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Not Their Best Met Selves

What you want as a fan is for your team to be its best self always. Of course you do. Win. Win 162 times and then eleven more times and then shower us in confetti. Be so best en route to the Canyon of Heroes that our only serious opponent will be boredom. I’d take on that challenge.

Based on all available evidence, Mets vs. Winning Too Often To Be Interesting will never be the Game of the Week. We know as Mets fans that you can win no more than two-thirds of your games, even if we also know you can lose no more than three-quarters of them. Somewhere between the extremes of 1986 and 1962, we simply crave satisfaction in quantities greater than the bushels of frustration that are part and parcel of any season.

How good could these 2019 Mets be if they were at their best every day? Or more days than they have been of late? Good enough to not be one-hit by the Miami Marlins [1], universally understood as the most hopeless franchise in all of baseball with a 12-31 record, a mark that used to be 10-31, until the Mets arrived at Marlins Park and were first clobbered for eight runs, then squelched so tightly that they scored none.

The Marlins were due to beat somebody, maybe even the same somebody twice consecutively. It’s worth emphasizing that even the most wayward outfits in the sport occasionally straighten up and fly right. Witness the 40 victories captured by those 1962 Mets, a pair of them at the expense of the Los Angeles Dodgers, who wouldn’t have been forced into a pennant-losing playoff had they conquered the conquerable Mets just one more time. Witness the 47-115 Baltimore Orioles of 2018, who landed at Citi Field last June a molting 17-41 and left temporarily soaring at 19-41. Conversely, the 1986 Mets split a doubleheader with the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Mets won 108 games. The Pirates lost 98. Yet for half of one day, those Pirates outperformed those Mets (which explains why the Mets went only 17-1 versus the Pirates in 1986).

Now that we’ve admitted any major league team can top any other major league team in a one- or two-game vacuum, we can express our disgust that the Mets’ totaled one hit in their 2-0 loss Saturday to the Marlins. The one hit came at the top of the game when Jeff McNeil surprised himself with a double down the third base line — he seemed to think it was foul — and the Mets surprised few of us by following it up with silence, though perhaps the volume of the silence could be termed surprisingly deafening. I suppose it was unexpected that the same Pablo Lopez they’d strafed for an eight-run first inning in Flushing eight days before was able to expertly stifle their offensive impulses, but you’ve seen these Mets. You know how they can be. You know how they’ve been.

Before the Marlins cracked the Met code, I’d taken to privately interpreting the Mets’ record as such: “The Mets are 5-0 against the Marlins and [the rest of their wins and losses] against everybody else.” This is to say that I had the feeling the only thing levitating the Mets above obviously inadequate was taking care of the one team that basically couldn’t beat anybody. That’s over, apparently.

Like the 2018 Orioles, the 2019 Marlins found the Mets. Everybody’s found the Mets too often these past two seasons, a.k.a. the Mickey Callaway Era, however long that lasts. If you blog about the Mets and don’t get around to recapping their most recent defeat until the next morning, you keep checking the wires to make sure you will be accurate talking about the Mickey Callaway Era in the present tense.

Mickey’s still managing in the hours leading up to the Marlins Park finale. Perhaps Noah Syndergaard will make him look like the empathetic genius he was sold to us as in the fall of 2017. Perhaps Syndergaard himself will avail himself of all his Thorrific powers as he did versus the Reds recently and the National League for the bulk of 2016. That’s what I’d like to see — everybody being their best Met selves, or at least the versions that seemed legitimately possible when we told ourselves nothing but good things about this aggregation of Met personalities.

Amed Rosario living up to his top-prospect notices.

Brandon Nimmo a slugging as well as walking machine.

Robinson Cano leading both by veteran wisdom and on-field example.

Michael Conforto staying upright.

Jacob deGrom’s infrequent “off” nights overwhelming every other pitcher’s “on” nights.

Zack Wheeler’s groove extending across seasons.

Steven Matz’s pitch count expended in efficient and effective fashion.

A bullpen that is used not to excess as it grows used to success.

Wilson Ramos stabilizing the catching position.

Todd Frazier aging a touch slower.

Carlos Gomez visiting the team hotel’s fountain of youth before boarding the bus to the ballpark.

Juan Lagares making those strides as a hitter we heard were imminent.

Random fifth starters evincing adequacy as needed.

The manager exhibiting the cleverness necessary to consistently deploy J.D. Davis, Dominic Smith and Tomás Nido when others’ bests are out of reach because good managers, regardless of how little they are said to manage these days, understand they have to keep everybody on their roster fresh and engaged.

That smooth-talking Brodie Van Wagenen articulately working with those big-market owners the Wilpons to secure additional talent when the in-house personnel isn’t quite covering the proverbial or actual bases.

Not everybody’s gonna be their best Met selves constantly, even if you have it in your mind that that’s who they really are or should be. You get a glimpse or a taste or even a suggestion and you want to believe that what you picture in your highest aspirations is the Met norm. It’s hard to accept that those to whom you’ve assigned the fate of your baseball emotions aren’t handling them as expertly as you though they were capable. Indeed, part of me is also still waiting for Travis d’Arnaud to bust out, Keon Broxton to light a spark and, for that matter, Leon Brown to swipe bases at a Lou Brock pace.

Then it doesn’t happen. Little happens besides the Orioles taking a pair from the Mets one year when the Orioles can’t beat anybody and the Marlins doing the same the next year. Pete Alonso cheers you up. Jeff McNeil provides you succor. You’re happy to see rust-laden Gomez again because you’re almost always happy to greet an old friend who’s been off wandering the deserts beyond Flushing for nearly a dozen seasons. You don’t seriously consider deGrom a problem. Bashlor, Gsellman, Lopez, Diaz, even Familia aren’t wholly ruining your chances. Nimmo does find ways to get on. Cano surely hasn’t lasted this long solely on not knowing how many outs there are, not running to first base, not explaining himself convincingly and not hitting in the clutch.

The season would be more fun if the Mets were as much fun as you talked yourself into believing they were going to be and still talk yourself into when they’re hardly any fun at all. Watch the MLB Network or scroll unaffiliated baseball Twitter accounts and you see other teams are fun. First-place teams. Teams that are close to first place. Teams that are rising above what was forecast for them. Teams that have a couple of good nights.

The Mets aren’t fun right now, which is a shame, because we didn’t wait all winter to wonder what the hell is to become of our summer yet again.