instinctive leftover from the days in which calls were made by umpires and reviews belonged to the historical record and what-if fiction.

All of that was good fun as the Mets won a matinee [12] and — gasp! — a series, their first series win since May 20, when they were 23-19 and we were still trying to convince ourselves that a headlong plummet was a mere stumble.

But as that last sentence indicates, the problem with appreciating the little things is that the bigger things keep rudely shoving themselves into the picture.

Like Yoenis Cespedes [13] being out until … well, it’s the Mets, so let’s not even speculate, but there are two heel surgeries involved and the talk right now is May. Perhaps we’d be better off asking, “Which May?” And this inevitable pass has been arrived at via the usual Metsian Stupid Watergate way: waiting too long to put a player on the DL, grousing about his inability to come off of it, anonymously insinuating said player is soft, navigating second and third opinions amid palpable mistrust between player and organization, sending flunkies out to prevaricate, and finally arriving at the dreary conclusion. This has been happening through multiple general managers and training staffs, so you don’t need Sherlock Holmes to figure out where the real problem lies.

Or like the Mets being likely to look different when they return from their current road trip after the trading deadline. Normally that would be a little thing to be glad about — the rot of a dead team is best turned into fertilizer as early as possible. But the Mets’ shamefully paltry return on Jeurys Familia [14] makes this potential good little thing more likely to be another bad big thing. The Wilpons are playing their usual game of seeking salary relief rather than prospects, and meddling with an already ill-advised front-office arrangement. Which is a recipe for minimizing the return on useful pieces, and the reverse of the process that a competently run organization would follow.

Should the Mets think bigger and trade some combination of Zack Wheeler [15], Steven Matz [16], and Jacob deGrom [17]? In theory, absolutely — 15 games under .500 is excellent evidence that some other plan should be pursued. But that theory presumes the Mets would get something decent back in such a deal or deals. The 2017 deadline crop and the Familia trade strongly suggest they’d instead maneuver themselves into securing a pittance — the inevitable money back in the Wilpons’ pockets and a bunch of raw lottery-ticket bullpen arms that not even a connoisseur of agate-type transactions could get excited about. If you’re going to trade key pieces of a young, cost-controlled rotation, you better get a lot more than middle-relief maybes. Because if you don’t, you’ve all but assured there won’t be big things to appreciate any time soon.