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Sentence Pronounced, Execution Imminent

The Wilpons let Zack Wheeler [1] walk as a free agent after the 2019 season, with zero negotiations and one knife in the back from Brodie Van Wagenen, who said that the Mets had helped Wheeler “parlay two good half-seasons over the last five into $118 million” with the Phillies.

That was the Wilpons in their red giant phase: a bad decision, borne of cheapness, executed gracelessly not by the principals but by some pathetic goon. Wheeler didn’t forget, and Sunday afternoon he gave the Mets a jab of his own: a two-hit shutout [2] that completed the Phils’ three-game sweep of their supposed rivals. The Mets are now in third place, behind not only the Phillies but also the Braves. Should those two clubs be worried about being caught? Yeah right. More like the Nationals should be worried about getting brained by the plummeting club temporarily above them.

The Mets can’t hit, their pitchers fail to be perfect and therefore lose, and these days they barely register a pulse in making outs and losing games. After a day off Monday – hey, no chance of losing! – they have three games with the Nationals and then begin a two-week stretch that would be a brutal gauntlet even for a good team: thirteen games with the powerhouse Dodgers and Giants, including a West Coast trip. You never know with baseball, but I will be shocked if the Mets emerge from that stretch with any realistic hope of playing October baseball.

This has been a startlingly fast fall that’s left us scratching our heads about the team we’re stuck rooting for, as Greg discussed [3] on Saturday. To a certain extent that fall it was masked by factors that let us fool ourselves: the team’s pluck in overcoming a rash of injuries, a flukey statistical run/admirable knack for clutch situations from bench players and fill-ins (call that Rorschach however you see it), and most of all the basic lousiness of the competition.

Now the illusions have been dispelled. The injuries continue, the flukey statistical runs/pluckiness belong to the other guys, and the Mets have sunk below whatever Mendoza line denotes basic lousiness. The sentence has been pronounced and the execution appears imminent.

Which has been frustrating and aggravating and maddening but mostly just made me sad. I thought my team was good and they were writing a story that might lead somewhere joyous; they turned out to be not so good and writing a forgettable story I’ve read too many times before. There are a fair number of pages left in this volume, but I don’t think I want to know what’s next.