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

The Shadow of the Past

I was uneasy about Wednesday night, as if the shadow of the past was reaching out for the Mets. It started with news that Jed Lowrie [1] is alive and well and back in Oakland, perfectly ambulatory and hitting home runs now that his knee has been surgically repaired. It turns out, in whatever the opposite of a shocking twist is, that the Wilpon-run Mets wouldn’t allow him to have surgery, instead threatening him with a grievance and preferring to spend two seasons setting his salary on fire.

Then word came that Bernie Madoff — the proximate cause of the Wilpons’ financial woes, though not, to be sure, of their serial micromanaging, failson megalomania, backstabbing or mendacity — had died in prison. That was good news — the world was instantly and obviously better off unencumbered by a man who stole the life savings of freaking Elie Wiesel — but I wondered if Madoff might have one final sigh of poison for the world and the Mets’ portion of it.

Adding to my unease: Zack Wheeler [2] was set to take the mound for the Phillies, the same Wheeler whom the cash-strapped Mets let walk as a free agent despite his desire to stay in Queens. After leaving for Philadelphia, you may recall, Wheeler described the Mets’ response to his inquiries about an offer as “basically just crickets … Because it’s them. It’s how they roll. Everything was kind of jumpy because certain people would want something, others wouldn’t. I don’t think everyone was on the same page.”

That’s certainly an accurate description of most Mets decisions before the Fall of the House of Wilpon. Just like it was no surprise that Brodie Van Wagenen’s answer was to snipe that Wheeler had parlayed “two good half-seasons” into a big contract — the Wilpons saw every departing back as a logical place for some flunky to stick a knife. What followed was karma: While the Mets tried reanimating the corpses of Michael Wacha [3] and Rick Porcello [4], Wheeler took the next step as a pitcher in 2019, cutting his home-run rate (in a bandbox, no less) and working more efficiently. He was exactly what the Mets’ rotation needed, he would have cost them nothing but the money they refused to spend, and you better believe I’m still pissed about it.

Anyway, Wheeler was perfectly poised to end the good feelings brought about by Tuesday’s doubleheader. Except events then veered delightfully off script.

In the first, Wheeler looked more like the work in progress he’d been before Tommy John surgery and been again when he tried to restart himself after it. He struggled to command his pitches, needing 29 to stagger through that first frame and finding himself down 2-0. He settled in after that, but David Peterson [5] — last seen being ambushed by these same Phils — looked untouchable, racking up strikeouts and commanding everything in his arsenal.

Being a Mets fan means a certain wariness about good news: After a Jean Segura [6] homer ended the usual dreams of glory and cut the score to 2-1, I feared those old ghosts still had some teeth. But the Mets weren’t inclined to lethargy. They added a run in the seventh and two more in the eighth, thanks to contributions from so far somnambulant personnel: Francisco Lindor [7] had two hits and James McCann [8] had three, including his first homer in orange and blue. To the roster of Good Things we can add Brandon Nimmo [9] being impossible to retire right now, Dom Smith continuing to chip in solid offense, a clutch outing from Aaron Loup [10], and more nifty fielding from Luis Guillorme [11].

Amazing what can happen when a team actually gets to play more than every few days, huh?

On that note, alas, it looks unlikely that the Mets will play tomorrow, unless Steve Cohen just bought a roof for Citi Field and a supernatural construction crew. And the weekend conditions in Colorado … well, you don’t want to know.

I’d say it’s always something, but you know what? Enough of that. Eventually even the most persistent haunts stop going bump in the night, or if they do you learn to sleep through it. The Wilpons really are gone, and so is their cheapness and their serial grifty pettiness. It’s been hard for me to really and truly celebrate that, probably because I’m still not sure I believe it. That’s ridiculous, of course — but hey, I’m part of a fanbase that’s been in a defensive crouch for years, and part of a country weary of woes that may or may not have receded for good.

The Mets won, and in convincing style [12]. That won’t banish every fury or scatter every shadow, but it sure does cut them down to size.