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Trading Places

Now you listen to me! I want trading reopened right now. Get those brokers back in here! Turn those machines back on! Turn those machines back on!

That’s Mortimer Duke at the end of 1983’s Trading Places, after he realizes Louis Winthorpe III and Billy Ray Valentine have ruined him and his brother Randolph in revenge for a cruel and cynical experiment in social engineering. Mortimer’s command goes unheeded, of course. The machines won’t go back on any more than the genie’s going back in the bottle.

Other than not identifying with the bad guy, it’s pretty much the way I feel whenever an umpire has made a rotten, terrible, no-good, very bad call against my baseball team, one the entire world except him knows is wrong and that he will also know is wrong the second he looks at the replay, which will lead to a big fat lot of nothing because umpires getting lectured and disciplined is pretty much the only thing baseball still keeps secret.


That’s what Carlos Torres did to the Mets Saturday night. No, not rubber-armed, sometimes-effective and apparently ageless reliever Carlos Torres [1], but less-than-effective, still pretty young home-plate ump Carlos Torres.

With the Mets down 3-1 in the third, Logan Verrett [2] fanned Tony Wolters [3] with one out and the bases loaded, bringing pitcher Eddie Butler [4] to the plate … oh wait. No, Carlos Torres ruled Wolters had foul-tipped the ball, when he quite clearly hadn’t. Torres didn’t get help, Terry Collins [5] went ballistic, and soon thereafter Terry Collins was excused further attendance. Given an undeserved reprieve, Wolters clubbed a ball over Yoenis Cespedes [6]‘s head for two runs; an out later Charlie Blackmon [7] chipped in a two-run single of his own, and the Mets were looking at a big ugly crooked number.

Managers usually cool off enough to wax philosophical about these things after the game, but Collins was still hot [8]: “It cost us the game. End of story.”

Wellllll. That’s loyal of Terry, but it’s not that simple.

When Joshua was about eight, I told him I was going to teach him an essential but unwritten rule of baseball, one that he would do well to accept, since it would let him avoid a fair number of churning stomachs and hours wasted moaning about injustice. Emily, by far the better parent, knew what was coming and tried to intervene, but I would not be deterred.

When you’re going horseshit, they fuck you.

I know, language. Sorry. But that gets at the essential, visceral truth far better than a more refined way of putting it.

When one’s caliber of play is subpar, the benefit of the doubt is generally not given.

Nuh-uh. It’s the first one.

Yeah, the Mets got saddled with four enemy runs they would have avoided if Torres had made the right call and Verrett had retired Butler. Yeah, they tried to come back only to wind up short [9]. But they’ve been losing because the starting pitchers are practically outhitting the position players and fielders are coming up short or doing dopey things with depressing regularity. It’s a blueprint for losing plenty of games, with or without mistakes by umps.

The Mets look flat and tired and dispirited. Honestly, I can’t say I blame them. I’m flat and tired and dispirited by this road trip, and I’m not even on it. Seriously, I’ve been on multi-week trips covering different time zones, and by Day 10 I generally just want to be home staring at a familiar wall. And my job is to type and talk to people, not to play professional sports in front of 30,000 people and have to explain afterwards why I failed at something that’s really hard to begin with.

The Mets will be home late Sunday. They’ll actually get a day off Monday. Good. They better rest up, because then it’s six of nine against the Nationals. The first-place Nationals, who are eager to show the second-place Mets …

… oh wait. Nope, it’s the third-place Mets. You want trading places? Well we’ve traded places with the Phillies.


Now you listen to me! I want the ballpark reopened right now. Get those hitters back in here! Turn that scoreboard back on! Turn that scoreboard back on!

Oh yeah, that’s right. We already established that never works.