- Faith and Fear in Flushing - http://www.faithandfearinflushing.com -

Sunset Is Upon Us

And so it ends.

The Mets will not play October baseball. The last invitation to the dance belongs to the Milwaukee Brewers, who thoroughly deserved it — they lost an MVP candidate and somehow found a higher gear, steamrolling all competition in a magical September. Congratulations to them, and solace to our fellow eliminatees, the Chicago Cubs. Cubs fans still have the afterglow of the unimaginable to sustain them, true, but the Cubs were ejected from a real chance at postseason possibilities in just about the cruelest way possible, swept at home by their arch-rivals.

But that’s baseball, isn’t it? The highest of highs, the lowest of lows, and if you’re the kind of person who feels entitled to the former and can’t abide the idea of the latter, well, maybe this isn’t the sport for you. The Mets gave us both in 2019 — left for dead in early July, but alive until the final minutes of Game 158. Over our years here, I’m said a number of pointed and/or venomous things about the Wilpons, but I’ve never taken issue with Fred’s oft-derided invocation of “meaningful games in September,” because I never thought there was anything wrong with it. Given baseball’s ebbs and flows, variability and luck, I’ll happily sign up to watch a team that plays the final month with a real chance at games with bunting and flyovers and annoying Fox announcers. And a team that has you scoreboard-watching in the last week has had a successful season, even without the pomp and circumstance of Games 163 and beyond.

The Mets will miss the dance by an agonizingly, annoyingly slim margin, but we’ll have time (far too much time) to talk about that later. For now, they followed up Tuesday night’s indignant leap out of the coffin [1] with a laugher [2]. Jacob deGrom [3] closed out his 2019 campaign with a masterpiece, one that happily came without the usual fingerpainting from teammates not inclined to hit or play defense. DeGrom has even given us a last thing to scoreboard-watch — on Saturday, we can root against Hyun-Jin Ryu [4] in hopes that JdG steals away the National League ERA title and, in all likelihood, a second straight Cy Young award.

The other Mets backed deGrom ably. Pete Alonso [5] ended his minor power outage with his 51st homer, a no-doubter deep into the Flushing night; Michael Conforto [6] kept slugging; and Amed Rosario [7] offered further exhibits showing how far he’s come as both a hitter and a defender, combining with Robinson Cano [8] on a balletic double play and then ranging far to his left to make the kind of play we’d decided Rosario didn’t make.

(And, on the melancholy side, Jeff McNeil [9]‘s marvelous season is over a little early, ended by a broken hand.)

Alonso and Conforto have historical milestones and round numbers in possible reach, but I’m going to try and watch these last four games without worrying about them too much. I want to watch Alonso diesel baseballs and Conforto knock in runners without immediately needing to ask for a specific little more. Just like I want to watch Rosario continue to expand his horizons, and see Brandon Nimmo [10]‘s home-run anti-trot again, and hope J.D. Davis [11] does something else that’s endearingly goofy. Maybe Sam Haggerty [12] will get a start and a ball for his trophy case — the Marlins’ Tyler Heineman [13] collected his first MLB hit off deGrom Wednesday night, which has to make an always-sweet first souvenir even sweeter.

And then, when all that’s done, I’ll watch other teams play ball, navigating the highly temporary affections and allegiances of October. No, the Mets won’t be a part of the dance, and that will make me sad. But in 50 years on the planet, I’ve never found a form of entertainment that moves me and fulfills me and makes me as happy as baseball does. Sunset has come for the team we hold dear, but the party will go on under the stars, and there’s no way I’d miss it.