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Worse By One Third

After Sean Green — who elicited the first visceral couch-to-TV reaction of 2010: “Get Sean Green the fuck off my team!” — gave up the laser shot home run to Dan Uggla in the seventh, building the Marlin lead to 6-1, I filed Tuesday night’s game in that one third you’re going to lose, per the ancient and reasonable equation [1] that dictates:

• You’re going to win a third of the games you play.
• You’re going to lose a third of the games you play.
• It’s what you do with the other third that determines your season.

Granted, the first four editions of the Mets couldn’t handle winning a third of their games, and a handful of superteams not clad in Mets uniforms managed to avoid losing a third, but otherwise, it’s a very logical and comforting thought. It keeps you from taking at least 54 games per regulation year too hard. You don’t want to lose, but you accept that losing’s a fact of life.

But when you are compelled to refile a game from “a third you lose” to “the other third”…well, that’s not comforting and it usually causes you to devalue logic. I say usually because a game that sees you come back from 6-1 to tie it 6-6 only to lose it 7-6 tends to favor raw emotion over calm reflection. Yet, unlike Samantha Sang, there was no emotion taking me over [2] (save for Green, and that was earlier) when the game went final. I didn’t expect the Mets to win this game for very long, so it didn’t feel as if the fates were smacking us around.

It came down to a team playing badly beating a team that showed little sign of being very good. We should have taken advantage, but we were incapable. The Marlins winked at us, flashed us some thigh and all but pointed us to the casbah, but we stood there with our thumbs in our gloves not getting the message.

Nevertheless, just standing there almost worked. Just standing there served us well on June 30, 2000 [3], when four consecutive walks were put to astoundingly good use, eventually qualifying them for a plaque among the bricks running down the first base line adjacent to Citi Field [4]. Thing is, that Mets team also had Edgardo Alfonzo singling home the second and third of those walked runners and Mike Piazza homering home the fourth of them, along with Fonzie and himself.

That’s how you earn a plaque, and that’s what was missing  last night: big-time stepping up. The Mets scored six runs via two sac flies, a whisper-subtle balk, a well-placed groundout (well-placed because it was eventually founds its way to Uggla, who threw it away) and two bases-loaded walks. Runs are runs, but none of them was driven in by a base hit. According to Adam Rubin of ESPN New York, that’s a franchise record [5]…and that was without the passed ball that wasn’t, the one on which Fernando Tatis didn’t score (I would have liked to have seen an isolated shot of his break from third to determine if he had any kind of chance to begin with) and without the would-be sac fly that I thought Jason Bay could have scored on had he tagged and been in position to take advantage of Chris Coghlan’s rainbow toss to the plate once it flew over the river and through the woods.

No Piazza or Alfonzo in sight (although Alex Cora in No. 13 makes me think of Edgardo every time). No Reyes yet, no Beltran for a bit. No sustained offensive threat with Wright batting third, Bay batting fifth and everybody else gamely battling but indicating only sporadic capability of driving runs home.

And yes, John Maine needed to call a plumber [6]. Or he needed to call me. I feel I sent my boy down the block without training wheels for the first time considering last night was Johnny’s first home start in ten — encompassing his last two at Shea and his first seven at Citi [7] — for which I wasn’t on hand to lend him requisite encouragement. Boy did he look lost without me and his good stuff (probably more the latter than the former). Does he still have good stuff? Late in Spring Training, a friend and I chuckled over a Mets.com headline inviting one and all to watch MLB.tv to observe John Maine “build up his shoulder strength [8],” as that’s just what draws a fan in to technology.

Maine’s shoulder or whatever body part he depends on wasn’t bringing it last night and his face betrayed that. I’m usually watching him from no closer to the mound than a Promenade seat, so I don’t know if that’s a common expression for him when he’s in Queens. Does he always look so frustrated?

Last night, thanks to SNY, was also my first good look at the bullpen. The physical bullpen, I mean. Yet another Citi Field improvement, being able to see who’s warming up. The problem is getting an even better view of who’s coming in…which is both a cheap shot after one bad night and probably fairly accurate. I’m going to cut Jenrry Mejia first-game slack, but his electric stuff was short-circuited by those teal bastards who saw him enough in Spring Training [9] to know what was coming.

