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

At Least We Lead the League in Something

Let’s be clear about one thing after a day where clarity was sadly lacking: Zack Wheeler [1] was wonderful.

Wheeler’s blossoming is one of the unalloyed positives to come out of this weirdly bitter Mets season: Wheeler seems to have shaken off injuries and rust and youth to become the top-flight starter we’d imagined since he arrived. He was dominant, electric, downright deGromian in throttling the Giants: four hits and no walks over seven innings, with nine punchouts.

Unfortunately Wheeler was also deGromian in being abandoned by teammates paid to do something with a stick in their hands. Andrew Suarez [2], a rookie lefty (two words that make sawdust of Met bats) was pretty darn good himself, and the Mets squandered the few opportunities they had. With runners on first and third in the seventh, Jay Bruce [3] tapped into a double play to keep the game scoreless; with the Mets down one in the eighth and Brandon Nimmo [4] on second, Jose Reyes [5] fanned and Michael Conforto [6] grounded out. Then a whole lot of Met relievers arrived to get not a lot of outs, and the ballgame went down the toilet [7] in a hurry.

Points to Giants rookie catcher Aramis Garcia [8], child of Met fans, whose first big-league hit was a homer into the left-field stands and whose second big-league hit came in the same inning. I’m too inept to dare try looking it up, but there have to be a lot of major leaguers who retire never having had two hits in the same inning, and Garcia checked that one off on his first night. Another oddity: the game-winning RBI, to use a stat that makes “pitcher win” seem like bWAR, went to another brand-new Giant, Chris Shaw [9], whose first hit still lies in his future.

Unfortunately, off-field news once again proved the larger story, as David Wright [10] rejoined the Mets to continue his rehab but then received a muddled message from whatever passes for an authority figure these days. It started with word that Wright had medical clearance to play in the minors but not the majors, which was baffling to all involved, and then morphed into the front office wanting to see certain things from Wright before activating him to finally play big-league ball again.

So what are those things? We never really found out. Wright wasn’t specific, perhaps by choice or perhaps because he had no specifics to give. And while I’m not a psychologist, his demeanor when questioned by beat reporters was … well, let’s call it “odd.” A little stunned, perhaps; maybe a little pissed. Wright reiterated that he intends to play this month, and talked about determination and motivation, but it sure didn’t sound like a plan that everybody understood.

Maybe I’m being paranoid. I really, really, really hope so. But something’s wrong here, and the oh-so-Metsian question is what.

What’s not in question is the Mets are back to the only thing in which they reliably lead the league: namely, fucking up.

The positive interpretation of today’s mini-drama is that communications were mishandled between the brass and Wright and the brass and the media. Wright was told something, and instead of having a point person, everyone was left to interpret it, starting with Wright himself. There was no general manager to address the media because there is no general manger; instead, various heads attached to the three-headed chimera that isn’t a GM were heard from secondhand. Needless to say the Wilpons remained silent, unseen and unaccountable as is their wont. The closest thing to an authority figure in the whole mess was Mickey Callaway [11], who may or may not have known what he was talking about and whose pronouncements just made things worse.

David Wright working towards returning should be an inspiring story for a team and fanbase that could sure use one. But the Mets have managed to turn it into something weird and confusing, botching yet another one-car funeral.

And again, that’s the positive interpretation.

The negative interpretation … well, it’s easy to describe, because it’s scarily plausible.┬áIt would have something to do with insurance money and how much of it the Mets would forego this year and next year if Wright plays; who makes the decision that Wright is ready to play or not; and whose best interests that person (or persons, or lack of an actual person) has in mind. Wright said that issue hasn’t come up in his discussions with the club, but that only made me wonder if the team was blindsided by the possibility that Wright might actually return and now doesn’t know what to do.

It goes without saying that if that’s what’s going on, it will be the kind of back-page nightmare that terrifies the Wilpons and — as has happened to innumerable clay-footed despots in fairy tales — inevitably comes to pass because of that fear and its hold over them. A PR nightmare like that is the last thing the Wilpons need, this fanbase needs, and Wright needs — and two out of three of us don’t deserve it.

But let’s admit it: wouldn’t a triumphant return turned curdled and grudging be a fitting ending for this sour, off-kilter season?