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

That Familiar Feeling

Well, those were some complicated feelings to open with.

Your capsule summary: Jacob deGrom [1] was terrific, the Mets’ offense looked like the kind of patient, relentless machine that will chew opponents up, and the team even played some solid defense. Well, until the offense whiffed on multiple knockout blows, deGrom departed having thrown just 77 pitches, the new and supposedly improved bullpen coughed up the lead in part because the defense turned shoddy, and the Mets’ hitters tried to come scrambling back only to have the game end with a Pete Alonso [2] bullet that we all tried to will up and over the fence but that wound up thudding into Bryce Harper [3]‘s glove.

Yeah, that was a lot.

I get being careful with your franchise pitcher, what with the long layoff since last he pitched, the desire to skip a fifth starter before the next time he pitches, and most of all the shadowy uncertainty about workloads and stresses in the wake of 2020. I get it, yet the outcome was an all too familiar script: a lead too small that became a lead lost, and the best pitcher of his generation sitting numbly in the dugout trying not to fume. Funny how the Mets can change the calendar and their ownership and their attitude and yet we all wind up sighing again about watching them take an errant step and then THWAP! grimace at a pratfall that became a cliche years ago. The Mets being the Mets, of course they had to follow the slapstick with a plucky but doomed attempt at a comeback, one that left you feeling simultaneously better and worse about the whole thing. That’s another movie we’ve seen before.

And of course baseball will remind you that only a fool thinks he has it solved. The Mets brought in Miguel Castro [4] to relieve deGrom, the same Miguel Castro who made you mutter and pace after his acquisition in 2020, and he acquitted himself perfectly well. Then they turned to Trevor May [5] and Aaron Loup [6], veterans brought in to show that Things Are Changing Around Here, and neither man could get out of his own way. Last year the Phillies’ bullpen was as merry a band of arsonists as ever burned down a season; this year a pen that looks no more promising on paper keeps running through the rain without getting wet. Middle relief is spaghetti against a wall, but the whole thing was ridiculous nonetheless.

But you know what? Opening Day is its own reward, even an agonizingly delayed Opening Day that ends with an irritating loss. Win or lose, it’s the day life settles back into its familiar contours, the rhythms and routines of fandom get happily rediscovered, and we once again let ourselves live and die — in miniature, mind you — based on the outcome of an exhibition we can’t control. It’s a crazy thing to do, but it’s so much fun that we return year after year, signing up to do it again.

The Mets lost [7], and I had more fun watching them lose than I had doing the vast majority of whatever the hell I did during the usual forgettable smudge of winter. I mean, did you see Kevin Pillar [8] field that ball off the top of the fence and fire it to Jeff McNeil [9] who fired it to J.D. Davis [10] just ahead of a very surprised Rhys Hoskins? Did you see Francisco Lindor [11] glide across the grass as he made that flip to McNeil at second? Did you have fun guessing along with deGrom and James McCann [12] as they sized up Harper for deGrom’s final pitches, showing him that slider and then moving his eyeline out and out until he was lunging for a fastball he couldn’t catch? Did you hear Alonso connect and think maybe, just maybe … even if it was only for that split-second before you knew better?

It was agonizing. It was also great fun. When it ended, my first thought was: My heart can’t take 162 like that.

And then, right on its heels, came another thought: When’s the next one?