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Requiem for a Middleweight

With apologies to Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, who identified five distinct stages of grief [1], I have determined there are only two steps to a Mets fan’s mourning for a dying season:

1) Acceptance
2) Ah, fuck

Who needs five when you can do what we do, which is simply cycle between our two for several weeks? Following the conclusion of Saturday’s probably definitive killer loss to the Reds, I pinged back and forth, accepting that the loss indeed probably definitively ended our quest for a Wild Card berth and cursing out the way the defeat went down.

Ah, fuck. We shouldn’t have lost to the Reds, 3-2 [2]. Or 30-2. I suppose the score doesn’t matter, but when it’s that close…Ah, fuck. The Mets didn’t hit, but they had their chances. The Mets didn’t field, though Todd Frazier [3] had his chances. Zack Wheeler [4], as seems to be his role, single-handedly stemmed the tide of looming gruesome inevitability, same as he did against the Dodgers last Sunday [5]. The Reds aren’t nearly the team the Dodgers are, but like the score, the opponent doesn’t matter. All opponents come prepared to beat you when you’re straining to win something valuable. Except for the Pirates, whose new logo is a doormat that says “WELCOME TO MILLER PARK!”

Is bitterness a stage of grief? Or can I just file that under Ah, fuck?

Wheeler was Wheeler for seven innings, which feels good to say in a positive manner. I hope Wheeler will be Wheeler for us in 2020 and beyond, but that’s for winter. Summer hung in there on Zack’s shoulders for seven strong, his only blemished inning the first, and that was from Frazier making like a B-movie evil scientist who replaces the Clearasil in all the medicine cabinets in town with zit-inducing cream so every teen will show up for school on Monday too embarrassed to live.

I doubt Todd was that cunning in making first an error on a potential double play ball, and then what he called “a bonehead play” on a foul ball ruled fair, the bonehead aspect being his not throwing the ball to first for an out because, gosh, it looked foul to him. It looked foul to many, but not to third base umpire Mark Ripperger. Throw first, judge second, Todd. By reversing that order, Frazier enabled the initial Cincinnati run. A second followed on a soft single. The Reds led, 2-0.

Two runs shouldn’t have been insurmountable for the Mets, who merrily tallied eight [6] the night before. They managed one on Wheeler’s groundout in the third and another from Brandon Nimmo [7] conveniently placing his elbow pad in harm’s way with the bases loaded in the fifth, but no more off Cincy starter Anthony DeSclafini or any Red reliever. They didn’t have to “save some of that for tomorrow” on Friday. Somebody should have informed our offense that making more “of that” is permissible.

Zack threw 109 pitches to get through his seven innings, and as in his previous start versus L.A., Mickey Callaway relied on his compressed circle-of-trust to take care of whatever came next. Unfortunately, neither Justin Wilson [8] nor Seth Lugo [9] matched their dependable profiles. In the eighth, Wilson allowed a walk and a dying quail (which might make a good fill-in mascot on the upcoming homestand should Mr. Met require a mental health day). Lugo came in with two on and one out. He struck out one of the 2019 Cincinnati Reds, but then was done in by a 2015 Kansas City Royal masquerading as a 2019 Cincinnati Red.

I have to confess that for all the Metsiana I retain, Christian Colon’s role in ending our most recent attempt to capture a world championship never fully registered with me. Colon, little-used in KC, delivered the go-ahead hit for the Royals in the twelfth inning of Game Five four years ago. It was his only plate appearance of the entire Series. I fully comprehend this fact at last because Gary Cohen mentioned it in Colorado and dwelled on it in Cincinnati. I did vaguely recall the name and the hit, yet somehow my mind shuts out the potency of the details related to anything that happened after Lucas Duda threw a mile above Travis d’Arnaud’s head and Eric Hosmer scored from third in the ninth to tie Game Five, which was when I reluctantly approached Acceptance of our 2015 fate. Colon’s single for Kansas City breached the floodgates, driving in the first of five twelve-inning runs. By the time it got to the ultimate final of 7-2, they all looked alike to me and I was mentally incapable of sorting through the villains.

Ah, fuck.

Stealth bastard Colon, who flitted through Las Vegas as a Met farmhand in 2018, demonstrated he hasn’t lost his black magic touch, singling sharply up the middle to drive in what became the winning Red run on Saturday. The only solace I could find was in suddenly remembering Don Draper’s snippy retort to upstart copywriter Michael Ginsberg during a tense elevator ride on Mad Men.

GINSBERG: I feel bad for you.
DON: I don’t think about you at all.

For four years I hadn’t thought about Christian Colon at all. Now I don’t even have that going for me.

Postgame, Callaway’s usual unbothered veneer cracked. “This one hurts,” he said a lot. Wheeler pumped out clichés like they were four-seam fastballs: “crunch time”; “bear down”; “give it all ya got”; “put your head down”; and “keep grindin’”. Self-described bonehead Frazier explained he’d already calculated the Mets could afford to lose only one game in their final ten and defiantly declared, “Here’s the one, so let’s roll.”

In Milwaukee, the Pirates heeded his call and said, “Yes, let’s roll over.” Somebody’s gotta check their hearing and maybe their credentials, for they’ve ceased playing like major leaguers, again bowing to the Brewers, this time by nine runs. The score may not matter, but it did serve to illustrate how impossible catching Milwaukee will be. Not that it’s gonna be possible when the Mets experience one season-ending setback per series. You can only have so many of those. The camel rightly complained his back couldn’t take another on Saturday. No, losing this game wasn’t a very good idea.

At the risk of being impolite, it seems worth noting that the Mets’ middling record of the moment — 80-74 — isn’t truly the stuff of a title contender. Except for the eternal anomaly of 1973, no Mets team with this few wins at this late a stage of a season has ever nosed its way into the playoffs. Two Wild Cards have lowered the barrier to entry somewhat (we hosted in 2016 with an 87-75 mark), but really, 80-74 does not normally qualify a club for MLB’s heavyweight division.

Yet let’s not explicitly throw in the towel at 4½ back with 8 to play. Let’s burnish the 80-74, GB column be damned. Eighty wins is better than any non-postseason total we’ve accumulated in this decade. Faint praise, I know, but it amounts to a taller stack of Met victories than every year from 2010 to 2014 yielded, not to mention 2017 and ’18, and we really hate to mention those seasons. An 81st win guarantees we don’t root for a bleeping bunch of losers. An 82nd win allows us to spin a winning record, the twenty-sixth in our history should it come to pass. Getting to eight over .500 would be particularly pleasant because it would mean that after peaking at 67-60 once we swept the Cleveland series, we didn’t totally come apart at the seams. Mostly we’ve held together the seams, even climbing back to seven over .500 as of Friday night. A slate weighing in at 85-77 would literally reverse last year’s 77-85, making for fairly sweet symbolism.

Does any of this matter? Not much, but we each carve out our own path to Acceptance.