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The Booing at the Margins

My usual approach to frustrating losses is to recap them as quickly as possible and have faith that the sun rising again will bring a little optimism back with it. But sometimes I can’t bring myself to do that and opt for a different strategy, which is basically to go to bed and hope it turns out to all be a dream.

This never works. One day I’ll get that through my head.

The Mets lost by one lousy skinny run [1] to the Red Sox. That was true last night; shockingly, it’s still true today.

David Peterson [2] was really good: a mistake pitch to Bobby Dalbec [3] that became a home run and a fatal sequencing combination in a double to Kik√© Hernandez and a little bloop single to Rafael Devers [4]. That was it, and if the Mets’ offense weren’t doing that thing it needs to stop doing — which is to say not doing much of anything — those two runs would be seen as mild blemishes. But they were enough to beat Peterson.

Frustratingly, the Mets got some hits — in fact, they had two in the fourth, fifth and sixth. But that wasn’t enough to generate a critical second run: The most galling lack was when J.D. Davis [5] hit a sizzling single with Michael Conforto [6] on second in the fourth. Conforto didn’t score, for the sound reason that he would have been thrown out by 45 feet — that’s how hard Davis hit the ball. So they were left with only Jeff McNeil [7]‘s solo shot into Sodaland in terms of scoring.

It’s our impulse to blame this all on the Mets caring too little or too much (pick a lane, unhappy fans) in big spots, but give some credit to Garrett Richards [8], the Red Sox’s’s’s’s’s’s long-haired, vaguely action-figure-looking pitcher. Richards was even better than Peterson, using an absolutely deadly slider and looping curve to send Met after Met trudging away from the plate. Sometimes it’s not all about you; sometimes the other guy doing his job is part of what happened too.

The day-after muttering, though, is all about something that happened late in the game — after Francisco Lindor [9] grounded back to the pitcher in the eighth, the boos began. A few at first, then more, and everybody wanted Luis Rojas [10] to weigh in on the fanbase’s discontent in the postgame Zoom. (Rojas was diplomatic, wisely offering mild truisms about fans and passion.)

Honestly? I was surprised that hadn’t happened already, seeing how talk radio was one generation’s fast-forward button and digital media was the next generation’s. It’s the usual recipe that produces this brew: a frustratingly slow start for a player we expected to be a star from Day One, overall dissatisfaction with events that needs an outlet, the shadow of more money than regular people can comprehend, and an instinct among a certain class of New Yorkers to show how New York they are by subjecting newcomers to the hazing they all supposedly deserve. It happened to Mike Piazza [11]; hell, it happened to fucking Joe DiMaggio [12].

Lindor will be fine, because he’s Lindor, and in all likelihood the Mets will be fine once outcomes revert to a mean, after which we’ll all nod our heads at some ridiculous Just So story. (Lineup out of a hat? Inspiring meeting of the Cookie Club? On-field fight that brings everyone together? Team adopting tradition of cosplaying as furries on charter flights?) And in another 10 or 15 years this will happen again, and columnists will write shocked/world-weary columns, and we’ll have an insipid tiff about booing, and all the while the world will spin as it always has and always will.

Still, it would be nice to win a few more games. There’s very little in the ever-spinning world not improved by that.

* * *

Subtract one from the ranks of potential recidivist Mets, as Jerry Blevins [13] has retired.

Blevins was a popular Met for a couple of reasons, and it was mildly unfortunate that one of those reasons overshadowed the other. The mildly unfortunate reason was he was not a physically intimidating specimen, skinny and mild to meek of mien, and lacked the stone face maintained by some players. When he succeeded, it felt like a post-regression Damn Yankees outtake, with the everyman having triumphed over the odds; when he failed, it was very hard to send venom his way because he looked more desolate about the outcome than you felt. To that, add that Blevins was smart and thoughtful about his craft and never took himself all that seriously, adopting a mildly ridiculous mock-kid’s drawing of himself as a Met for his Twitter avatar. Fans like me are always going to root for a player like that.

Which is great, except for what it obscures. Blevins pitched 13 years in the big leagues, went 30-13 and was a lefty assassin, destroying some of the league’s deadliest left-handed antagonists. The fact that he didn’t look like a world-class athlete was endearing, but he was every inch of one.

Blevins will undoubtedly be back in the game in relatively short order; he’s already dabbled in commentary and proved good at it, and I suspect he’d be a terrific minor-league pitching coordinator or coach. For now, he’s talked about being a dad and buying a ticket, hot dog and beer to watch Jacob deGrom [14] pitch today. Should you spot him in the stands, buy him the beer. He’s more than earned it.

* * *

You probably saw this, but just in case: It’s by Elizabeth Merrill of ESPN, about the ’69 Mets and how they’ve endured the long year of COVID, and those they’ve lost. It’s lovely and bittersweet [15], about the bonds between teammates and the fellowship of athletes, and the loneliness and loss when something unimaginable forces those bonds to be cut.