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Seems Like Old Times

Those of you who say the New York Mets don’t respect their history should be ashamed of yourselves.

Why, on Saturday the Mets held a throwback event that was meticulously researched and thoroughly authentic — and they did it for a road game, no less!

The Mets’ Turn Back the Clock 2017 event began on a familiar note, with Chris Flexen [1] on the hill. Back in 2017, Flexen had just turned 23 and was clearly not ready for prime time, as his 7.88 ERA indicated. That was a while ago, and it was fair to ask if Flexen could possibly recreate the magic of that bygone campaign. But on this sunny April Saturday in 2019, Flexen took pains to make sure he looked like the vintage model. High and straight fastballs, not particularly tight curves — he served them up and the Cardinals got into the spirit by whacking them all over the park.

With Flexen having done his part, the Mets turned to non-2017 Met Luis Avilan [2], the one jarring note in their otherwise careful homage to a year we all remember so fondly. But Avilan soon departed, to be replaced by … Jacob Rhame [3]! Yes, the same begoggled hero who put up a 9.00 ERA in a late-season cameo back in ’17. He was on point, too, turning in a singularly unimpressive 1.1 innings.

Even the fondest memories cool after a time, so Rhame handed off the nostalgia baton to old friend Paul Sewald [4], recently celebrated in these parts as the Mets’ latest Jonah [5]. Arriving with such accolades, Sewald could have simply doffed his cap and let us soak in reminiscences of his 4.55 ERA as a newly minted big-leaguer. But he went the extra mile — of course he did, he’s Paul Sewald — by surrendering a run as well. What did you expect? Eric Clapton doesn’t sit in on a number without giving the audience a solo.

All this impressive work by beloved 2017 Mets was part of a 10-2 loss [6] to the Cardinals. And kudos to the Mets there as well. Because if we’re celebrating 2017 — as we so obviously should — a humdrum 4-1 loss would feel perfunctory, like a mere exercise to make the cash registers ring.

It wasn’t a perfect recreation, alas. We didn’t get Terry Collins [7] finding a reason to sit Michael Conforto [8], or Nori Aoki [9] patrolling the outfield like he’d lost a bet, or Tomas Nido [10] ending the game by getting tagged out 20 feet shy of home plate. But no matter how high the tides of yearning, you can’t go home again. A fellow wrote a book about that once, they say. It’s good advice.

My biggest regret on an otherwise perfect day was the absence of Tommy Milone [11]. Milone exemplified the 2017 Mets — 0-3 record, 8.56 ERA, reporting for duty despite no resemblance to a big-league pitcher — but in fairness he was busy, starting for the Tacoma Rainiers on the road against the Albuquerque Isotopes.

Milone was busy, but there in spirit: Ed Leyro, our old friend and fellow 2017 Mets devotee, notes that before Saturday, the Tommy Gun’s 8.56 ERA was the highest for any Met who’d made at least five starts. But no longer — that record now belongs to fellow ’17 star Flexen, whose career mark in 11 starts stands at 8.59.

I know, I know — I need a minute too. This must be what it felt like watching Ted Williams [12] bat on that final day in ’41, or seeing Henry Aaron running down a legend in the spring of ’74. Chills, I tell you.

And while Milone couldn’t soak in our grateful applause on Saturday, in Albuquerque he gave upĀ four in the first, en route to a 12-4 loss.

Now that’s a True 2017 Met.