The wait for the baby, in its final week, is now reflective. All the thoughts about how this moment will change my life are hurrying to get in their final proposals before the deadline. By the time people read this week’s post, the baby could be here. Until then, we wait — and think.
Meanwhile, the Mets are happening.
The New York Mets, those same lovable losers who toiled in mediocrity over the past six seasons when I had nothing better to do with my time than watch their ineptitude, are finally relevant, playing meaningful games into September and, quite possibly, October. If it’s hard to believe now, a sign of the Mets’ competitiveness will come with the weather; when was the last time they played in a month that made the leaves turn a different color?
It can’t go unnoticed that the story of the 2015 Mets is as much a story of the 2015 Nationals. If the predictions got it right, and the Nats ran away with the division as their 1:4 Vegas odds suggested they would, playoff contention for the Mets would remain a distant mark — this season, then, a nice little story of improvement, but not of returned glory.
But the Nats have remained hidden in a corner, refusing to come out and remind us why they are the favorites. For the fans who experienced 2007, when the Mets blew a 7 game lead in the final 17 days of the season, it is impossible not to look around every corner, expecting to see Washington lurking with a knife. We have seen this act before: just when everything appears safe, out jumps the villain, oblivious remains the hero, gone is the lead. The final month of the season will remain a horror movie for Mets fans, ready to jump at any sudden movement.
Baseball is a routine. It happens everyday, the details — balls, strikes, pitch counts, at-bats, innings, games — adding up like the number of times you brush your teeth or run a comb through your hair — seemingly insignificant, but taken together, things that create order. Fans expect their baseball team to follow a routine. We get upset when the order is somehow disrupted: a rain delay, a stint on the disabled list, a missed turn in the rotation.
Harvey Day has become a routine. Every Harvey start is a spectacle — and also delicate. Each inning he pitches treated carefully like a glass piece in an antique store that is handled in a way to avoid being broken; its fragile state a reminder of its value.
So now that the time has come for Matt Harvey to miss a scheduled start, it meets the fans like death: anticipated but still devastating. Mr. Harvey returned from an injury that kept him sidelined for 18 months, and after some ups and downs, was finally pitching his normal self over the past three weeks, ready to lead his team — gripped baseball in one hand, a bandwagon handle pulling a beleaguered franchise firmly grasped in the other — to the promised land.
The sports talk show hosts and callers, beat reporters and bloggers, casual fans and diehards, all beat the same drum this week: if the Mets miss the playoffs by one game, it would be because of Harvey’s missed start, not the rain delay game that drowned a 7–1 lead, nor the string of 1–0 losses that reflected a feeble lineup, nor the games Harvey actually did start and lost.
As much as baseball is a routine, it is a game of attrition. What makes the sport unique is that pennant races are not decided in a few games, or even many, they are battled and won during the course of a marathon. The team who can wage the battles to win the war is rewarded in the end. We understand this concept in other realms: when making financial decisions, saving a penny today for a dollar tomorrow; or when exercising, each rep reaching a set, after many, adding some muscle. Yet, for some reason, we can’t accept it in baseball.
By skipping a Harvey start, and there will be more, and soon it will be Syndergaard’s time to miss a turn, too, the Mets are positioning themselves for the future. Unlike the 2012 Nationals, who were forced to shut down their phenom pitcher, Stephen Strasburg, for the playoffs, the Mets are trying to preserve their best arms. They are trying to win a war. As a baseball fan, I understand that.
Decisions should be evaluated in context of the information available at the time the decision was made. Assessing a decision at the outcome is too late. So there’s no free passes for the Mets, if you don’t agree with me — and the Mets — and believe it was the wrong choice in skipping Harvey’s start, even after knowing Logan Verrett did a more than adequate job filling in, and the Mets won the game. That being said, Logan Verrett did a more than adequate job filling in, and the Mets won the game.
Verrett, a Texas star, first in high school and later at Baylor, coming full circle with a brief stint for the Texas Rangers, before being reacquired by the Mets, didn’t seemed bothered by the added pressure — neither from replacing Harvey nor the Denver air. He pitched through eight innings, allowing one run, his only in his last 18 ⅔ innings pitched for New York. The Mets, as they did all weekend, got an inflated lead early, and unlike the rest of the weekend, Verrett kept the Rockies at a comfortable distance.
The Mets swept the Rockies, three straight, their seventh win against the flailing franchise in thirteen days; remember that when looking back at how they took a stranglehold on the division lead. Friday and Saturday were fake baseball games — football games. The Mets won both of them 14–9; the 28 runs they scored within 30 hours matching the 28 runs they scored between June 16 and July 3, or over 17 days, that is, 150 innings.
With the Nationals taking two out of three against Milwaukee, the Mets lead grew one game to five.
On a final note, while it’s supposed to be baby-waiting time, we can still get excited that it’s also time for David Wright to return to the lineup on Monday night — long-awaited, indeed.
That does it for this week!