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Another Surreal Night in Panic City

OK, so …



Seriously, how the hell do you start?

Wednesday night’s game was weird before it began, but we had No Idea.

Even before Will Venable [1] headed for the plate to start the top of the first, Twitter was buzzing with rumors: The Mets were close to a deal, and it was for a bat — a big bat. The actual game against the Padres was a sideshow — you could hear the tension in Gary Cohen’s voice, and imagine him between innings demanding to know what the heck was going on.

Then, even as Bartolo Colon [2] was unraveling and Lucas Duda [3] was taking aim at fences, the buzz turned into an apparent fact. The Mets were acquiring Carlos Gomez [4]. For Juan Lagares [5] was the first fragmentary report, followed by something definitive: The team had traded Wilmer Flores [6] and Zack Wheeler [7] to Milwaukee.

A Post columnist tweeted news of the deal, followed by a Daily News beat writer. The Brewers beat writer had it too. The national guys had it. From the Brewers’ plane, catcher Martin Maldonado [8] tweeted a photo of teammates saying farewell to Gomez. On SNY, Gary and Keith began talking about the deal. Soon enough we even learned that the Brewers had wanted Dilson Herrera [9] but settled for Flores instead. It was all following the script for a deadline deal in the Twitter age.

Nothing was official pending the usual review of medical reports, but those are formalities. And in an age where most fans have a powerful computer in their pockets, Citi Field was no sanctuary from the news. The fans knew the deal had happened. They chanted Gomez’s name, and, in your nightly reminder that we live in times that seem borrowed from “The Jetsons,” they told Flores he’d been traded.

Which led to one of the more surreal sequences I’ve ever seen: First, Flores got a mini-ovation in what certainly appeared to be his final Met at-bat. We all waited for him to be pulled from the game and get goodbyes from his teammates — #HugWatch is how it’s now described on Twitter — on his way to the clubhouse, street clothes and a Brewers uniform.

Except Flores wasn’t pulled. He stayed in the game, reduced to tears. For which no one with the smallest shred of a heart could blame him: Flores signed with the Mets at 16, busted his butt to make the major leagues, was assigned to a position he’d been told he couldn’t play, played it variously not so well and well enough, was taken off that position, struggled with his hitting and was now being traded. All of it in public, in the cauldron of attention and noise and opinion that is New York City.

It seemed unimaginably cruel that he was still in the game, and at the position where he’d been left to struggle so publicly. What on earth were the Mets doing? How had they managed to turn a great story — a deal for an All-Star, prodigal son and potential pennant-race difference-maker — into yet another self-inflicted embarrassment?

The Mets finally finished losing [10] — the ballgame was all but forgotten before it concluded, even though it saw Colon self-destruct to continue a worrisome trend and Duda club three homers to (possibly) accelerate a hopeful one. Terry Collins [11] addressed the media in full Get Off My Lawn mode, decrying fans looking at their cellphones on a game, players getting distracted by the business side of things, and repeatedly noting that no one had told him anything about a trade.

And then, just when the narrative was seemingly cemented as the Mets making an audacious move but being cruel to one of their own in the process, everything changed.

Sandy Alderson — an obviously angry Sandy Alderson — said there was no trade and would be no trade.

Which is where the needle got pulled off the record, and everyone — players, reporters and fans alike — just sort of stopped and looked at each other in disbelief. Had all that really happened?

It did. But what was the real story of the night the Wilmer Flores era didn’t actually end? We’ll have to wait to find out, while accepting the possibility that we may never know. But here’s my guess: The deal was done as described, and both front offices thought the review of medical records was a formality, as it usually is. So people in both front offices started talking to reporters. Then, with the whole world already knowing about the deal, the Brewers decided they didn’t like something in Wheeler’s reports and pulled out. That infuriated Alderson, to the extent that he’s swearing he won’t revisit a deal with Milwaukee.

Do I have that right? Maybe, maybe not. It’s the best fit for the facts that I can see.

[Updated Already: Maybe not. Now there are reporters saying it was the Mets who backed out, over Gomez’s hip. Which might mean Alderson was mad at the Brewers for something in the medical reports, or for talking early. Or he was mad at social media, or the beat writers, or at Buddy for pooping on the carpet. Good God, what a mess.]

Feeling dizzy? Then brace yourself. Because what happens tomorrow, when the Mets arrive bright and early for a businessman’s special against the Padres? Flores will still be a Met, somehow — and can be forgiven for wondering what on earth will happen to him on Thursday. Travis d’Arnaud [12] will be back, preparing for the Nats series. David Wright [13] will be hanging around on the field, doing baseball-like drills that will get us too excited. Perhaps Lucas Duda [3] will keep swatting balls to Portugal.

The Mets will still be close enough to the Nats that we should be excited. They’ll probably be working on other trades for a bat. Beyond that, though? I’m not even going to speculate — not after five hours that were spectacularly weird even by the surreal standards we’ve grown used to around here.