Jason Vargas  headed into winter in style Thursday night, allowing three hits and no runs over seven innings as the Mets beat the Braves . In fact, Mets starting pitchers allowed the Braves exactly zero runs in the two teams’ final series of the year.
Asterisk time! Vargas may have shaved nearly three runs off his ERA after finally finding a rhythm in August, but that ERA still ended up at 5.77. With a division title captured, the Braves were resting their regulars and their mental faculties before the next game that matters. The Mets’ four runs all came on home runs by Devin Mesoraco  and Kevin Plawecki , yet you won’t find 2019 spring training thick with suggestions that Jerry Grote , Gary Carter  and Mike Piazza  make room in the pantheon.
But consolation prizes are still prizes, even if they’re not the ones that brought you to the fair. The Mets’ bedrock strength — which might lead them to a 2019 title and might lead them to halfheartedly chase the illusion of one — is their starting pitching, and every indication that the starting pitchers could be healthy and on point next spring is a reason to hope.
I collected one of my desired consolation prizes when Jacob deGrom  ended his season with a flourish  on Wednesday night before me. Greg and the rest of a small but rapturous crowd — the baseball descendants of the hardy faithful who showed up at the end of 2012 to see R.A. Dickey  seek and attain a 20th win. (Followed by a Cy Young , but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.) I’ll be in the park Saturday night to see David Wright  say farewell, a bittersweet consolation prize, to be sure, but one I immediately knew I needed for so many reasons, starting with the fact that 14 summers ago I discarded my plans and hurried to Shea Stadium because Wright was making his long-awaited debut and I had to be there. And I have one more consolation prize in mind, one that’s neither secured nor scripted and so will go unmentioned.
Another consolation prize, now that I think about it, has already been delivered. The Mets were bad in May and really bad in June, sinking their season. (Perhaps you’ve heard.) But their revived, reignited play in August and September has cushioned the blow, and as the season dwindles to nothing I find myself, to my surprise, wanting more. That hasn’t been true in previous wrecked seasons — it’s often been a mercy to be spared further bad decisions and ownership double-talk and losses, losses, losses. But this season has redeemed itself. These Mets aren’t winning anything, and their last packed house is a sellout for the saddest of reasons, but I’ll miss them when they’re gone. And I’ll make room on my shelf for that.