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Help! I’m Starting to Not Like Baseball!

The Mets lost and it was excruciating on so many levels.

They weren’t even playing the Phillies, really; rather, they were playing the lesser half of the Phillies, shorn of Bryce Harper [1] and Didi Gregorius [2] and J.T. Realmuto and Jean Segura [3]. It didn’t matter. They probably would have lost to a bunch of Norristown tykes who barely topped four feet and were wearing blue jeans below t-shirts that said PHILLIES and had a local deli’s name on the back.

Mets pitchers gave up a grand total of two runs. Those runs scored, unbelievably, on a strikeout with two outs. A strikeout of the opposing pitcher. You cannot make this shit up.

You’d like to be making up the report that Marcus Stroman [4] — wonderful after his bobble last time around — departed early because of a tight hamstring. But that was all too real — Steve Cohen himself said so, and I figure he ought to know.

A game that was already a farce degenerated further in the eighth, when the Phillies put on a show of performative high dudgeon about perceived Met misdeeds. First came Jose Alvarado [5], who found the plate in the nick of time to fan Dom Smith [6] on pretty much the only good pitch he’d made all inning. Alvarado wasn’t happy a little while ago when Smith wasn’t happy about Alvarado hitting Michael Conforto [7]; having struck Smith out, he struttingly invited the defeated Met to talk about their differences, causing the benches to empty and mill about and the bullpens to rush in, not that bullpens actually rush — they more huff and puff dutifully but unhappily about the whole thing. To the disgust of Ron Darling [8], the Mets didn’t start throwing haymakers; I thought that was less choosing pacifism than being baffled about the whole thing. Why would anyone try to wake up an opponent already so thoroughly asleep that you’re tempted to hold a mirror up to the batters’ mouths?

An inning later, Miguel Castro [9] came inside to Rhys Hoskins [10] with a pair of pitches. I doubt they were meant to hit anyone — they looked like sinkers that didn’t sink — but Hoskins, whom we’ve seen be touchy before, took loud exception. Cue more emptying, milling and dutiful reliever huffing and puffing, at which point I suggested the two bullpens simply brawl in the outfield to save each other the time and exertion. Nothing happened, largely because Francisco Lindor [11] practically draped himself over Castro, keeping him out of further trouble — Lindor’s leadership remains All-Star quality even as his bat is stuck below replacement level. Somehow I found myself missing Larry Bowa [12]. By that point Bowa would have stripped naked, lit himself on fire and become a superheated meteor of chaos racing around the field combusting everything within range; what we got instead was a bunch of posturing and chippiness that was both embarrassingly shrill and deeply stupid.

And beneath all that, there was something worse: Friday night’s game was another very 2021 ballgame, which is to say it was very long and very boring. The Mets and Phillies combined for three runs and nine hits, which isn’t much but somehow took three hours and twenty minutes. I’ve said before that I don’t like gimmicks like the three-batter rule or ghost runners, to say nothing of tinkering with 60 feet, six inches, but there are too many unwatchable games these days. Something has to change, not for the young future generations that baseball’s deeply concerned about unless it involves scheduling postseason games that generation can actually stay up to watch, but for old generations like mine, fans who love baseball but find it increasingly clunky and slothful and deeply dull.

After the game’s merciful death rattle [13], Darling grimly said the Mets needed to view Friday night as rock bottom, put April behind them and come out firing in May. Which would be nice. But I’ve watched my share of fundamentally bad teams, teams in danger of mistaking buzzards’ luck for their own character, and teams that will be OK once they stop getting in their own way. I don’t know which category the 2021 Mets belong in, not yet, but I have learned this much: There’s no surer way to make yourself miserable than to declare a certain debacle is rock bottom. All too often, you’ve got plenty of falling left.