Here’s a confession: I spend a decent amount of time wondering how I appear to others, mostly because I’m shallow and vain. See, when I walk down a street in Manhattan, I immediately size up the 20-30 persons whom I pass. The thin, grey-bearded man in the oversized khakis is unmarried, has worked at the same office job for 20 years, and goes out of his way to be friendly towards strangers. The couple sharing a cigarette and wearing jeans from which no light escapes are art students at NYU. The attractive young woman in the trench coat probably would not date me. And so on. I can also tell you all the many, many faults of my friends, siblings and parents, and deliver comprehensive amateur psychological profiles on each. I find it easy to point out the strengths and flaws in others. Ask me for a demonstration sometime.
That is, I find it easy as compared with figuring out my own strengths and flaws. The amateur psychological profile I could write about myself would be laughably incomplete and biased. And while I very much like to believe I am special, the flawless hero in some cosmic play — I’m every scene, after all — I also know that this is probably not true. Probably. So as I walk by and snap-judge people on the street, I assume many are doing the same, and this causes some amount of worry. Because I am (probably) not perfect, and I find it so hard to recognize my own flaws, I really have no idea how others — strangers, friends, family — really see me. And their view is probably far closer to the truth than my own will ever come.
Now another confession: I read a good number of baseball blogs. I’ve gathered that every single baseball fan believes that his or her favorite team is special. Every single one. According to the internet, cats are pretty entertaining. And, of the 30 MLB teams, 25 are destined to win the World Series this season and the other five will win next season. Not only is each one of us the center of the universe, our favorite teams appear to be in close orbit. I know that I am often guilty of the believing the same.
So, while I can quickly point out the weaknesses of the other teams in the NL East — the Phillies are old and bad, the Braves’ pitching depth has disappeared, the Bryce Harpers sometimes struggle to score, the Marlins are stupid — I’m probably not the best person to accurately evaluate the Mets, just as I’m not the best person to evaluate my awesome, awesome self. I look for evidence that confirms my deeply held suspicions that I am the center of the universe, and that the Mets are indeed a special team in 2012, while I ignore everything else. Because it’d be kind of cool if those two things were true.
Oh, but the Mets. The Mets have been outscored by 32 runs this season despite being two games above .500. Teams outscored by 32 runs after 42 games tend to be six games under .500, just like people who spend 32 more dollars than they have tend to be broke. If this were the Phillies, Marlins, Braves, or Bryce Harpers being outscored, I would be so quick to point this out, claim that so-and-so team is playing better than their talent and that things are going to take a turn for the worse.
Except that it’s the Mets and we like the Mets, so, you know, that early stretch of blow outs doesn’t count, the bullpen pitches better in tight situations, the Mets are clutch and better than other teams at winning close games, that’s not how baseball works, they’re going to play better so being outscored doesn’t matter, and so on, any and all other objections. Most teams outscored by 30 runs aren’t that great, but the Mets are different. The Mets are special. I am the center of the universe.
I don’t know. Maybe those things are true. But it certainly seems, over the past four games, that the Mets maybe aren’t as good at winning close games as they were earlier in the season. They lost a two-run game in Toronto on Saturday, and then blew a four-run lead and lost, 5-4, Monday against the Pirates. The little things (mostly involving Mike Baxter) didn’t go their way in those two games, and small bounces and a single call can and often do decide close games.
And we know that the Mets’ bullpen is bad. And that the Mets continue to be blown out while rarely blowing out any other team. So perhaps the Mets are not special, and are instead a team that overperformed early and is now playing at the correct, .450-.500-ish level. We are all ants waiting to be crushed by an unfeeling and amoral universe.
That got depressing.
The good news is that this does work both ways. Overperforming teams tend to stop overperforming, but underperforming players also tend to stop being awful. And while two fairly large things, Johan Santana and David Wright, have gone well for the 2012 Mets, just about every other little thing has gone wrong. Ike Davis can’t be this bad. Advanced statistics suggest that Dillon Gee should see better results if he continues to pitch as he’s pitched in 2012. Andres Torres won’t hit under .200. Frank Francisco has pitched better in the fairly recent past, as has Ramon Ramirez. Wright and Mike Baxter may cool down, but those two remain the only real targets for the slump fairy. The hot-streak gnomes have many targets in the Mets clubhouse when they make their rounds.
Unless I’m just looking for signs that the Mets are special, as I tend to do. The Mets may or may not be special, but as a Mets blogger at the center of the universe, I’m probably the worst person to ask.