There is a tendency we have, when we look at something big and complex, to think that we can scoop up a little bit of it and say that it represents the whole. If you look at sports writing, you find that one of the most common things sportswriters will say is: this game stands for the whole season. And sure, whenever you get good but sporadic offense, decent starting pitching and lousy relief pitching in a game, you could be forgiven for saying that the game represented the Mets problems in this particular season. I’m not denying that the Mets problems show up in many of their games. That’s why we consider these things to be the Mets problems. What I want to suggest is that the way the Mets are playing this year, it is particularly difficult to call any particular game representative.
But maybe a series can be representative. I think this last one with Philadelphia was. You could have said that the first game represented a weakness of the Mets. But you know it wasn’t representative because you didn’t lose hope after they lost it. You have seen plenty of examples this season of the Mets playing a horrible, disheartening game and then coming right back and playing a beautiful one. And you’ve seen the reverse. Often, during a baseball season, you see a particular game and you feel you have some sense of what the next game will be like, and the next, and the next. Not this season. This season is more like a series of coin tosses. Each individual event doesn’t seem to be influenced by previous events. This season, there’s just no reason why, after you give up a seven-run lead in one game, you wouldn’t come from behind with two outs to win the next one.
I think this may account for the emotional weirdness I referred to in my blog post of two days ago. I don’t get as depressed by each loss because I don’t think it signifies much about the next game or about the future. I don’t get as happy with each win for the same reason. The games don’t tell me where the team is going. I don’t have any idea where the team is going. Last year, I thought I had a sense, but I was wrong, so I’m certainly not going to try to anticipate anything now. And anyway, even if we were seven games ahead with seventeen to go, I wouldn’t feel confident.
But I don’t feel particularly frightened. Do you? If the Mets win this year, they will have won it. They will not have avoided losing it. The inconsistency and the events of last year have lowered my expectations in what may even be a good way. What will happen will happen.
Still, it is interesting that even though the Mets are on track to win exactly as many games this year as they won last year and even though a real photo-finish with the Phillies is very likely, this year feels so much better. Part of the reason, obviously, is that we’re not ahead. Part of the reason is that the good part of this season came after the bad part, unlike last year, so good stuff is more vivid in our collective memory. Part of the reason is that this season we are playing better at home than on the road, which is as it should be, and probably indicates a better relationship between the team and the fans. Part of the reason is that we have Jerry rather than Willie. I don’t know if he’s a better manager or not and I did like Willie Randolph. But the canny, involved way in which Jerry Manuel responds to problems just makes me feel better than Willie made me feel from last fall to this spring. Willie set his jaw and his lips and determined to ride things out. Jerry looks out at that field with a questioning gaze and a what-the-$**&? sense of irony and bemusement. Jerry makes me feel better. This isn’t scientific.
People say they’re more of a team this year, that they want it more, and blah, blah, blah. Maybe they do. I don’t know. I thought they wanted it last year too. Something feels good about this team. I feel good. Because I have no specific expectations and I have run out of assumptions. And since there are no representative samples this year, I’ll try to look at my team the way Jerry does and not the way Willie did last year. I’m amused and curious and questioning. I’m not just holding on.