- Faith and Fear in Flushing - https://www.faithandfearinflushing.com -

Two-Wilpon Monte

The Mets lost. Again. As they have done throughout this stake-in-the-heart homestead. As they have done with numbing regularity since mid-April.

The details don’t particularly matter, so we’ll buzz through them quickly: they ambushed Yankees starter Domingo German [1] for an unfathomable three runs in the first, on home runs by Todd Frazier [2] and Asdrubal Cabrera [3].

If you tuned in late, sorry, that was the offense. The Mets were ahead, by the shocking score of 3-0, but you knew it wouldn’t last.

Lots of us have or have had that pal who’s a blast to hang out with until his fourth beer, at which point a trap door opens up beneath both of you and the next stop is hell and you wonder exactly how many times you’ll need to make this exact same mistake before you learn. That was the Mets with a 3-0 lead — feeling good about it was like looking over at your nitroglycerine-laced buddy and thinking, “Whew, he’s had one beer and hasn’t slugged anyone or propositioned the waitress!” Faint comfort three hours later, when you’re in the parking lot trying to play peacemaker amid flying epithets and wondering how you’re going to find a cabbie who’s too new to understand that your maniac friend won’t manage 10 minutes before deciding he needs to throw up, piss out the window or try both at once.

Anyway, Steven Matz [4] gave up a solo shot to Gleyber Torres [5] and a two-run homer to Miguel Andujar [6] to surrender the lead, then departed. Yeah, 3-0 was a long time ago.

And then, at 3-3, we waited to see how they would lose [7].

The culprit was Anthony Swarzak [8], whose first pitch to Aaron Judge [9] was a flat slider that Judge hit to the moon. But this is not to bury Swarzak; it was going to be some Met screwing up at some point, and on Saturday night it happened to be him. Tomorrow night it might be Swarzak again, or Jacob Rhame [10], or Seth Lugo [11]. It’ll be someone.

This team’s in freefall, undone by injuries and poor play and roster spots given to zombie players. We’ll talk about that in the coming days and weeks and months. We’ll grouse and groan and occasionally have something to cheer about.

But it’ll be noise.

There’s only one story around the Mets, and it’s a depressingly old one: They’re owned by a family that cannot afford the payroll of a major-league franchise in Tampa Bay, let alone New York; is no longer expected by the city’s legions of beat reporters to be accountable for that; and is under no apparent pressure to sell the team it quite obviously can no longer afford.

The Mets actually have a decent collection of young talent — the kind of core teams try desperately to obtain as the foundation of a contender. But rather than surround that cheap young talent with high-priced stars and mid-priced complementary players, the Wilpons have supplemented it with zero-priced veterans on their last legs and occasional dips into the free-agent bargain bin when the market breaks their way. If you’ve been deemed expendable by the Atlanta Braves, welcome to Flushing. If you cost more than that, your agent best have the phone numbers of 29 other GMs.

And this is how it’s going to be for the foreseeable future, which you’d better get used to measuring in decades. Major League Baseball does not care that the Mets are once again baseball’s North Korea. You want to know when things will change? Don’t ask a baseball analyst, because he’ll just shrug and say it’s a shame. Get Jeff Wilpon’s health records and consult an actuary.

This doesn’t mean the Mets will never win. They’ll be in the occasional pennant race, particularly now that there are two wild-card slots. Once in a great while, as happened in 2015, they might even come close to winning — the postseason is an exercise in rolling dice. But most of the time they won’t do any of those things. They’ll be done in by injuries and lack of talent and poor decisions and ill luck and most of all by their threadbare ownership. Some years that fate will be apparent in March; other years it will be a September surprise. But it will be the outcome nearly every year, and the only one a sane fan will expect.

This is two-Wilpon monte, and it’s a sucker’s game. Grouse all you want about bad bullpens and injured outfielders and not-ready-yet rookies and over-the-hill infielders. It’s all true, but it’s also street patter and rearranged cards. The real con happened before you even stepped up to the table. Keep that firmly in mind, and maybe you won’t be habitually and cruelly disappointed.

(Tip of the cap to Dan Lewis [12], who focused my attention on the real problem and kept me from hurling my in-laws’ remote through a wall.)