Listening to my first game in a long time, as I unpacked and organized, I couldn’t help but feel that this first game represented a lot about this season. People have a tendency to think this way when they just come back from vacation. You’re still in a tourist mode, looking for representative details. But last night’s game works as a representative detail. It really does.
Here’s my argument. If looked at as an aggregate of individual performances, this season has gone pretty much as you might have expected. Wright has performed just slightly below what you’d expect and Reyes has performed just slightly better. Beltran has performed below but not disastrously below what you would have expected and Delgado has performed above but not spectacularly above what you would have expected. So the main engines of the offense have given us roughly what we would have had a right to expect. Schneider has performed offensively as expected, as has the second base position. Alou and Church are serious injury losses, but they, along with Pedro Martinez, do not represent a more significant injury deficit than an average team suffers, certainly not an average team with this average age.
The pitching has also been as expected. Santana (I’m fine with a 2.86 ERA over 154 innings), Maine, Perez, Wagner, Schoenweis, Feliciano, and even Sanchez have all performed within the reasonable limits of expectation. In fact, it is almost eerie how close so many players on this team have been to what you might have predicted when the season started.
So here we are on track to win 86 games, two below what we won last year. That’s pretty close to last year and I think that’s okay given that there really was a certain malady of the spirit in the first half that kept this individually-performing-as-expected team from winning quite as many ballgames as you would expect.
What the remainder of the season will come down to will be the sum total of the surprises. Wright could go on a final tear and that would do it, or some reliever could get really hot. Who knows? But last night’s game illustrated the degree to which seasons often come down to the unexpected play of relatively minor players.
Tatis, Pelfrey, and Heilman have not performed as you would have expected this year. And they were the whole game last night. One used-up veteran and one almost given-up-on prospect show us that they’re not dead yet, that they’re everything we’d ever wanted from them and so much more. And then there’s one vital component of our bullpen who is having a Steve Blass what-am-I-doing-out-here season. The sum of the first two was enough to compensate for the last factor. But just barely.
This year’s team has a way of making you feel bad as you feel good and good as you feel bad. Last night, we were just ahead of the curve. This season is going to come down to things like this. It will be won or lost by a hair, by the edge balance of minor players. It’s not going to be pretty. But winning pretty is not a Mets tradition. Winning isn’t really a Mets tradition, though it is an occasional Mets event. What is a Mets tradition is that winning or losing will come down to the performance of players who were never supposed to carry the team, but do so anyway, because something gets into them and the moment carries them forward (Al Weis, Eddie Kranepool, Ray Knight, Wayne Garrett, Mookie Wilson, Bennie Agbayani. Todd Pratt, etc.)