(Sept. 6: When the glorious season went downhill)
What can you say about a baseball team that died?
That it was talented and spirited. That it played with vestiges of old-timey baseball. That it had Edwin Diaz jogging in from the bullpen, accompanied by Timmy Trumpet.
That it ran out of gas in the final month.*
From spring training to Labor Day, the Mets found ways to win, sometimes with power, sometimes with guile and bunts, sometimes despite two iconic pitchers showing signs of mortality.
Mets fans reassured each other that this was one of those rare seasons in the team’s torturous history. Buck Showalter, glowering in the dugout, had all the information in his meticulous, finicky mind, in his little black notepad.
In the second half of the season, the Atlanta Braves asserted themselves (“They are the World Champions,” Good Old Howie Rose said on the radio recently.)
There are theories about why the Mets fell apart. The pitchers caught up with Pete Alonso and Francisco Lindor. Not enough power from the two catchers. The late-season acquisitions were exposed. (Tired of watching Daniel Vogelbach take third strikes?) DeGrom and Scherzer could not pitch late into games. The “organization” showed mixed messages in bringing up three callow prospects late in the season, without time to adjust to the majors.
But I’ll tell you the worst thing to happen to the Mets in 2022:, when a record-setting 122 Mets hitters were hit by pitches.
The worst was when Starling Marte was whacked on his right hand on Sept. 6.
Marte was the soul of the Mets, a refugee from the lower depths of the majors, with an athletic strut, a knowing smile, the ability to steal a base, hit a homer, bounce against the wall to make a catch. I always liked him with the Pirates. With the swagger of Smokin’ Joe Frazier, the late heavyweight champion, Marte was always on the move, connecting with fans, perpetual motion.
But Marte did not play until the wild-card series, a full month later -- stealing a base or bouncing into the outfield wall, with a splint on his aching right middle finger. By the time Marte got back, the Mets’ fire was gone.
The final month was sour, particularly in the three wild-card games.
---When Max Scherzer was bombarded for four homers in the opening game, a lot of Mets fans -- so colorful, so verbal, so passionate -- took the low road with yowls and boos for Scherzer. Shame on them. I bet St. Louis fans didn’t boo anybody as the Cardinals went down and out, at home.
--- In the Mets' third and final game with the Padres, while Joe Musgrove was mowing down the Mets, Showalter asked the umpires to check him for a foreign substance on face or uniform. The umpires poked at Musgrove’s ears, which only made Musgrove even more resolute, as he pitched seven innings, giving up one hit. I’ve known Showalter since his first days as Yankee manager, and I get a kick out of him and his old-school game tactics. But Showalter’s ploy against Musgrove looked cheesy.
So the Mets’ season is over. No point in looking ahead. The three lead pitchers were wobbly in crucial series. Some contracts are up. The “prospects” never did get enough experience to show what they might do next year.
But Mets fans have their memories – Nimmo’s catch, Escobar’s torrid September, McNeil’s batting title, gallant slides home, swarms on game-ending hits, and most of all, the trumpets for Edwin Diaz, now echoing in the Mets' empty ball park.
With all due respect to the other baseball team in New York, and the classy slugger, Aaron Judge,
for this worn-down Mets fan, it is now time for the old Brooklyn saying: "Wait til next year."
* With homage to Erich Segal, author of "Love Story"
Measuring Covid Deaths, by David Leonhardt. July 17, 2023. NYT online.
The United States has reached a milestone in the long struggle against Covid: The total number of Americans dying each day — from any cause — is no longer historically abnormal….
After three horrific years, in which Covid has killed more than one million Americans and transformed parts of daily life, the virus has turned into an ordinary illness.
The progress stems mostly from three factors:
First, about three-quarters of U.S. adults have received at least one vaccine shot.
Second, more than three-quarters of Americans have been infected with Covid, providing natural immunity from future symptoms. (About 97 percent of adults fall into at least one of those first two categories.)
Third, post-infection treatments like Paxlovid, which can reduce the severity of symptoms, became widely available last year.
“Nearly every death is preventable,” Dr. Ashish Jha, who was until recently President Biden’s top Covid adviser, told me. “We are at a point where almost everybody who’s up to date on their vaccines and gets treated if they have Covid, they rarely end up in the hospital, they almost never die.”
That is also true for most high-risk people, Jha pointed out, including older adults — like his parents, who are in their 80s — and people whose immune systems are compromised. “Even for most — not all but most —immuno-compromised people, vaccines are actually still quite effective at preventing against serious illness,” he said. “There has been a lot of bad information out there that somehow if you’re immuno-compromised that vaccines don’t work.”
That excess deaths have fallen close to zero helps make this point: If Covid were still a dire threat to large numbers of people, that would show up in the data.
One point of confusion, I think, has been the way that many Americans — including we in the media — have talked about the immuno-compromised. They are a more diverse group than casual discussion often imagines.
Most immuno-compromised people are at little additional risk from Covid — even people with serious conditions, such as multiple sclerosis or a history of many cancers. A much smaller group, such as people who have received kidney transplants or are undergoing active chemotherapy, face higher risks.
Covid’s toll, to be clear, has not fallen to zero. The C.D.C.’s main Covid webpage estimates that about 80 people per day have been dying from the virus in recent weeks, which is equal to about 1 percent of overall daily deaths.
The official number is probably an exaggeration because it includes some people who had virus when they died even though it was not the underlying cause of death. Other C.D.C. data suggests that almost one-third of official recent Covid deaths have fallen into this category. A study published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases came to similar conclusions.
Dr. Shira Doron, the chief infection control officer at Tufts Medicine in Massachusetts, told me that “age is clearly the most substantial risk factor.” Covid’s victims are both older and disproportionately unvaccinated. Given the politics of vaccination, the recent victims are also disproportionately
Republican and white.
Each of these deaths is a tragedy. The deaths that were preventable — because somebody had not received available vaccines and treatments — seem particularly tragic. (Here’s a Times guide to help you think about when to get your next booster shot.)
From the great Maureen Dowd:
As I write this, I’m in a deserted newsroom in The Times’s D.C. office. After working at home for two years during Covid, I was elated to get back, so I could wander around and pick up the latest scoop.
But in the last year, there has been only a smattering of people whenever I’m here, with row upon row of empty desks. Sometimes a larger group gets lured in for a meeting with a platter of bagels."
--- Dowd writes about the lost world of journalists clustered in newsrooms at all hours, smoking, drinking, gossipping, making phone calls, typing, editing.
"Putting out the paper," we called it.
Much more than nostalgia.