Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Metsian (In)Perfection of 2014 by Mike Faloon

With his hundredth pitch of the day, Jacob deGrom, Mets rookie phenom, throwing in a meaningless late September game, induces an inning-ending double play. He was perfect through four innings and struck out 10 Braves. The Mets held on to win and deGrom strengthened the case for his Rookie of the Year bid.

That play, that game—which helped the Mets sweep the Braves in Atlanta—illustrates the perfect ways of the 2014 Mets. Not because they won on this Sunday afternoon. That was enjoyable but uncharacteristic. The 2014 Mets haven’t been perfect in the conventional sense of the word. Their free agents have Bonilla-ed. Their attendance has dropped. They’re closer to last place than first, months removed from playoff contention. Theirs is a different kind of perfection, the uncanny ability to deliver something every time I tune in, usually something unexpected, displaying a semblance of heart where you wouldn’t expect any to take root.

Like any floundering team, the Mets want us to think about next year. The return of Matt Harvey. The potential in each Wilmer Flores homerun or Buddy Carlyle punch out. Sure, it’s a stretch. Everyone recognizes that, front office and fans alike. Every losing team tries to sell the same narrative. So does the New York State lottery: hey, you know never know.

Such an outlook is usually called denial. With the Mets, though, we do know. They’re not going to win this year. They’re not going to win next year. There’s never been a time in the 2014 season when the whole team has delivered. No hot streaks. Not talk of “Maybe this is our year.” But, man, this cast, however patchy and inconsistent, has delivered.

It’s been fun watching Lucas Duda rebuild his ego as he inches towards THE BIG NUMBERS: thirty homeruns and ninety ribbies. Daniel Murphy would have led the league in hits were it not for his injuries but it’s his baserunning—his unpredictable, holy crap, “What is his thinking?!?” running—that I love. As one teammate said of Murphy’s poorly timed base stealing attempts: “Daniel thinks he’s invisible out there.”

And Bartolo Colon, wow, where to start with a guy who arrives overweight, shrugs off every body image aspersion, laughs every time he steps into the batter’s box, and still wins 14 ballgames?

The list goes on. I’ve loved watching Juan Lagares track down everything that dares fly into centerfield and rooting for Zack Wheeler, the league’s least efficient pitcher, who’s walking fewer batters but still needs 110 pitches to crawl through five innings every start. Say nothing of the pure, silly scorecard joy of having Travis d’Arnaud, Matt den Dekker, Jacob deGrom and Anthony Recker on the same roster.

This season’s character revealed itself early on in the April 5th game against the Reds. The season was only five games old but Ike Davis—the last Met to slug thirty homers, former can’t miss prospect—had already been relegated to the bench and trade rumors were swirling: the Mets were going to cut him loose any day. Big Ike, blessed with the sweetest of swings and a stunning ability to swing and miss, entered the bottom of the ninth as a pinch hitter. Bases loaded. We invited friends over that day. It was the first Saturday game of the season and we were celebrating, gathering to ring in the spring. By the ninth the Mets were losing and our enthusiasm for the game was dwindling. The Reds were winning 3-2 and seemed certain to ride out Johnny Cueto’s rock solid start. But then the bases slowly clogged with Mets and we gathered in the living room and Ike connected, a rocket to right. It was the moment that mattered. Not their 1-3 record. Not their tattered financial status. Not their streak of five losing seasons. Just that moment coupled with the fact that Ike could leave town with his head held high.

Do I recognize the obvious failings of the 2014 Mets? I’m not an idiot. Do I want the 2015 Mets to win? Sure. Quantitative success is certainly easier to explain to my kids, for one thing. But right now I just hope they add a goofy veteran like Adam “Let me pitch the 14th” Dunn or Brandon “If the fans can work blue, so can I” Phillips and play with the same misguided tenacity they’ve shown throughout this season.

I realize that my outlook is equally misguided. The sort of musings you’d expect from a progressive living the Obama era, or a hack who continues to think that one day he’ll pen something that catches on, garners an audience. Do Astros and Padres and Cubs fans have their versions of my list? I hope so. Everyone should.

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