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Jake And I Are 5-7

Following my attendance for his 22nd start of the season Friday night, Jacob deGrom [1] and I can each count 12 decisions on our 2018 ledger. Twelve times this year I’ve decided to be at Citi Field for a Mets game. Some would question the judgment of anybody who chooses to watch these particular Mets in person a dozen different times — none of the Mets populating their Friday night lineup ended the evening with a batting average as high as .250 — yet I stand by my decisions despite the Mets absorbing defeats on seven of those occasions. The 2018 Mets, having relentlessly ridden a 44-63 wave clear into the basement of their division, lose roughly seven of every twelve games they play, anyway, so it’s not like I’m bringing them down.

Them bringing me down is another story, but I can’t say I haven’t been cautioned regarding their effect on my mood. The National League East standings are tantamount to a Surgeon General’s mental health warning.

DeGrom, on the other hand, didn’t decide to be 5-7 in his 12 decisions this season, but there he is, with a won-lost record that reflects a 22-start slate marked mostly by cruelty. Call it ace abuse. I don’t know how Jake’s arm feels the morning after a night when he has pitched his heart out for a team that withholds its offensive support from him, but I can only imagine the number it’s doing on his psyche. Actually, I don’t know that the imagination needs to run wild, given the postgame quotes that grow incrementally tetchier. And why shouldn’t they? How often can a pitcher serve as official spokesperson for befuddling disappointment?

“I don’t like losing baseball games,” Jacob told reporters after he threw eight innings, gave up two runs, drove in one run, struck out nine Braves and lost a baseball game [2]. “It’s not something I ever want to get used to. Nobody in here likes losing. Go around and ask anyone in here if they had fun losing tonight. I don’t think anybody would say yes.”

Intentionally or not, deGrom channeled Brad Pitt as Billy Beane in Moneyball when he unleashed his fury on the cinematic version of the 2002 A’s after finding a clubhouse apparently unconcerned by its most recent defeat. “Is losing fun?” the GM demanded. “Is losing fun? What are you having fun for?” Beane underlined his message by taking a bat to the team boombox and instantly silencing all traces of music.

If a Met tried that, the boombox would still be blasting.

Based on his 1.85 ERA and any other peripherals you care to cite, you can be pretty certain you will witness excellence when you take in a Jacob deGrom start. Based on all other prevailing evidence, you can also be fairly sure you’ll see at least one of the following outcomes:

• Jake doesn’t win.
• The Mets lose.
• Jake loses.

Friday night, all three slots came up lemons. Two runs allowed over eight innings will usually put your team in position to win. But the Mets are deGrom’s team. We know how that goes. The 2-1 loss to this week’s magically mystifying deGropposition (Anibal Sanchez guest-starring as yet another sudden Cy Young candidate) was more or less the same as deGrom and the Mets losing to the Pirates last weekend; deGrom and the Mets losing to the Padres the Monday before; the seven instances in which deGrom has been saddled with an L despite being deGrom; and the fourteen when the Mets — while deploying the best pitcher on the planet — wrangled a collective defeat with him on the mound. The novelty of Friday’s loss to the Braves was deGrom not only Wheelerishly delivering the Mets’ lone run, via a third-inning single that plated Amed Rosario from second, but literally half of the Mets’ offense. The two hits that built that one run were unaccompanied by any others.

None of us would blame Jake if he later directed his bat in anger at some innocent inanimate object as Pitt/Beane did in the movies, but that’s not deGrom’s style. Testifying that he detests losing will have to do until his teammates present him with a viable alternative.

And me, the other guy carrying a 5-7 record? I had as much fun as a Mets fan could have amid the ongoing disaster that is the 2018 Mets season. Go to a game with my friend Kevin in any Mets season and you will have fun. We are quite practiced in forging quintessential bad game/good time experiences. Also having fun were the co-ed clusters of teens sharing my train en route to the game. Who says the Mets have lost another generation’s allegiance while endlessly losing ballgames? At least on the LIRR on a given Friday night the Long Island chapter of the Youth of America is visible in full force, giddy to be decked out in orange and blue (save for the one JETER 2 in every crowd) and cheerfully commuting to commune with the team nobody made them pick as their own. Were they all won by over by the fleeting success of 2015? Are they just in it for the illicit thrill of consuming beverage alcohol on public transportation? Do the standings mean nothing to them?

I suppose I could ask, but they all look they’re having too good a time to be brought down by the crusty likes of me. I do wonder where they disperse to once they arrive at Citi Field, though. In a year like this, the crowds on a gorgeous Friday night are far thinner than when pennants are in the offing. On the train between Jamaica and Woodside, there was barely room to turn around. At the park, plenty of room. Maybe after all those delightful Steve Gelbs reports from that ostentatiously branded bourbon bar, Jim Beam has surpassed Jacob deGrom as Citi’s top draw.

(Which would present an inconvenience to those hoping to use the third base-side men’s room in the Promenade food court as they left. Kevin and I were among the patrons to discover it was locked. That’s one way to send your customers scurrying down the stairs.)

As the eighth inning wore on, Kevin and I were compelled to stand in front of our Section 417 Row 1 seats to let a mother and her young daughter squeeze by with their nachos and chicken tenders. That would not be worth noting except nobody had come or gone all night from our midst, and neither of us had seen these two ladies previously. And that probably would not have stayed with me except they stood politely yet firmly by the otherwise unoccupied seat next to mine where I had planted my bag prior to first pitch. Our row featured a plethora of empty pairs of seats by the eighth inning (and during all the innings before it), but this was where their tickets guided them and they planned to sit where that paper told them to sit. I wasn’t gonna argue, but after I removed my bag, I asked with a touch of churlishness, “Just getting here?”

“Yes,” the mother said.

Having less than a month ago arrived fashionably late for extra innings [3] of the first game of a doubleheader, I can appreciate wanting to get in every last pitch even if you missed the bulk of the pitches that preceded them, but, y’know, there was a second game lined up on the runway behind that one. Showing up as this single game was nearing its conclusion — and insisting on those two seats (perfectly lovely seats, but surely not the only ones available) — struck Kevin and me as weird, even by Mets game standards. Nevertheless, I grudgingly applaud the principle involved. Let us not turn away anybody who wants to see even a smidgen of the current season. Maybe someday the little girl will grow into one of those teens on the train gathering her friends for fun on a Friday night in Flushing. Maybe someday she’ll age into a crusty blogger who wonders what still attracts a decent amount of people to come see this stupid team.

Maybe someday the Mets will be worth being in your seat for across an entire game, except when jumping to your feet is appropriate.