Thursday, July 13, 2023

I can't give up on the Mets


The All Star Break is a traditional time to assess a team's performance and its prospects for the rest of the season. On May 21 I expressed optimism based on the Mets' seeming to have recovered from a deep slump that, in typical fashion, followed a hot start. That optimism was quickly proved unfounded as the Mets went into a vertiginous tailspin that included a three game sweep by their divisional archrivals, the Braves. 

Recently, they showed some improvement. Their record over the last ten games before the break is 6-4. Still, at the break they are in fourth place in their division, six games under .500, and 18.5 games behind the NL East leading Braves. They are also ten games behind the second place Marlins and six behind the third place Phillies. There is still a miniscule chance they could be a wild card team but, "Ya gotta believe!" aside, it stretches credulity.

Nevertheless, I'm yet to be in a funk as bad as I was in June of 2008. The presence of a very deep pocketed owner who is happy to sign checks but by and large willing to let the baseball pros make decisions, even if they're not always the best decisions, helps. I also took some cheer from this New York Times column by David Brooks. No doubt I'll take some brickbats from my compatriots on the left for this, but I've long liked David Brooks. Knowing he's a fellow Mets fan confirms and strengthens my liking him. We disagree on some very important things, principally that described by David Coates here:
"David Brooks’ recent essay on 'The Character Factory' would have us believe that 'nearly every parent on earth operates on the assumption that character matters a lot to the life outcomes of their children' while 'nearly every government anti-poverty program operates on the assumption that it doesn’t.'”
It's the statement about anti-poverty or, as I think of them, "safety net" policies, not that about parents, with which I disagree. I'll have more to say about that in a future, non-baseball post. I must also note that there are some things, other than Mets fandom, about which I agree strongly with Brooks; for example, I believe in, and identify with, his notion of a "second mountain," on which I find myself now.

I've ascribed my Mets fandom to a penchant for supporting underdogs, one that, in baseball, was first manifest in my decision to cheer for the Brooklyn Dodgers -- I lived nowhere near Brooklyn at the time -- in the 1955 World Series against the Yankees. It was re-awakened in 1985 when I attended my first Mets game with my friend Pat Carroll, who said, "What you have to know about the Mets is that they're the Brooklyn Dodgers continued by other means." (I have friends who were New York Giants fans in their childhood who would dispute that claim.)  My timing was impeccable; the following year I got to see the Mets win their second, and to date last, World Series. 

At 77, I think I have a fair chance of living long enough to see another Mets championship. If I do, it's likely to come about in a way that can be described by the adjective used by their first manager, Casey Stengel, to describe a first season expansion team that set new records for futility, "Amazin'.