Let’s hang on to this kid at least ’til we go to Colorado, against whom (save for video) he’s a completely unknown quantity. FYI: Jerry Koosman made the Mets out of camp in 1967 as a reliever, was sent down after five appearances and eventually grew up to be Jerry Koosman, greatest lefthanded starter in Mets history. Jenrry Mejia may not be Jerry Koosman, but I’m not willing to assume he’s Jerry DiPoto, either.

Sean Green — striding warily into DiPoto territory by my reckoning — I’m not slack-cutting because I’m a Mets fan and I have to blame at least one reliever for my problems, but Hisanori Takahashi also gets a provisional pass here, partly for being Wes Helmsed to death (nine-pitch at-bat, ouch), partly for it being his first MLB and USA game. Takahashi’s a rookie in that been a Japanese professional a long time way, but he was one of three Mets to make his big league debut Wednesday night. Takahashi was doing it from the vantage point of someone born in 1975, which is rather dated for a freshman in 2010. Mejia and Ruben Tejada, on the other hand, were doing it from the perspective of youngsters born in 1989, the first Mets who could ever say that.

Six Mets have made their team debut this season, four of them born in the ’70s, two in the very late ’80s; DNPers Henry Blanco and Ryota Igarashi, for the record, came to be in 1971 and 1979, respectively. It thus appears, unless somebody revisits January’s mysterious John Smoltz scenario [10], that we’re done with Mets who were born the same decade as the Mets themselves.

First Met born in the 1960s? Brian Giles, born April 27, 1960, debuted September 12, 1981.

Last Met born in the 1960s? Gary Sheffield, born November 18, 1968, final game as one of us September 30, 2009 [11].

Then again, there was a six-season gap between the going of Rickey Henderson [12] (b. 1958) in 2000 and the coming of Julio Franco [13] (b. 1958) in 2006. And Jesse Orosco [14] (b. 1957) is still lefthanded.

Meanwhile, LHP Jamie Moyer is the scheduled starter for the Phillies Saturday night. Jamie Moyer, who began pitching in the majors in 1986, is the last active player I can call my senior. I will not root for the 47-year-old southpaw to win, but I will root for him to endure.

Being older than all but 749 of 750 major leaguers means I’ve seen a lot, and being me means I remember much of it. I remember thinking in past years that first losses after Opening Day wins have been the only losses I’ve not automatically resented [15]. It’s an annual ritual: We’re 1-0, I can’t imagine the horrors of being 1-1. We’re 2-0, I’m certain the world will come to an end if we’re 2-1. We’re 3-0, I’m usually out in the street all night swilling champagne, so don’t bring me down, man.

But there are exceptions.

• The first loss of 1986 of all years was a debacle I still regret: a 14-inning, 9-8 defeat in Philly, featuring seven walks from Sid Fernandez and seven walks from various relievers. Just think, if we hadn’t lost Game Three that year, we could have gone 109-53, giving lie to that “you’re going to lose a third” nonsense.

• In 1991, there was another first loss in another third game to Philadelphia, at Shea — also a horror show: the Mets walked nine, left 18 on base and lost 8-7 in ten innings. Time of game then made last night’s 4:12 look like a sprint: four hours and fifty-one of the longest minutes I’ve ever spent staring at, ultimately, nothing.

• And the dream of a perfect 2006 went up in smoke in the second game of that season [16], a 9-5, tenth-inning defeat at the hands of the Nationals, particularly those belonging Jose Guillen, whose bat launched off of Jorge Julio the proverbial ball that’s still going…except it wasn’t proverbial. A NASA satellite just captured a fleeting image of it en route to Jupiter.

Yeah, the 2006 Mets were so disturbed by dropping to 1-1, they were 10-2 within twelve days [17]. First losses, no matter how brutal, don’t necessarily set tones for anything except an antsy next afternoon.