On Walkoff Balks and Agony

Rooting for the Mets is like watching a child take its first shaky, unsure steps. The baby's face is contorted in fear and excitement, he struggles valiantly to keep his balance, he puts one foot in front of the other and he actually does it! He takes a few steps, a few more with more confidence, and suddenly he is sprinting - straight off a cliff onto a bed of spikes.

The Mets lost in absolutely stunning fashion last night, thanks to a walkoff balk. Yeah, that's right. This team doesn't both to rip your heart out. They leave it in your chest cavity and simply bash it with a hammer ever second or third night. A team that had finally climbed back to .500, a team with a patchwork offense and a budding star in Dillon Gee and a transcendent season from Jose Reyes finally looks like they are putting it together. Then DJ Carrasco bobs his head and the game is over.

The sequence itself was so indicative of the Mets of the last decade that I'm surprised they didn't trade for Kris Benson and sign Kaz Matsui during the 7th inning stretch. Francisco Rodriguez has been on fire as of recent and managed to blow a save thanks to a Brooks Conrad homer. That's right, the same Brooks Conrad who made so many errors in the playoffs last year that everyone kept looking around hoping his mommy would take him home early from Little League.

In the 10th, 'defensive replacement' Lucas Duda came way off the bag to field a ground ball, a play that was so bad it looked like it was happening in slow motion while Gary Cohen loudly confused Duda with Daniel Murphy. Realizing his misnomer, he said it was "a Daniel Murphy-type mistake." Yikes.

Next, the inevitable single to right, which I'm fairly sure Ron Darling predicted out loud - either that, or it was me talking to myself. Clearly Ron and I have both seen this movie before, and we know how it ends. Now there are men on first and third. Jason Heyward stepped to the plate, a universal feeling of dread. There was no way this would end well - the only question being how the Mets would lose.

They chose the road less travelled. Carrasco leaned forward to get the sign, started to come set and stopped short, and Heyward ran out of the box and pumped his fist before the umpire even made the call. Game over.


My house is a mass of boxes right now as my family prepares to move out for a renovation. I will embark on my second apartment excursion later this day, most likely winding through the streets of Chinatown, through alleyways with hanging laundry and up staircases to closet sized apartments with gorgeous views of other closet sized apartments. I will continue to fret about not having a job, I will continue to run into old friends and make awkward smalltalk and walk around the city until sweat pools in my shoes and fogs up my sunglasses. It is officially the "Dog Days," and I say that with a small white fluffy dog staring at me from her pillow. She's not happy about it either.

With basketball season over and football looking further away, I am dreading these dog days. We are still a month out from the All-Star game and I am still not really watching the Mets. The last few years have brought so much pain and anger, so many late season collapses and injuries and bad signings and financial meltdowns and embarrassing press that I simply compartmentalized my fandom and packed it away as much as possible. My Mets hats and tshirts and the like will have to go into a moving box this weekend, in a stunningly ham-fisted metaphor.

I made a promise with myself to not get sucked in this season. But all it took was watching Jose Reyes for a little, and seeing Carlos Beltran showing flashes of his old self, and here I am. I am the old Michael Corleone, grey haired in a red cardigan: "Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in." It has been such a joyless experience rooting for this team for the last 5 years, and yet I know that come September I will have watched 40 more Mets games and seen probably 20 losses and think to myself, "They're still in it!" The scouring of the MLB standings on ESPN.com, the playoff odds calculators, the box score watching will all come right back. And then they will lose 8 in a row and that will be it.

It is not quick or painless. It sneaks up on you like a jungle cat in the brush. It hits you like an anvil in a cartoon. And yet, baseball season is so long that it is easy to get lulled back in. Just when you thought you were out.

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