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The Dwindling

Off-day? What off-day? Today brings Jacob deGrom [1] vs. the Yankees, a rematch caused by rain. Which as I type this is blanketing New York again, with more to come. There’s an easy line about the elements being too tough an enemy for even the mighty Sir Jake, except that the mighty Sir Jake routinely is forced into battles that have already been lost: half his gear is missing, his sword hasn’t been sharpened, and he’s swaying atop a lame horse. None of this is his fault, but the tragedy of being a fearsome knight attended by halfwit squires. The kingdom’s bards have collectively shrugged and chronicle his deeds through sad ballads, many of them very similar, considered notable by lute connoisseurs for their notes of bitterness.

But before we get to Sir Jake — assuming we do at all — we had the man we once worshipped as a Norse demi-god on the hill down in climate-controlled Florida. In a season of wall-to-wall frustrations, Noah Syndergaard [2]‘s second eviscerated year in a row has barely registered as the drag it’s been. When he was healthy Noah seemed slightly not himself, giving up more contact and baserunners than we were used to, and then he wasn’t healthy. It hasn’t been the elbow — every time Syndergaard throws a pitch we still hold our breaths a little — but it’s been everything else. Seriously, it’s been everything else: if you put money on “coxsackie virus” as a reason for a Mets DL stint, I’m simultaneously in awe of your prognosticative abilities and think you might be too pessimistic even for our perpetually steamrolled fanbase.

Bummers aside, Noah was good — he was really good, in fact, muzzling the Marlins over seven innings and getting just enough support, thanks to home runs from Jose Reyes [3] and Michael Conforto [4]. I’ll admit I glimpsed most of the proceedings while swimming up out of a light doze on the couch, for which I’m not particularly apologetic: cancelled flight, night in Kentucky airport hotel, some dingus pulled the fire alarm at 4 a.m., I’m getting too old to just drop back to sleep after something like that, 7 a.m. flight back to New York. In other words, by mid-afternoon I was torpid, to put it kindly.

Torpid, but trying. The result was like a Peanuts special — a background whawha-wawha that occasionally resolved into Gary Cohen being excited. Reyes cracks one to deep left field! And Conforto clubs one! At which point I’d come up for air, peer at the score bug and then slowly submerge again.

Truth be told, though, there’s only so much excitement to be had with these two teams in their current diminished form contesting not much. I woke up all the way for the end, when things got dicey — as they always do at Soilmaster Stadium — and Seth Lugo [5] had to find his way out. It looked bad when J.T. Realmuto [6] whacked a leadoff single, and I cringed when Rafael Ortega [7] slapped a ball in Reyes’s direction at second. But Reyes and Amed Rosario [8] were up to the challenge, turning a hasty but successful two — which proved crucial when Miguel Rojas [9] then singled. In some other timeline that was a tie with disaster on deck, but in this one the Mets only needed one more out, and Starlin Castro [10] obligingly smacked a grounder right to Todd Frazier [11] to end things.

That was the game [12]; recap accomplished. But if you’re like me your eyes were probably elsewhere in Florida — namely Clearwater, where David Wright [13] donned the hallucinatory orange top and gray bottoms of a St. Lucie road uniform to play five innings. There’s not much actual baseball to report from that, but that’s not the point. Wright’s bid to return may be quixotic, sad and doomed, but it’s happening and Sunday marked a step forward. And despite it all, that’s good news. It’s wonderful news, in fact.

We have spilled many pixels on the trials and tribulations that have taken a Hall of Fame career away from a Hall of Fame person and I don’t think there’s any particular need for me to add to the pile on a rainy afternoon. But this lost season has left me wanting one more thing: a David Wright return to Citi Field, even if it’s for little more than a cameo.

I don’t know how much big-league baseball Wright can still extract from a body that’s betrayed him. The smart money would still be on “zero,” however much the heart rebels at further cruelty. The hopeful scenario has dwindled to … what, exactly? Pinch-hitting and day-game-after-a-night-game duty? But at this point I don’t care, and have no interest in being rational about it. David Wright deserves to choose his own time and place to step aside from the game to which he’s dedicated his life. And I hope he gets to make that decision having stepped onto a big-league field one more time.