Love Story: RIP, Mets
(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"
10/10/2022 12:50:07 pm
Sad but true
10/10/2022 10:58:22 pm
This piece is so reminiscent of sports writing in the 1950’s that I read as a pre-teen fan of Dem Bums. That is why I anticipated the ending of the Mets season.
10/11/2022 11:37:09 am
Diana and other Queens Types: Thanks for your comments. I must admit, as a long-time Dodger-Mets fan (I tried to keep it cool when I was working), that I didn't really see this coming as the Mets kept winning. I let my guard down. Then the Mets started to stagger. GV
10/11/2022 07:50:23 am
My little heart is broken for the Mets. This was my first year as an active fan attending many of their games.
Alan D. Levine
10/10/2022 12:53:02 pm
The loss of Marte was the critical factor in the decline in September. Not only his batting and fielding were gone for a month, but his spark was missing from each game. But that still doesn't explain the bad performances of Jacob and Max. All credit to Jacob for gutting out the sixth inning on Saturday night, however. As for Buck, cheesy is the wrong word. Durocheresque is a better word, and I've got to admire that.
10/10/2022 02:33:42 pm
10/10/2022 02:42:48 pm
Dear George: I love the love of Mets fans. By the way, all that is NYC & love.
10/11/2022 11:42:53 am
To My Friend Altenir from Southern Brazil: You and Celia have a great feel for NYC -- having your son baptized in beautiful old church in Greenwich Village. Well done I know you are a Yankee fan but I like to think I've represented the Queens side of things. Best, GV
10/10/2022 04:09:07 pm
A knife in my heart., but the METS shall rise again???
10/10/2022 05:21:30 pm
I just rode the Flushing Line in to the office this beautiful autumn afternoon, parking across Roosevelt Avenue and boarding the subway at Mets-Willets Point. I was tempted to take a photo from the platform in the spirit of "now echoing in the Mets' empty ball park." Not a soul to be seen . . . .
10/10/2022 06:12:30 pm
Nice wrap up, George. Tomorrow my team begins their quest. Like Marte's effect on the Mets, the Yankees went down when scrappy Matt Carpenter went down. He too will begin to play with no real warm ups beginning tomorrow. I always like to ask Met fans now how it feels to be the big money team in New York. Of course that will change next year when Judge gets that mammoth, and well deserved, contract.
10/11/2022 11:45:01 am
Brian, great to hear from you I was aware of the great run by Carpenter. I always liked him when the Mets played the Cardinal.
10/10/2022 07:19:02 pm
Good for you, George, to be able to get up this morning and tell it the way it was. Sure it hurts, especially if you were raised in Queens, But, as Cole Porter wrote, "Our love affair was too hot not to cool down...."
10/10/2022 07:56:21 pm
George, you’re right about Marte’s value to the Mets! He’s a great and confident ballplayer who makes playing baseball look easy on the highest level!
10/11/2022 11:55:21 am
Jerry, thanks for the view of a former Milwaukee Braves farmhand.
10/10/2022 07:58:20 pm
I was a kid, a “Real Dodgers” Fan. Listened, watched Dodgers lose in 1941, 46 playoff, 47,49, 50, last day to Phillies, then Bobby Thompson, then, etc, etc, etc. untill 1955, sometimes rivaling the “Second Coming.” Hallaluleah!
10/10/2022 08:07:52 pm
love your writing and btw Irwin Sollinger is my brother in law
10/11/2022 12:01:30 pm
Lor of connections here with your family. (Plus, Herb Sollinger taught Jelani Cobb at Jamaica High.) As the season went on, I realized the two Cy Young pitchers were good for 6 innings once a week. I hate to think of trading McNeil....He could have more hits without the shifts.
10/10/2022 08:11:19 pm
Thanks, George. Your piece was perfect therapy for the day after. More therapeutic than hearing all the detailed postmortems about what what went wrong and who the Metsies need to secure or acquire to chase ATL next year. We witness both talent and grit this season, but not enough to hold the East and then win the Wild Card. I felt something was missing early on and kept wondering if it was just chronic Met fan doubts and worries. (I think you're spot on about how critical Starling Marie was to the team's success.) And so then here we are. Waiting for next year, even as we watch the rest of the postseason unfold. The offseason will soon be upon us. It promises more mystery and drama. And it will hold our attention until the weather begins to warm again and we hear the familiar and reassuring voices of Gary, Keith and Ron in the booth from St. Lucie. All the best, George.
10/11/2022 12:04:14 pm
Peter, long way til spring training. We will need the TV broadcasters after upcoming weeks of these network types.GV
10/10/2022 08:27:01 pm
the post mortem and angst about the mets' demise is entertaining.
Mike from NW Queens
10/11/2022 12:02:03 am
GV, Wow, you are on a hot streak here, Loretta's (RIP) Rah-ter, now this great piece on the Metsies. Yes, I root for the other team in town but as you know, son of Ebbets Field Devotee parents, converted Mets fans. Still like watching them and thought they had a chance this year. You nailed it here. I like Buck, but his head game backfired, Musgrove had tabasco sauce on his ears!?
10/11/2022 08:34:41 am
I was dismayed that the umps did Buck's bidding on the Musgrove check. I don't know the rule and whether they were required to check based simply on the opponent's suspicion. To disrupt the flow of the game with a physical examination of the pitcher based on Showalter's inquisition seemed remarkable. Had the umps detected something independently, that would have been different.
10/11/2022 08:43:36 am
10/11/2022 12:10:44 pm
Andy, regarding your earlier post, nothing more desolate than an empty ball park.
10/11/2022 12:06:48 pm
I totally agree with you about Judge. He seems like such a centered person. I hate to think of him playing elsewhere. GV
10/11/2022 12:02:49 am
The Mets' collapse was reminiscent of the Brooklyn Dodgers blowing a 13 1/2 game lead. The Braves, a solid team with great depth, started very poorly, but excelled after the all-star break .... to the joy of those of us who live in Braves Country.
10/11/2022 12:14:09 pm
Herb: 13 1/2 games. I've heard that number before.
Edwin W. Martin Jr
10/11/2022 01:46:59 pm
1942, 104-50, Cards 106-48.
10/16/2022 11:04:26 am
This is a good fall! Braves Lost. LA Lost. Yankees behind 2-1, a full sweep would provide a nice off-season! PS in games that don’t really count an 18th inning homerun wins game 1-0. Enjoy!
10/18/2022 10:54:49 am
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“I don’t think people understand how Covid affects older Americans,” Mr. Caretti said with frustration. “In 2020, there was this all-in-this-together vibe, and it’s been annihilated. People just need to care about other people, man. That’s my soapbox.”
---Vic Caretti, 47, whose father recently died of Covid at 85.
---From an article by Paula Span, who covers old age for the NYT, which currently has 2646 comments, the majority criticizing the American public – and public officials – for acting as if the pandemic is “over.”
Classic wishful thinking, at a lethal level.