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The Pitcher Batted Eighth

The Mets’ starting pitcher, a talented lad with a stick in his hand, batted eighth Monday night in St. Louis. This slight adjustment in offensive alignment embodied unprecedented innovation and welcome aggressiveness, so I considered it a slight tick in the correct direction. Unfortunately, Mets “hitters,” as they’re known by default, batted first through seventh as well as ninth, so it was gonna take a lot more than Jacob deGrom [1] to generate a serious attack against the Cardinals. Also, deGrom appeared more poised to help the Mets at the plate than he did on the mound. The youngster was propelled to dizzying heights in the lineup but plummeted through the floor at his day job.

All of which is to say the Mets lost again [2]. They played a markedly better team — one that demonstrated flaws, but also one that showed the strengths to overcome them — and the Mets couldn’t compete. It was close for a spell, then it wasn’t, then it was all over but the interminable wait for it to be over.

92 games to go. Before Monday, it was 93 games to go. I find myself counting off the games until this season is over. I assure you I’ve never before been overcome by such an impulse in all my now 46 seasons as a Mets fan. Traditionally, I count the days until Pitchers & Catchers; until the first spring telecast; until Opening Day; until (if the first game is on the road) the Home Opener; until the next game I’ve got tickets to. At some point in the course of a morning, I instinctively count the hours until first pitch.

This season I’m counting how many more Mets games remain until I don’t have to keep tabs on this team anymore. That’s not the way it’s supposed to work. That’s not what I’m meaning to do, but I’m doing it. 2014 is not the “worst” season I’ve ever lived through by any means, but its lameness seems utterly entrenched and its pointlessness feels wholly unsurpassed.

So why tune in 92 more times, or even tonight?


Every game is a new opportunity to at least temporarily flip the script, so we’ve got that going for us.

Every game is a chance to see something we haven’t seen before…like the pitcher batting eighth and being fairly competent about it.

Watching a deGrom or another youngster in whom we’ve invested high hopes get somewhere — despite the bumps, bruises and battering he absorbed last night — is a reason to believe in the future or at least be suckered into the present.

The standings aren’t oppressive, so we’ve kind of got that going for us, too, though I take the mediocrity to date of the N.L. East more as a sign that we aren’t yet completely, officially out of it more than I do that we’re plausibly in it.

Oh, and we’ve got Niese going for us tonight, and that I view as a genuine if muted plus. Jon Niese [3] ought to be this team’s All-Star representative if it has to have one. Whereas the organization for which he pitches has taken a big-league step back and slowly sinks into the competitive quicksand, Niese has forged forward admirably. I’ve come to look forward to his starts, which is a surprising and refreshing development between skeptical fan and slowly yet fully blossoming player.

With Jon Niese on the mound, the Mets have at least half a chance of winning. With eight other Mets batting, the Mets have every chance of losing. But because it’s baseball, you never know.

Mark that down as yet another reason to stick with this season. It’s not much, but at the moment, it’s all I got.