I've started writing this as the Mets finish the death rattle of Game 6 of the 2012 season. Their hot 4-0 start has cooled off considerably - first with the predictable result on a cold Tuesday night with bench players, and then with Wednesday afternoon's impotent bats that failed to give Johan Santana any sort of support. These more recent games, reminding fans of the stark reality of Mets baseball, are refreshing if only because they force me to get my head out of the clouds and actually think reasonably about what, if anything, the beginning of this season means. Or, more to the point, about whether I can actually expect to be looking about an above .500 record in a month, much less a week.
I cannot. Chances are they'll be 4-5 by Sunday and won't look back. Accepting this inevitable course towards oblivion is strangely comforting.
Even so, baseball is back and refusing to be all that emotionally invested in wins and losses - a particularly smart choice through roughly 1/27th of a season - helps me simply be excited that summer is around the corner and I get to watch a completely hopeless baseball franchise for bottom basement prices a mere 20 minutes from my apartment. What could be better?!?
/slams face in empty seat at Citi Field to keep awake during sleepy on-field effort
Some good things:
1. David Wright has been seeing a lot of the ball in his at bats. He is 7 for 12 with 4 walks and an OBP of .647. More to the point, though, D Wright has only struck out once. Caveats: 3 of his 4 games were against an abysmal-looking Braves team (but who are, nevertheless, predicted to finish well above the Mets in the standings). Either way, I enjoy a David Wright who has his eyes tracked on the ball and can rip shots into the new shortened wall in left. His absence from the lineup was noticeable in the two games he missed against the Nats. More on that below.
2. The pitching has been shockingly good. With the return of Johan Santana to the starting rotation after a protracted battle with injuries, it is very clear what kind of impact a healthy #57 has on the game and the success of the rotation generally. He's got a .90 ERA with 13 SOs, and has been able to pitch reasonably deep into his first two starts. As a team, the Mets have an ERA of 2.80 and 46 SOs, and have kept their opponents average to a low .224. Again, I know that the opposition has been shit, but the METS ARE SHIT AS WELL. CAPS LOCKS MAKE MY POINT SALIENT.
3. Tickets are cheap. This has absolutely nothing to do with much of anything other than it is probably the most relevant factor that will keep me going to games with relative regularity, even if the play starts going way south. Tickets were being sold - by the team - for $2.50 for today's game. Today's Johan v. Strasburg clash. Say what you want about the poorly run team of nobodies getting paid by a family of arguably unethical "businessmen" who got fat off the losses of bamboozled investors, but it doesn't totally suck to love a team that you can see for so cheap. It only mostly sucks.
1. The team's hitting is entirely suspect. David Wright's hot start notwithstanding, this is a team still relying on the bat of Jason Bay. With Wright out of the lineup, the team's lack of depth is startling, and you have to wonder if there is enough juice in the lineup to produce more than 3 runs a game. They currently average just that - 3 runs a game - which puts them squarely in the cellar of the National League in terms of run production. Pitching and poor opposing batters has covered this up through the first week. It will not last.
2. And this is slightly related to point 1... the lack of production at the plate will definitely wear on the pitching staff as the season winds on. They've been good thus far, but you can expect guys to get frustrated and start to press from the mound if they go into a game thinking they need to a pitch a shutout to get a win. In typical Mets fashion, the poor batting has been most evident during Santana's two starts (against opposing aces, I know), where the team has managed only one run and ten hits. That's garbage all too typical for this team when it has Santana on the mound (see also the team's atrocious record in 2010 when Johan started... despite his respectable ERA of 2.98 that year). Sadly, this seems to still be a team that takes it easy at the plate in games started by their best pitching.
3. Just as the cheap tickets will keep me coming back, the lack of my most favoritest mode of transportation to games may keep me away from time to time. If you pay attention to the various treats from the Deeg Podcast Industries, you've most definitely heard me or Scizz mention our love for the NY Water Taxi and its free ferry ride to Citi Field during baseball season. It started a couple years back and I, frankly, was in heaven. I work in downtown Manhattan, so the ease and fun of getting to games via boat - with $5 beers no less - cannot be overstated. Well, the boat is not happening this year, having lost its corporate sponsor. Apparently, Delta - not satisfied to screw me over every time I try to fly on their shit stained excuse for an airline - wanted to fuck up this part of my life, too. Thanks for that. Unless some new company steps in and takes up the mantle for lovers of aquatic drinking preludes to baseball games, it looks like I'll be going through the summer a little less enthusiastic about making it out to Citi Field in July and August, when the team will most definitely be out of any playoff race. Any rich corporate bastards reading this now? I knew it! Fix it, please.
While the downsides of Mets baseball - at least the on-the-field downsides - were all-too-obvious before the season even began, the upsides are somewhat heartening. For that, Mets fans can be reasonably content for the moment. As the team's anointed superstar at the plate, particularly in the wake of the departure of an inexplicably under-achieving batting champion, it is on David Wright to carry this team if they have any shot at a respectable 2012. (They don't). And, for now, we can just sit and enjoy the season begin to unfold. Given the glimpses of clutch play we've gotten from Daniel Murphy, for instance, there can be some hope that this season is at least a good training ground for young guys as the team continues to rebuild and consider its future (i.e. wait in desperation for the team to be out of the Wilpons' hands).
Until next time, when I complain endlessly about how unfair the Phillies rotation is, how the Majors need a salary cap and how Fred Wilpon has started hiring boats of Czech strippers because they're cheaper, it's been a pleasure as always.
Let's Go Mets.