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Ordinarily Enough

The Mets are an ordinary ballclub. They’re definitely not very good, they’re probably not very bad, even if five losses on a six-game road trip leaves you believing they couldn’t be much worse. They could be. They could also be better. It’s a long season. Teams that have yet to distinguish themselves one way or another can waft upward, drift downward or just tumbleweed along devoid of any kind of identifiable momentum.

Maybe the chance to play teams that have been demonstrably worse than them will be their near-term salvation. I heard that a couple of times as the Mets attempted to put their 1-5 jaunt behind them. The resolutely crummy Marlins, the noticeably depleted Nationals and the ambition-free Tigers constitute their menu of tantalizing possibility for the next two weeks. Sidestepping good teams in favor of bad teams looms eternally as the preferred route to respectability for ordinary teams.

During the offseason, the new general manager of the Mets, Brodie Van Wagenen, framed the Mets as some kind of supercontender in the making. The former agent’s core competency was pumping up the reputation of whoever’s cause he was representing. Other GMs might have tempered expectations and quietly worked to significantly improve the product. It did appear the 2019 Mets were likely to coalesce more effectively than the 2018 Mets, even as the roster that was being assembled now seems to have been explicitly built to defy sustained success. Nevertheless, Van Wagenen wanted us to know what he was selling us was something extraordinary.

Hard to buy that now, huh? The Mets are 17-20, suddenly 4½ games out of first place, not a factor in the emerging Wild Card race. Again, it’s a long season. You can scoff at taking remotely seriously a glance at the Mets’ position relative to other National League team not quite a quarter through the schedule, but every game not won in May is a game that can’t be unlost later. All we have for evidence of what the Mets are is how the Mets have played.

Scattered exceptional individual outbursts [1] notwithstanding, the Mets have played ordinary baseball. Sometimes they outpitch the competition. Sometimes they don’t. Sometimes they hit enough. Sometimes they don’t. Sometimes they make the plays they need to execute. Sometimes they don’t. On the whole, the personnel Van Wagenen added from outside the organization has been neither disastrous nor transformative. Sometimes some of the new Mets do well. Sometimes they don’t. It’s a very generic assessment of a very generic team.

On Wednesday, the Mets couldn’t have started a less distinctive pitcher. His name was Wilmer Font [2]. It is no knock on Wilmer Font to say that other than having fun with Wilmer’s last name and fondly recalling the last Met who shared Font’s first name, there was very little to say about Wilmer Font in advance of his first Met start. He was picked up because the Mets needed anybody, a description that neatly fits Wilmer Font, a former member of several other organizations who joined this one just the other day.

Font pitched OK against San Diego. Going in, the hope was he’d do just that. Seventy-five pitches was considered his highest ceiling. He threw sixty. One resulted in a home run to left field that Jeff McNeil [3], not quite a left fielder, couldn’t quite rob. Another was a popup to the periphery of no man’s land in much shorter left field, an outpost on the baseball map to which Amed Rosario [4] (lately “RosERRio” in my pal Jeff’s estimation) neglected to get his passport stamped. That pitch fell in and scored a second Padres run, tying the game at two in the third. You would have signed for four innings of two runs allowed from Wilmer Font because that’s what this season has become.

As the getaway game skated along at its brisk 2:44 pace, Robert Gsellman [5] kept the Padres from breaking the tie for a couple of innings. Matt Strahm (a name that more resembles a typo than a Font) did the same versus the Mets. McNeil and Rosario had linked their offensive capabilities to produce one run in the first. Tomás Nido [6], a sterling defensive catcher, homered in the second and prevented more Padre hijinks with a sharp pickoff throw to first in the fifth. Unlike McNeil, San Diego center fielder Manuel Margot was able to time a leap in the sixth and take away a home run, a ball Pete Alonso [7] made the mistake of hitting only conventionally deep rather than stratospherically so.

The Mets finally nudged Strahm from the mound in the seventh, fashioning their most golden chance to edge ahead. Michael Conforto [8] walked and stole second. One out hence, Brandon Nimmo [9] doubled, but Margot’s ability to delete extra-base hits left enough doubt to keep Conforto from advancing beyond third. In came Gerardo Reyes. Nido, he of the homer plus a single earlier, struck out. Todd Frazier [10] pinch-hit. Frazier lingers on the roster from the previous regime’s offseason mid-market shopping spree. Once in a while Frazier hits a ball over a wall and we can all feel pretty good about Frazier’s presence. The rest of the time he strikes out. This was the rest of the time. Todd went down swinging to Reyes.

In a rare moment of precise prescience a couple of innings before, because I’ve seen a few getaway games from Petco Park, I thought to myself that a) Tyler Bashlor [11] would come in eventually; and b) Tyler Bashlor would give up a possibly decisive home run. Bashlor I predicted because I figured he was due to pitch. The home run didn’t take more than an educated guess. Hunter Renfroe made me a prophet. I could have done without the honor.

The rest was an ordinary conclusion to an ordinary afternoon, better because there was baseball, not so great because there was a Mets loss lurking in the offing. The Mets strung together a hint of a two-out rally in the ninth, with J.D. Davis [12] singling off the glove of Ian Kinsler, who I sometimes forget isn’t Ian Desmond; otherwise forgotten Juan Lagares [13] pinch-running and grabbing second on a wild pitch; and Nimmo walking. Nido was due up. Only Wilson Ramos [14] sat on the bench as an alternative. Nido was having the game of his life, not that there have been a slew to choose from to date. Ramos is an established hitter who isn’t hitting. Like Frazier. Like several Mets. Mickey Callaway, whose second season at the helm is no more inspiring than his first, stuck with Nido, which I was fine with. Nido struck out, which I wasn’t fine with, but that was an ordinary enough outcome for an ordinary enough team losing an ordinary enough 3-2 game [15]. Even the score was ordinary.