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

Good Night, Sweet Mets

Most of Sunday afternoon’s game was must-see TV: a taut duel between starting pitchers you didn’t think had it in them. Rick Porcello [1] had his best start as a Met, looking like the pitcher he was before his baffling, seemingly self-inflicted transformation into a pinata. The Braves’ Kyle Wright [2] was fabulous too, throwing strikes and delivering the kind of start that can be a north star for a young pitcher trying to figure it out. With fall in the air and the wind blowing in, the game looked like it would be decided by the smallest of differences: Wilson Ramos [3] hit a double that would have been out on a warmer day and Brandon Nimmo [4] hit a ball that seemed gone but came down just inside the fence, while Ronald Acuna Jr. [5] hit a ball to right that wiggled and wobbled its way through the air, moving steadily and inexorably and maddeingly towards the foul pole and away from Michael Conforto [6] before dropping just into Utleyville.

A wonderful game, in other words, except for the pesky detail of the scoreboard showing Braves 1, Mets 0 instead of the reverse.

And then, well, it turned into a 2020 Mets game.

First came Travis d’Arnaud [7], who dropped a ball into the corner in the eighth inning off Jeurys Familia [8] for a double and two more runs.

D’Arnaud’s rampage against his former club is evidence that, at least in baseball, the arc of the moral universe really does bend towards justice.

In case you’ve suppressed what the Mets did to d’Arnaud, he lost most of 2018 to Tommy John [9] surgery but was given a contract to be Ramos’s backup to begin 2019. His arm strength clearly wasn’t all the way back, his reactions were rusty, and at the end of April he had a miserable game against the Brewers both behind the plate and on the bases. Twenty-five plate appearances in, the Mets shed the guy who’d been the centerpiece of the R. A. Dickey trade with Toronto.

Now, in an effort to fight against the perfection of hindsight, it must be noted that a) TdA had had a truly wretched game, one of those putrid nights that leaves fans stewing and looking for someone to blame; and b) between his bizarre collection of injuries and overall failure to launch, our collective patience with d’Arnaud was pretty much exhausted. Suffice it to say that as a fanbase we didn’t mourn his departure overmuch. (Though Greg did offer a nicely nuanced farewell [10].) Still, with a little time and distance that decision — call it the TdA DfA — came to look less like a wise jettisoning of sunk costs and more like a … well, perhaps you might call it a spasm of petty, vindictive pique, one that may as well have hit the media room with FROM THE DESK OF FAILSON across the top of it.

The Mets either should have let d’Arnaud knit ligaments and shake off his rust on someone else’s dime, or acknowledged that there’d be such days but they still believed in him blah blah blah blah. Instead, they split the difference in the dumbest possible way, paying for the project but letting someone else get the dividends. Once freed from the Mets, d’Arnaud touched down with the Dodgers for approximately a second, went on to the Rays, got healthy and non-rusty and had a pretty good year, and then signed on for two years with Atlanta and embarked on a new hobby: beating the ever-loving shit out of the Mets at pretty much each and every opportunity.

Honestly, good for him. I think of Jeff Wilpon wincing with every run scored (or, more likely, insisting a little more loudly to an empty room that someone else is to blame), and that makes it hurt a bit less.

Anyway, d’Arnaud’s 509th …AND TAKE THAT! of the 2020 season made it 3-0 Braves; in the ninth the roof caved in, the scoreboard said 7-0 and something was on fire outside Citi Field, sending a plume of noxious smoke drifting over the cutouts and the field and causing the jokes to once again write themselves. Perhaps what was being reduced to particulates was the Mets’ last hope of playing a role other than observer in the 2020 Baseball Cup: Sunday’s loss [11] downgraded their chances from “very slim” to “now you’re really joking.”

And yet I found I’d reached the “acceptance” step in the program. At their best, the 2020 Mets looked like one of those poorly constructed assemblages that occasionally manages to outhit the rest of its pretty obvious flaws; at anything less than their best, they looked like they did Sunday afternoon. And yet, the noxious Wilpons really are finally about to go up in smoke themselves. We got an improvised but reasonably complete baseball season when I wasn’t expecting one at all and then was pretty sure the improvisation wouldn’t stick. And despite the judgment of scoreboard and standings, that Let’s Make It Up As We Go campaign was pretty goddamn fun sometimes and a much-needed diversion-cum-distraction the rest of the time.

Given what else 2020 has brought us, I’ll take it — even if it came with the occasional Sunday afternoon that began taut with tension and at least vaguely plausible possibility and ended without either.