Pete Alonso’s two-run walkoff homer in the 10th inning Thursday improved the New York Mets’ record to 26-14, which is good for the second-most wins in baseball and a six-and-a-half-game lead in the NL East. They have a +44 run differential, put up the fourth most runs in the MLB, and boast the league’s fourth stingiest staff ERA (3.32).
It appeared as though new owner Steve Cohen had bought his team out of the circus tent that they occupied under previous ownership. I even saw a coworker who’s a Mets fan smile a couple of weeks ago and say the team’s improvement is a sign that the franchise is finally turning it around.
New staff ace and perpetual badass Max Scherzer entered Wednesday night’s game 4-1 as a starter and earned his fifth win, giving up one run in 5 2/3 innings against the St. Louis Cardinals. However, he took himself out of the game after he felt a “zing” on his left side following a slider in the dirt to Albert Pujols.
Scherzer said he didn’t think it was a “major strain.” The doctors discovered otherwise, as they deemed the oblique injury major enough to sideline the starter for as many as two months. We’ll see how optimistic the mood is following the news that dropped Thursday afternoon. That said, up until this point, not much has phased the team or its fans.
The rebuttal is, “Yeah, but this is the Mets.” This isn’t an organization with a history of high-priced signings panning out. It’s the team that’s responsible for Bobby Bonilla Day. The Mets website, RisingApple.com, ranked Bonilla as only the eighth-worst free agent signing in the history of the franchise, so that’s the standard of stupidity fans expect from this New York baseball team.
Their very dedicated and very demoralized following lives in constant fear of the other cleat dropping, and while starters Carlos Carrasco, Taijuan Walker, and Adam Ottavino and the bullpen (3.46 ERA, the 12th best mark in the majors) have been serviceable, I could hear my Mets-superfan friend screaming “Why god?” (and calling my Cardinals pond scum) from Spain on Wednesday night, and a follow up “Fuck me!” on Thursday afternoon.
Earlier this week, news came out that there is no timetable for the return of pitcher Jacob deGrom, who caught an injury in preseason. Starling Marte went on the bereavement list Tuesday and could be out for at least a week. Normally, this string of poor luck would be viewed less as a speed bump on the way to the NL East crown, and more as the first of 10 plagues that will lead to the demise of the 2022 season.
However, I guess the Mets and their fans have pivoted from being depressed by the downpour of bad news to singing in it. The normally slow to sensationalize New York media said the Mets’ early season success has allowed the team to be patient with players recovering from injuries and other snags. (The same publication that lauded the Mets’ fortitude on Wednesday called Scherzer’s injury a “disaster” on Thursday, so… so much for that.)
Manager Buck Showalter was more preoccupied by life’s trivialities, like the voice guiding his GPS, before the injury news broke, but let’s hope his levity can stave off the impending gloom and subsequent doom.
I can’t tell if Showalter is intentionally trying to distract his team from the blade of the guillotine hanging over its neck, or if he’s genuinely upbeat because these breaks don’t feel as bad after spending eight years in Baltimore. (My Google Maps is set to English accent because I like to feel classy when pulling into the Taco Bell drive-thru, but do you, Buck.) Regardless, he’s going to need to utilize every mental and managerial trick he’s picked up during his lengthy career to prevent a self-fulfilling prophecy from manifesting.
The other reason there shouldn’t be a rush to panic in Queens is the rest of the division — and the National League in general — has been sloppy. No other team in the NL East is above .500, and there are only six teams with winning records in the NL. The Mets are sitting atop a Wild Card race they’re not even a part of, so logic says they should be able to survive a free fall in the standings if it was to happen.
Honestly, the fact that I used “if” instead of “when” in that last sentence about a potential Mets collapse counts as progress.
The Wilpons weren’t as detestable as Donald Sterling, and even though Steve Cohen has bordered on Steve Ballmer bravado, the Mets thankfully aren’t the Clippers. So it’s nice to see their fans, besieged by bad news over the past week, searching the sky for silver linings instead of wallowing in puddles of despair — for now.