I’m trying to watch and enjoy a major league baseball season that I actually think is pretty interesting. Others may be done with it, but I’m not done with it yet. It may be the way I’m wired. It clearly doesn’t bother me as much as it bothers others to root for teams that don’t have a lot going for them. I’ve been doing it with great consistency since 1962.
I still have hope that my team can make a comeback. I’m still enjoying the pleasure of my hope. There are ways it could happen. The Mets are at .500 with four starting pitchers who may be getting themselves into a terrific groove. They have an underperforming offense that might, just might, catch fire. They are in a much shallower hole than some of the holes I’ve seen them, and other teams, climb out of in the past. Why would I want to put this season out of its misery, as so many Mets fans have, when there is so much of it left, when there are so many ways it could still be interesting and encouraging and even a few ways in which it could be memorably triumphant? Why would I want to do that?
I went to Citi Field this afternoon with my daughter. We had a great time with an enthusiastic crowd and saw a pitching performance that was so good, emphatic, and filled with character that it brought tears to my eyes.
Not only that, it was the third spectacularly pitched game in a row. Tomorrow R.A. Dickey pitches. If Pelfrey has returned to form, and it sure looked as if he had on Tuesday, when was the last time the Mets had four starting pitchers as good and as exciting as they have right at this moment?
Carlos Beltran had three hits, and Jose Reyes was electric. I felt so good.
And forgive me. I remember how after 114 games in 1969, the Mets were 9 games out. They gained 17 games and finished 8 games ahead. I remember how after 114 games in 1973, the Mets were 7.5 games out. They gained 9 games and finished 1.5 games ahead. I remember how after 114 games in 2001, the Mets were 11.5 games out. They gained 8.5 games and going into the last week of the season, they were 3 games out. They didn’t make it all the way but that August and September were damned exciting. As recently as 2008, the Mets, with many of the same players as they have now, spent a summer winning 48 and losing 27. All I am saying is however much pain anybody is feeling now, it is wrong, wrong I tell you, to think that this season is over. When you have starting pitchers pitching at this level, and when it is perfectly possible that Wright, Beltran, Bay, and Reyes could all catch fire, the potential is there for the kind of August-September run that baseball fans live for, the kind of run we had in ‘69, ‘73, ‘01, and ‘08. It may not take us all the way to the playoffs, but any meaningful September baseball will be meaningful to me. I want to feel good about these guys. I like them and I am not going to say that they have disappointed me until I know for certain at the end of the season that they have.
As much as I continue to like Jerry Manuel as a person and as a character, I do want a new manager. But it is not some great awfulness that he is where he is at this moment. He earned his job in 2008. It would have been unfair to blame him for what happened in 2009. He went into this season hanging by a thread but he was a plausible manager-of-the-year candidate until the All-Star Break which was only a month ago. A fair person would only have dreamed of firing him in the past month. Replacing him at this moment is a debatable move for several reasons. As much as I howled last night when he didn’t bring in Rodriguez (an action which might have saved us a lot of trouble on several different fronts), I think we might as well wait and see what happens in the rest of this season. And you know what? However crazy he looks to me at times, if he pulls it out, I’d want to keep him.
They’re still playing some baseball worth watching down on that field, guys. I know that the media was all clogged today with the K-Rod bullshit about which I have nothing to say. * I too often feel as if I’m trying to enjoy my dinner as bombs are falling around me. I too wonder who the hell is in charge and what exactly are they thinking. But I am enjoying the baseball. I want the guys to know I am still watching and I still believe in them. I am not so generous about the limitations of those who do things that have a more direct effect on the lives of others. But these men are playing ballgames, clumsily, streakily, and inconsistently. And they have not entirely embarrassed themselves yet. Some of them are playing in ways I consider heroic. Please hold off your anger and scorn until you know that this season truly deserves to be considered a disaster. Please join me in cheering and hoping for the best for this team.
* When I wrote the above piece on Thursday night, the full details of K-Rod’s assault were not known and there were only speculations. Now that the full details have come out, I think the Mets should dump him. Unfortunately that makes it less likely that the team can make a run. That is a genuine disaster. But who knows if someone else could step up? There are 24 other guys on that team and I’m rooting for them. It will take more than this to get me to throw myself on the pig pile. This is a Clorox-firecracker moment and it is goddamn too bad, considering that the script of the evening should have had K-Rod as the hero. The kind of journalists who write just to be read have been thrown a big piece of raw meat.