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Noah Way (Way)

Noah Syndergaard [1] had a perfect game going. I wasn’t particularly nervous about it. I figured he was going to get it. When the perfect game was broken up by Will Venable [2]’s leadoff single in the seventh inning, I wasn’t particularly upset about it. I figured he’d just keep going for the win and maybe pitch a no-hitter or better somewhere down the road.

That’s when you know you have pitching.

June 1, 2012, pretty much took care of the churning stomach acid where zeroes under the scoreboard’s ‘H’ are concerned, though you’re never going to turn down another one, let alone a perfect one. It would have been sweet to add July 28, 2015, to the pantheon of Met dates, but residing in that golden zone where an outing like Syndergaard’s against the Padres feels more like the norm than the aberration is reward enough. So the rookie (hard to believe, given his poise) goes eight, gives up three hits, strikes out nine, walks nobody and the Mets win, 4-0 [3]. That, as Tom Seaver [4] advised Nancy long ago on the heels of a similarly imperfect [5] shutout, is hardly reason to shed a tear.

Lucas Duda [6] ensured there’d be enough runs when he launched, blasted and rocketed — the more verbs the better — a baseball deep into the Big Apple or Apple Reserved or Apple Orchard section, whatever it’s called these days, to stake Noah to an early 2-0 lead. Curtis Granderson [7] removed any ancillary offensive worries with a two-run shot of his own late. Tyler Clippard [8] made us think of him as a helpful Met pushing us along rather than an old nemesis waiting to explode in our faces by keeping the ninth as tidy as it needed to be. James Shields [9] was by no means bad, but Syndergaard was out of this world.

End of story, except for what occurred right before it began, which was the second suspension of Jenrry Mejia [10] after Mejia tested positive yet again for banned substances [11]. These were PEDs, though it reminded me of the night 21 years ago when Dwight Gooden [12] was found to be back on cocaine. The reaction in 1994 versus 1987 for Doc was striking. The first time it had been mostly he’d make a mistake, he’d get his head on straight, he’d come back and we’d welcome him to the mound to pitch for us. The second time it was WTF, goodbye [13]. Although it appeared he’d been keeping his nose clean during the intervening seven years, the second suspension, which ended his Met tenure, seemed inevitable in retrospect. Also in retrospect, it seemed inevitable it would be mostly forgotten in the long run because Doc was Doc — the Thor of his time — and we wanted to embrace him more than shun him.

Mejia isn’t an outsize character in Mets history as Gooden remains, so there isn’t quite the emotional tug here. He made what is generally agreed to have been a dopey error in judgment by taking PEDs (and then getting caught) the first time, but everybody makes mistakes, and once the season got rolling and bullpen depth became an issue, it was sure going to be nice to get Jenrry going again. As recently as Sunday it was very nice.

Then came Tuesday and the announcement that he’d be ineligible for the next 162 games after having been found to have ingested in some form the anabolic steroids Stanozolol and Boldenone. MLB had already gotten him on the former, so the league was testing him a little extra, meaning the chances of Mejia getting caught seemed pretty good.

For the most part we process addiction to a drug like cocaine as a disease and if we are patient and forgiving and haven’t been directly wronged by someone under its pull, we encourage the addict to seek treatment and perhaps salvation. On paper it all looks pretty easy. We look at what we know about PEDs — they can enhance an athlete’s performance and thus enrich his lifestyle but have deleterious side effects that have led to their prohibition within the game — and slap our heads that somebody would keep taking them when the profession they have chosen explicitly forbids it. I can almost hear Norm MacDonald deliver the news: “Mejia was suspended for taking PEDs after the pitcher was told by Major League Baseball to do one thing: ‘Don’t take PEDs.’”

So the sympathy level is understandably low from all concerned, though maybe a little empathy is in order. We all do dumb things. We occasionally do them twice, though probably not so soon after we do them once and were caught for them and were issued a warning that we’d be watched very closely to make sure we didn’t do them again.

I liked watching Jenrry pitch. I liked that his jams were never too tight and he usually wriggled out of them with a flourish. I liked that a kid who grew up shining shoes in Santo Domingo [14] could grow up to polish off the final outs of baseball games in New York City. I liked watching him play Santa for the kids at the Mets holiday party last December. I liked thinking he’d “learned his lesson” and was back to contribute to the Mets’ chase of the Nationals, which finds them only one game out of first at the moment. Jenrry wouldn’t be eligible for a potential postseason appearance, but he could give us a hand in getting there and he’d prove essential to the team he’d been pitching for through injuries and multiple role changes since 2010.

You never can tell, but we probably won’t see him pitch for the Mets again. Nevertheless, I’d like him to simply stop doing that dumb thing that got him suspended a second time, even if “simply” stopping probably isn’t quite as simple as it sounds. It won’t matter in the course of our team’s fortunes. This is just human empathy speaking.