Wednesday, April 06, 2005

That Little Itch Could Be Telling You Something

It starts with the little itch. The brain trust known as New York Mets management executes a transaction that elicits a fair bit of head-scratching from the fan base. Take, for example, oh . . . let's just pick at random here . . . trading away Matt Ginter unexpectedly. A "Hmmm," a bewildered look, and that Pavlovian head-scratch.

My pate, thanks to the last few years of deals brokered by the Mets' very own Mensa ("Metsa"), looks as if a rabid cat believed my brain to be made of catnip. (Which, coincidentally, a few of our readers believed for some time as well.)

But it gets worse from there. When the puzzlement turns to frustrated angst, such as, oh, say, when the Ginter deal indirectly causes the Mets not to have a starter for next Saturday's game in Atlanta, that's when the hair is yanked out and the forehead begins its volley with the nearest wall. Yes, it seems that thanks to some unfortunate timing -- a euphemism for a little bit of bad luck and lot of bad planning -- the Mets are bereft of sound options for Saturday's contest. "Pray for Rain" in Game 5 of the season is just so unbelievably pitiful. Almost on cue, Kris Benson came up lame (and not in the usual way) immediately following Ginter's widely challenged departure, and with recent demotees unavailable until well after Saturday, the Mets are looking at a pair of left nut/right nut options for the smashing. (By the by, this site has been overabundantly rife with male anatomy metaphors of late -- I guess we should try to expand our horizons beyond our pants for a while, eh, Rob?) Those two options are:
  1. Manny Aybar. He was last spotted allowing a run off a pair of crushed doubles on Opening Day. You know, the run that set it up for the event we'll simply call "What Braden Did." Oh, and he's started one game in the last five years. Swell.
  2. Jose Santiago. You mean you're not familiar with Santiago? That's because, according to the MLB rulebook (worth noting: Amazon's shipment of the MLB rulebook to Shea Stadium got backordered), he cannot have made the Mets' 40-man roster. (Also worth noting: according to his level of talent, he cannot have made any big league team's 40-man roster.) Jaap at Archie Bunker's Army does a nice job of spelling out exactly who Santiago is, while skewering the powers that be for this series of events.
Looks like the Mets are going with Option #2. Fan-frickin'-tastic. Either way, the Braves went ahead and mapped out their plan of attack for the coming week -- they're shrewd like that -- and they'll be starting Horacio Ramirez, a real major league starter. While the inside scoop says that Metsa is actually counting on the Braves to just forget that this game is on the schedule, it looks like the makings of a predetermined loss.

It's a bit presumptuous to ink the L in now, but I have more than a sneaking suspicion that I'll be gagging you with "Santiago got a Code Red from the Braves" or "Old Man and the Sea Monkeys Failed to Reel One In" on Sunday or Monday. (It's only too bad the Mets aren't playing the Marlins this weekend.) And the same instincts that led us to assure ourselves that Opening Day is but one game of 162 will say that Game 5 is, too, and together this week's bookends of botchy-ball will only account for 1/81 of a season. Not to mention the ever present springtime mantra, "It's still early." Aaargh, to reference Charlie Brown for the second time in two weeks. (At least I didn't refer to my "Peanuts," to perpetuate the tired theme.)

I've chattered away at length in this space on and off for two years about how one game may be but one game, but it is in no way the meaningless throwaway that it's regarded as after a bad loss. I'll grant you that players and managers have to tell themselves something to prevent the past from seeping into their conscious and cluttering their concentration in future contests. There is certainly no sense in fixating on yesterday's gaffes for those guys. But for us, the fans, the bloggingly inspired who wax philosophical (wax philistine here), we can and should acknowledge winnable losses as the road block between aspirations and realization. Winnable losses. They're the enemy. They're dry rot. They're termite infestation. They're an internal contagion, cancerous in their self-destruction. Uh, they suck. Monday was one, and an ominous tone-setter to boot, and dammit, I'm tired of the Mets looking forward while stumbling over the present.

Meanwhile . . . next Saturday just might go down as an unwinnable loss, something the Mets recorded many of over the past few seasons, but something that should never afflict this current assemblage of players. That somehow it's happening in Week 1 of the season has me scratching my head, pulling my hair out, and banging my head on my desk here. I look like I'm the one who got the Code Red.

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