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That Man Again

If you’d like some good news from Sunday’s 4-3 loss [1] to the Cardinals, there’s this: Somehow, we’ve reached a juncture where the idea that Jason Vargas [2] might be absent from duty is a cause for concern instead of mild relief.

That sounds like a dig but isn’t — Vargas has been genuinely good of late, a sort of mini-Bartolo Colon [3] (also not a dig), living off incremental changes in speed and precise location to baffle hitters wired for combating superhuman fastballs. I’m still surprised that it’s happened, but it has.

Fortunately, Vargas’s leg injury appears to have been a cramp, and shouldn’t impact his next start. Unfortunately, the Mets are shorn of Noah Syndergaard [4], for how long no one knows, just as no one knows what Plan B is behind him. Most likely it will be Wilmer Font [5], who pitched effectively on Sunday and has looked better of late, though he’ll always be “Font” when I’m yelling at the TV, “Wilmer” being reserved for another departed and dearly beloved Met. It probably won’t be Anthony Kay [6], who just struggled in his first Syracuse start and deserves time to figure out how not to struggle rather than being thrown in the Braves-Phils-Cubs-Yanks cauldron that now awaits the Mets, and that I suspect will be the stretch of the season that ends all fantasies in which the Mets are relevant come September.

I hope Syndergaard’s replacement won’t be Chris Flexen [7], who hung a 3-1 slider that became a souvenir and the fulcrum of Sunday’s loss. Flexen has been converted to relief, but he looked very like the Chris Flexen I had no particular desire to see ever again. On the other hand, the fatal pitch was a slider, and we know how that goes this year. Also, the Cardinal who hit that slider was Paul DeJong [8]. You could take Tom Seaver [9]‘s brain and download it into a diamond-thewed, nuclear-powered Transformer who threw 250 MPH and DeJong would manage to bang one off the pole. At this point, it’s a surprise when he doesn’t beat the Mets, and I would very much like him to be inducted into Cooperstown (because surely he beats everybody the way he beats us) and stop tormenting my baseball team.

Flexen’s return to duty was followed by the Mets debut of Brooks Pounders [10], a perfectly monikered baseball player. Pounders is 6′ 5″ and listed at 265, which should be assessed the same way you’d ponder a listing for me as 180 with Syndergaardian locks. Sticking with comparative adjectives, Pounders is Bohananesque, Bell-shaped, Colonnoidal.

We’re not selling jeans here, to quote Billy Beane [11], so if Pounders does well that will just mean there’s more of him to love — I have fond memories of the three hefty hurlers name-checked right above. His first Mets inning was a blameless affair, but that scoreless frame lowered his career ERA to 8.69, which is the kind of number you’ll have more trouble getting a kindly recorder of vital figures to shave a bit. He also has a career FIP of 6.31 … and the pitch he relies on is a slider.

I will temper my enthusiasm.