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Immoral Victories

You know the thing about moral victories in baseball, right? Namely, that they don’t exist. You were down 8-1 and gallantly came back and showed fight and lost 8-7? Here’s a pat on the head, because that’s called a loss.

Well, Wednesday night’s game against the Marlins, because of course it had to be the Marlins, was an immoral victory. The Mets won, but it felt like they’d lost and I was thoroughly mad at them despite the final score.

Jacob deGrom [1] started, because of course this disaster had to involve poor Jacob deGrom, to whom pretty much the exact same thing happened last start. And he was … I don’t know, we’re running out of superlatives for deGrom by now. I could wax lyrical about the power and the command, I could strain myself invoking Seaver and Gooden and Santana, and your eyes would glaze over because you’ve heard it and read it before. Yeah yeah, you’d think, I get it. He was Jacob deGrom. And there it is: He was Jacob deGrom, which in this case meant 14 Ks in seven innings and nary a sweat broken. By now the man is his own superlative.

The Mets followed one of their more embarrassing twin bills in team history [2] by actually scoring runs — first one, then another, then somehow two more, and I actually made the mistake of feeling like the game was safe. Oh ho ho. Ah ha ha. Justin Wilson [3], normally one of the reliable relievers, came in and promptly gave up three straight singles while getting one out. The last single was a bit unlucky, a little parachute just over Jeff McNeil [4]‘s glove, but the other two came on balls that were supposed to be down and stayed up. Wilson was excused further duty and on came Edwin Diaz [5], who once upon a time was an elite closer.

“Diaz is gonna fuck this up, isn’t he?” I tweeted, and told myself that was a clever reverse jinx, and in a minute I’d be able to retweet myself mockingly but happily. But my heart wasn’t in it. I figured he really was going to fuck it up, and he did. Diaz fanned Jesus Sanchez [6], yielded a scorching infield single to Jesus Aguilar [7] that nearly put a baseball-sized hole in J.D. Davis [8] and made the score 4-2, then walked Corey Dickerson [9] to force in a run and make it 4-3.

By now the cardboard cutouts had come to life and were booing — even the dogs were howling for blood in a corrugated way — and Luis Rojas [10] was growing more gray and stooped by the second where he stood morosely in the dugout. It was 4-3, Diaz had already fucked this up, and one skinny bit of further fuckuppery was all that separated deGrom from looking a little stern yet philosophical in his postgame Zoom and being deprived of another win by his teammates’ chronic ineptitude.

INTERIOR — COURTROOM

Judge: All rise.

[hubbub, rising and what-not]

Judge: Mr. deGrom, you are accused of taking a two-by-four to your co-workers in a disturbing workplace incident. How do you plead?

Lawyer: Your Honor, Mr. deGrom is a New York Met, and we have a short video montage we’d like introduced into evidence.

[said evidence is displayed]

Judge: Case dismissed.

With a 1-1 count on Brian Anderson [11], Diaz spiked a slider into the dirt and came off the mound a little gimpily. The trainer and Rojas came out, Diaz argued to stay in the game, trainer and Rojas correctly noted that he’d done enough, and he departed with some injury for which I haven’t yet seen a diagnosis, and the nature of which I honestly couldn’t give a shit about.

In 40-odd years as a baseball fan I have (mostly) learned to be reasonable and understand that everyone is trying, injuries and simple buzzard’s luck can affect outcomes, and one should never reach moral conclusions based on the outcome of anything so maddingly fickle as hurled balls and swung bats and lunging gloves. But eventually even the most rational fan has had enough, and I have had enough of Edwin Diaz. The ground is salted. He should become someone else’s problem to fix, or no one’s problem, and I do not particularly care which. Diagnose him with inability to pitch and put him on the 45,000-day IL. Edwino delenda est.

Poor Brad Brach [12] inherited Diaz’s 2-1 count and threw two more balls, walking in yet another run. The walk and the blown save go on Diaz’s ledger, and in this one case baseball’s quirky rules are inarguably fair. Another deGrom masterpiece had been covered in fingerpaint and crayon, and I huffily folded my arms and waited for the rest of the disaster.

Which somehow didn’t come. Robinson Cano [13] singled, Billy Hamilton [14] replaced him, Wilson Ramos [15] singled Hamilton in, Brach went back out there and got three outs, though one of them came when Jonathan Villar [16] — who’s an excellent player except when the Mets are involved — slid head-first into McNeil’s foot instead of second base. He was called safe, but a crew-chief review showed he was out, since opponents’ shoes only count as bases on alternate Sundays under 2020’s let’s-all-shrug-and-do-shit COVID rules. It was kind of bullshit, the sort of injustice that one would have just grumbled mildly about in the pre-replay era, but I was willing to take it, and a couple of minutes later Miguel Rojas [17] hit an initially scarily trajectoried but ultimately harmless fly ball and the Mets had somehow won [18].

The Mets had somehow won, but it sure didn’t feel like they had. Certainly they hadn’t deserved to. I still felt like booing.

The best thing to do, probably, is draw a curtain across this one and never think of it again. It didn’t make any sense, and your insisting it should have won’t make any difference. It’s just baseball, it’ll drive you crazy if you let it, and 2020’s already got that more than covered.