I started watching baseball in 1946 when my dad took me to Ebbets Field and the Dodgers beat the Reds. I was seven.
Since then, I have never seen “my team” play a series like the one the Mets just played in Washington. (I can afford to gush; I’m retired, and do not have to pretend at neutrality.)
I have, however, seen another team play a dismal three-game series like the one the Nationals just did. More about this in a moment.
My Brooklyn Dodgers were so good they were expected to win (except in the World Series against the Yankees.) They were better known for disasters – Bobby Thomson’s homer in 1951 being just one of them.
The Mets came along in 1962 and have had epic seasons and stunning games, including two straight (Koosman and Seaver) over the Cubs at home on Sept. 8-9, 1969, to move within half a game of first place.
But even those surging Mets never won three straight over their closest competitor, coming from behind in all three when logic said they were done for the day.
Of course, the Nationals were already a sodden team going into this week. One of the Mets’ greatest gifts this year was the refusal of Washington management to fire Matt Williams when the team skulked for half a season.
The hapless manager brought in Drew Storen Wednesday night after his failure of nerve and location on Tuesday. Any sentient manager would have invented a blister on one of Storen’s fingers; the term “unavailable” was made for that guy. Instead, Cespedes hit a two-run homer.
After thinking about it overnight, I realized I had witnessed a contending team losing three straight in September. I was in chilly St. Louis in 1964 as the Phillies, who had lost seven straight, lost three more, more or less straightforwardly, and fell out of first place.
To be fair: some of the Phillies’ stars were hurt; their pitching staff was shot; their best player, John Callison, had a fever so bad that Bill White, the Cardinals’ first baseman, helped him on with a jacket, rarely allowed for any runner but a pitcher. The Cardinals whooshed past the Phils, into first place, toward a marathon victory over the Yanks in the World Series.
Gene Mauch of the Phillies gets the blame for overworking his pitching staff; he was a remote and intelligent man, part Ahab, part Queeg, but I cut him much more slack than I do Matt Williams.
Many teams have their sagas of comebacks and failures but I have never seen anything quite like those three games in DC this week.
Will we someday talk about Granderson the way we do about Clendenon? Flores the way we do about Weis? Familia the way we do about McGraw and Orosco? No matter what happens, the last three games deserve Casey Stengel’s adjective: Amazing.
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.