Thirty-two days down in the 2020 season. Thirty-three to go. And it feels like the Mets are stuck on a treadmill that feels destined for nowhere. Stuck in place. Stuck in the mud. Stuck in a surreal Strawberry Fields of a season.
Nothing is real.
And nothing to get (upset) about.
“Negligence,” was how Luis Rojas described the day’s defining clown-shoes moment, Jon Berti stealing second, third and, somehow, home for the Marlins’ last run of the day.
But that applies elsewhere, too.
Here are the things we know we can count on with the 2020 Mets so far:
1. They will get a lot of base runners.
2. Luis Rojas will talk with great enthusiasm about “creating traffic.”
3. Precious little of that traffic will find its way home.
4. But they play in a division in which two teams are required by law to make the postseason.
That means no matter how poorly they play — and make no mistake, the twin sweeps, 4-0 and 3-0, the Marlins pinned on them to welcome them back to the season Tuesday at Citi Field qualify — it will be a while before we can officially declare the Mets a fiasco, even as they daily offer hints aplenty that’s the direction in which they’re headed.
It doesn’t help when the Mets make things extra difficult for themselves, and from the start Tuesday they seemed determined to make things difficult for themselves.
It started when they revealed the identities of their two starting pitchers for the doubleheader, neither of whom was Jacob deGrom. This was not exactly greeted by #MetsTwitter and the other factions of Mets fandom the way “Rosalita” is greeted at a Springsteen concert.
Now, a couple of things: The Mets are uber-protective of their foundational player. He pitched Wednesday, the season halted Thursday, he was unable to throw a side session until Monday. Rojas reported deGrom wanted the ball, but the Mets always err on the side of caution with deGrom. So it was a buzzkill that he wouldn’t get to throw in a pair of seven-inning games this week (Sunday is also a doubleheader) and a bummer that he’ll likely bypass the Yankees.
(And, in a sign that 2020 doesn’t mind simply running up the score no matter what subject we’re talking about: the Yankees getting rained out in Atlanta means we will have a Subway Series bonanza of five games across three days next weekend — and Gerrit Cole and deGrom won’t pitch one blessed inning of any of it. As Charlie Brown would say: “Rats.”)
Then, of course, there was the weather. The field was covered an hour before first pitch, but when the skies brightened the Mets clearly believed they’d skirted the worst of the storm; otherwise they’d have flipped to Seth Lugo — only able to throw 50-60 pitches (allegedly) — for Game 1. Instead they stuck with Rick Porcello.
And Porcello was awful, surrendering four two-out runs, or exactly the kind of runs the Mets are allergic to. The Mets played sloppy ball, looking like a team coming off a vacation: J.D. Davis was picked off second in the first inning. Multiple guys threw to multiple wrong bases, setting up half the Marlins’ runs.
And, of course, there were 10 stranded runners in scoring position.
“I don’t want to blame the time off,” Rojas said, and he is already wise enough in the way of his job to know that’s the right way to be, that nobody wants to hear about how tough the Mets have it in a time when everyone has it tough, in baseball and everywhere else.
And then there was nightcap: Lugo giving them three brilliant innings and 39 pitches. If ever a team cried out for as much help as possible, the Mets were that team Tuesday. But out Lugo came, even though it seemed like a perfect opportunity to stretch him an extra inning.
The Mets insist every day that they are playing with the urgency a 60-game season demands. It was hard to make that argument at any moment across this seven-hour mess.
Instead Luis Rojas tried to sound hopeful. And there is, in truth, cause for the hope: the Marlins are still the No. 2 team in the East, and there are still few believers it can stay that way. The Phillies and Nats are just as flawed as the Mets. The Braves are the division’s tallest midget.
But the salvaging had better start soon.