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‘Ee’s a Jonah, He Is’

I spent the last five days in Chicago, getting my Star Wars on at McCormick Place and in the hotel bar. So my Mets attention was fitful and scattershot. I saw news of the first night’s events in amazing seats behind the plate at Wrigley Field (plenty of good options available when it’s still frigid), departing in the seventh when freezing rain began tumbling out of the sky. I followed the first game in Philadelphia on MLB.TV, huddled in a corner of the Delta Sky Club while wondering if I’d ever get back to New York and if the flu I’d caught would be fatal. (So far: yes, and probably not.) I was on the plane and monitoring GameDay when I saw Michael Conforto [1]‘s AB turn into IN PLAY, RUN(S), which I took as a good omen. As, indeed, it was.

And then I got to recap Tuesday night’s delight.

With that con flu ripping through me, I conked out in my bed around 7pm, Howie Rose and Wayne Randazzo speaking beside me. I woke up some indeterminate time later to hear Howie sounding exasperated, even by Howie standards. I peered at the phone. It was 8-0. Well, that wasn’t ideal.

From there I spent the game in a strange dose, sometimes just beneath the surface of consciousness and sometimes just above it. The Mets seemed to be getting an inordinate number of hits for a team down by double digits, and I knew if ever there was a park where impossible comebacks might happen, it was Philadelphia. My sick, slumbering brain proved more creative than actual reality, though — I kept dreaming comebacks which turned out not to exist. The gap steadily widened, the narrative turned into the relative heroism of Drew Gagnon [2], and Howie began complaining about HBO shows not being “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” the Barclays Center and its unsuitability for hockey, and anything else about modern life that crossed his radar. (To his credit, he was generally amusing in his grumpiness, and admitted that hey, it was 14-3 [3]. Meanwhile, Gary Cohen and Keith Hernandez [4] were trying on hotdog hats next door. However you tuned in, the night was more about survival than broadcasting awards.)

One thing I’d missed while in Chicago was the return of Paul Sewald [5]. I must now sigh deeply.

For years I’ve had an odd habit of taking a deep dislike to one Met on the roster, concluding that everything that befalls the team is obviously his fault. Sometimes players deserve this by seeming generally unlikeable — Michael Tucker [6], Jon Niese [7], or Jim Leyritz [8] in his happily brief spring-training cameo. (By the way, Steven Matz [9] was thoroughly Niesean in his performance, and it’s high time someone taught him to stop feeling sorry for himself on the mound.)

Sometimes my deep dislike is inexplicable — I detested Jose Vizcaino [10] for years before he became a Yankee and crushed our dreams in 2000. Couldn’t tell you why, but anyone singing the praises of “the Viz” made me want to throttle people. Other times my animosity builds gradually, in response to ever-mounting hangdog tragedy and buzzard’s luck. For an example of this last kind of dislike, we need go no farther than Aaron Heilman [11].

And Sewald. Sewald always looks doughty and determined, but it never makes a damn bit of difference — he’s doomed when he steps on the mound, and everybody knows it. Yeah, he was OKish Tuesday night. That’s because the game wasn’t close. If it had been 3-3 he’d have been undressed by a line drive, Charlie Brown-style, and have Jeff McNeil [12] bring back the baseball in a dog dish. You know this, I know this, and most likely Paul Sewald knows it. (Mickey Callaway [13] probably doesn’t, because I don’t think he knows anything.) Sewald is a warm body, a replacement level nonentity, a ham-and-egger with no detectable redeeming features besides being bipedal and ambulatory. Every day he spends on our roster eats minutely at my soul.

This tradition of inexplicable blame goes back way before baseball — in the English navy, tragic shipmates were known as Jonahs, and treated with everything from open hostility to secretly murderous intent. I certainly don’t want any of those things to happen to Sewald, who seems a decent sort, but he’s a Jonah and disaster will stalk the Mets so long as he trods the decks of the S.S. Mickey, getting whacked by booms and run over by poorly secured barrels and skulled by heavy, salt-sodden lines.

While thinking of Jonahs, a postscript: in the offseason I started gathering Topps cards for potential new players, and noticed a weird set with a unique Gregor Blanco [14] card. What was Topps Emerald Nuts? It turned out to be a sponsored set given away at Giants games, with the same look as that year’s Topps cards but some different photos and unique cards. And I realized to my horror that it had existed from 2005 through 2012 without my being aware of it.

The Emerald Nuts people would probably say they just wanted to make a nice giveaway, but I know the truth: their sets constitute a rogue’s gallery of all-time Met Jonahs, possibly with malefic powers. The thoroughly detestable Guillermo Mota [15] got unique Emerald Nuts cards in three different years. Fantastically useless outfielder Andres Torres [16] got two. Inexplicably incompetent¬†Ramon Ramirez [17] got one. So did Joaquin Arias [18], and Tyler Walker [19], and Jose Vizcaino. So I spent the winter haunting eBay for sets featuring players I’d been happy to mostly forget, grumbling all the while.

Paul Sewald has no Emerald Nuts card. The set hasn’t been given away since 2012. But given who Sewald is, one day he will have one. That’s a when, not an if.