This was probably my third trip down to the bodega for an iced coffee refill. "Probably" because you tend to lose track of things like how many twenty-ounce flagons of caffeine you've downed in an oppressively humid day like Sunday, or forget them in the sticky, groggy morass that's everywhere and nowhere, even with the air conditioning maxed out.
I was wearing a Mets T-shirt—a sweaty one—and the man behind the counter was wearing a Mets hat, and that team had just finished a six-hour, 18-inning win against the league-leading Cardinals that seemed to end more out of pity than anything else. I did not want to talk about it. He did not want to talk about it. He nodded, a little gravely, and I nodded back. There was nothing to say about this game and this sweltering awfulness, except that it all felt very Mets.
The sheer length made the game an outlier, but it was otherwise everything that's systematically wrong with the Late Wilpon Era Mets writ large. Like the previous 92 efforts, wave after wave of sterling pitching—from their excellent and at times dazzling starters and from an effective enough bullpen of washed-out starting prospects and vagabonds—was wasted by a hapless and wholly punchless lineup. That lineup went 1-for-26 with runners in scoring position, topping off a stretch in which they've gone 3-for-61; the 25 runners left on base tied a franchise record. The Mets had a player in scoring position in all nine extra innings and a runner on base in every inning after a 1-2-3 first.
The numbers are stark and galling enough on their own. Watching it unfold, endlessly, somehow felt even worse, if only because you knew that your frustration and exasperation didn't come close to matching that of the Mets themselves.
All this sent Mets legend and certified national treasure Keith Hernandez into a spiral of existential despair, his color commentary reduced to a series of audible sighs of pure exasperation and even Muttley-esque snickering. He begged on air for food and whiskey, anything to cut through the deadening game he described as his "worst nightmare."
Hernandez rending his garments and grumping through his former team's inability to get a runner in from third was, if nothing else, a welcome voicing of the collective frustration for all of us left gaping at a collection of broken and bungled stuffed teddy bear-like Dudas and limping Cuddyers that can't and won't ever come close to providing enough offense for this team to contend. They are contending—the Mets are four games over .500, two games back in the National League East—but they feel like a sinus headache.
There are prosaic baseball reasons for some of this: Travis d'Arnaud's series of flukey injuries, David Wright's body betraying him, Michael Cuddyer suddenly getting old. But the reason the team has no answers for all this, and such a razor-thin margin for error, comes back to the Hapsburg-ian, be-ponzi'd owners. The Wilpons are personally embarrassing—vain and blowhardy and idiotically sexist. More to the point, they're fiscally hamstrung by the massive debt owed to both Major League Baseball—a $250 million bridge loan they received in the fallout from the collapse of Bernie Madoff's fraudulent racket, in which the owners had invested many millions—and SNY, the TV network against which they've borrowed $600 million.
"There simply isn't a time horizon for the end of this difficult period in team history," Howard Megdal wrote at Capital New York. "Not when a financially bereft ownership received the unanticipated gift of SNY doubling in value in just a few years only to use that new capital to stay afloat and borrow further against its ownership stake in the company while continuing to starve the team of resources." The team the Mets have is the team these doofuses made.
A front office that's stacked with a smart general manager and actual Moneyball-the-movie youngish Turks can't spend a dime even on the likes of a halfway decent Gerardo Parra-grade bench bat—and the Mets' collection of sterling arms are actually out-hitting their pinch hitters at the moment—because they have no idea what the team's actual budget is. This leaves them to float promises of 90-win seasons and pretend the present team can get them there, and to reiterate their willingness to go for it again, and again, and again, and again.
That won't change, at least not while the commissioner keeps letting it happen, and ensuring it will continue to happen by placing Fred Wilpon in a position of power, on the league's freaking finance committee of all things.
It all has played out with the trudging dreariness of that seemingly endless 18-inning game, one long orbit around the drain. Which is more bleakly LOLMets, really: a painful if well-deserved six-hour loss, or a win-of-attrition that prolongs the false hope that this broke-ass team will be playing meaningful games come September? The temptation is to go full Keith Hernandez, to seethe and snort and moan. But, in the end, complaining about these Mets is like complaining about the weather. There is nothing to do but nod, acknowledge it, and carry on.