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Not Losing Feels Better Than Losing

Utter pessimism is dead! Long live tempered pessimism!

Losing, Lewis Grizzard once wrote, hurts worse than winning feels good. We’ve known plenty from losing and hurting. We’re only now processing again how winning feels. I’m not certain. After the 0-3 start that weighed 0-30 in Met-ric emotional tonnage, the simple act of not losing feels pretty damn adequate.

We knew they’d win one eventually. It’s just that we’d forgotten how that worked. Never mind the three-game series they graciously presented the Washington Nationals as a welcome gift to the 2014 season. The Mets lost twice to Toronto in Montreal on TV last weekend and — though nobody remembers it anymore — the final three Spring Training games they played in Florida. There hadn’t been a major league score of any sort with the “Mets” portion expressed first since March 24.

But, on April 4, we could say this:

Mets a total of runs;
Opponent a lesser sum.

For those of you who like specifics, it was Mets 4 Reds 3 [1]. For those of you who really like specifics, here are the rest of the relevant scores from Friday night in Flushing:

• It was Lucas Duda [2] 4, Ike Davis [3] staking out a seat near the space heaters for the best view of two Mike Leake [4] pitches soaring toward parts unknown.
• It was Jenrry Mejia [5] 6 innings, 1 earned run, 8 strikeouts, 1 ball lined off his horsehide-magnet of a body, 0 apparent debilitating injuries for a change.
• It was Eric Young [6] 1 Endy Chavez [7] impression atop the left field wall, Brandon Phillips [8] in the unwanted Scott Rolen [9] role.
• It was Anthony Recker [10] 2-6 in your scorebook, Billy Hamilton [11] 1 disturbing flashback to Juan Centeno [12].
• And, most shockingly of all, it was Kyle Farnsworth [13] and Jose Valverde [14] for 2.1 scoreless innings that recalled the best of Roger McDowell [15] and Jesse Orosco [16], or at least not the worst of practically everybody who’s pitched relief in a Mets uniform since Roger McDowell and Jesse Orosco.

As Daniel Murphy [17] could tell you, victory has many fathers. The born-again Mets were more than happy to orphan futility and put the specter of 0-162 on permanent paternity leave. When your team is oh-and-anything, you have to keep reminding yourself that The Stork [18] does eventually deliver a bouncing baby win to your doorstep (provided he doesn’t crash into Don Hahn [19] en route), yet until the blessed event arrives, it’s seems impossible to imagine it will truly happen. But we imagine no more in 2014, for it is reality. The Mets are, in the strictest and most recent sense of the word, winners.

Let the Reds be the team to tip their caps. Compel Leake to call Duda his daddy. Make Hamilton write 500 times on the visiting clubhouse blackboard “I WILL NOT RUN ON MET BACKUP CATCHERS [20]”. They lost. We won. If one can legitimately huff that it had been long enough after all of three games, it had been long enough.

Now the Mets are 1-3, or on pace to go 40-120, give or take a couple of rainouts. You’ll recognize that mark from 1962, when George Weiss was smart enough to not suggest the Original Mets were good enough to win 41 games or allow such an insane projection to leak (or Leake) to the press. After the Mets have put one whole win in the books, all I look forward to is a second win, accomplished perhaps as soon as this afternoon.

And after that? I refuse to squint that far into the future. What’s the point? I’ve seen Young make dazzling catches. I’ve seen Duda homer in pairs [21]. I’ve seen Mejia briefly healthy and impressively effective. I’ve seen unsung catchers cut down speedy baserunners. I’ve even seen a few journeyman Met relievers before Farnsworth and Valverde get critical outs (even if I’d never seen Joey Votto [22] helpfully foul out on a first pitch that wasn’t fully in the strike zone, thus short-circuiting the ninth-inning Red rally we all reasonably feared). And I’ve seen the Mets win one-run games in the past half-decade. In isolation, all of it was and is splendid.

In larger context, none of it has been the harbinger of more wins than losses in a given season or the kind of sustained progress that makes a simple three-game losing streak resonate as something less than apocalyptic. Thus, the morning after, I’m basking primarily in the sensation of not losing. After nothing but losing since March 24 — particularly since March 31 — it’s as close to synonymous with winning as I need to be.