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Winding Down

Wrigley Field’s fun. I had a blast when I finally got to go [1] three years ago, and had hoped to return this month with my wife as part of a Midwest swing to take some more ballparks off my list. It didn’t happen; I’ll end 2017 with 23 current big-league parks visited, down from 24 at the beginning of the year. (This is the opposite of progress.)

Even though I wasn’t actually there, I could feel the energy through the TV: a revved-up crowd, a team with something to play for, and a hint of fall in the air with all its promise and peril.

Unfortunately, the team with something to play for was the Cubs. The Mets are a rough sketch of next year taped to the tattered blueprint of this year’s teardown. They’re trying to get to winter with some hints about the kids’ future, a feeling about what the geezers might contribute, and nobody else shredding an elbow, dislocating a shoulder, pulling a hamstring or breaking a nose.

And on Tuesday night they looked like the collective ad lib they are. Robert Gsellman [2] hung in there for a little while but eventually the loud outs became hits and the runners he kept allowing became runs. Then there was a parade of ineffective relievers, not enough offense and a mournful slide into a loss [3].

Another day off the calendar, which in time we’ll think of as another day closer to the next Opening Day, but not yet.

So what’s left? Well, Tomas Nido [4]‘s big-league debut — the highly touted Double-A catcher got a call-up as a reward, presumably so Terry can use Travis d’Arnaud [5] or Kevin Plawecki [6] to pinch-hit without running afoul of the dreaded though essentially nonexistent scenario of a late-inning injury leaving a team bereft of real catchers.

Here’s hoping Nido gets to do more than warm up pitchers between innings. He’s just 23, but you never take a big-league roster spot for granted — and catchers are more in peril of ghostdom [7] than any other position. The Mets’ pre-Nido ectoplasmic roster includes nine guys, three of whom — Randy Bobb [8], Billy Cotton and Jerry Moses [9] — were catchers. Bobb and Moses at least played for other teams; Cotton never returned to the big leagues. Another less than immortal Mets backstop, Joe Hietpas [10], escaped ghostdom by entering the last inning of the last game in 2004. Hietpas can say he caught the final pitches in the history of the Montreal Expos, but not that he ever got a big-league at-bat.

Barring further surprises — and given the medical charts this year you never know — Nido will go into The Holy Books as the 1,043rd Met in team history (I’ll use one of his Cyclones cards as a placeholder), and the last in the confounding, star-crossed 2017 season.

But then that season already feels over, doesn’t it? Wrigley Field had plenty of buzz tonight, but the Mets were the uncool kids let into the club early after swearing to vamoose before the velvet rope comes out. Elsewhere, the Indians have won 20 in a row, while the Dodgers just escaped losing their 12th straight. Those teams and the other October contenders are rolling out the klieg lights; the Mets are waiting to shut them off and go home.