There were a lot of good days for Mets fans all across the spring and summer of 2022. It’s possible none was better than Aug. 7. The day before, the Mets swept the Braves in a day-night doubleheader. On the bright, sunny afternoon of Aug. 8, 40,000 starving Mets fans filed into Citi Field, looking for more blood against Atlanta, and for something else, too.
And damned if they didn’t get both. Damned if they didn’t get a 5-2 win over the Braves that closed out a four-wins-in-five games series against the Braves, and damned if Jacob deGron wasn’t brilliant in his season debut, allowing one hit and striking out 12 in 5 ²/₃ innings, and damned if Pete Alonso didn’t drive in two more runs, pushing his total to 95 on the year, and damned if the Mets didn’t extend their lead over the Braves to 6 ½ games.
And damned if the Mets didn’t improve to 70-39 on the season.
“I feel like that we’ve definitely elevated our game and we want to continue to do that as the season progresses,” a giddy Alonso said in the middle of a giddier Mets clubhouse. “We just want to keep continuing to pass the torch and pass the baton.”
There have been a lot of bad days for Mets fans all across the spring and summer of 2023. It’s possible none dawned worse, or more depressing, than Aug. 7. Rain spit periodically from a mostly slate gray sky. Two different ILs claimed two more players, more than three hours before the first pitch Kodai Senga fired at the Cubs.
First Starling Marte — who a year ago was slashing .292/.343/.453 and on this day was at .248/.301/.324 — was shipped to the injured list with a revival of groin pain. Then Brett Baty — a year ago he was 10 days away from clubbing a two-run homer in his first big-league at-bat in Atlanta; Monday he was coming off an 0-for-18 skid — was shipped to the International League, where the Mets hoped he could rediscover his stroke.
“Looks like friends-and-family tonight,” one usher at Citi Field said with a smile. “Maybe.”
(And in a nice case of symmetry-from-hell: the Braves entered play Monday night at … 70-39.)
This is what irrelevance looks like, exactly 365 days after the Mets seemed poised to do something epic and unforgettable. This is what the baseball desert looks like. On the seventh of August, when the baseball season is supposed to be hitting its stride, the Mets are a stumbling wreck, an ugly mess returning home after an 0-6 road trip though the similar baseball hinterland of Kansas City and the erstwhile baseball abyss of Baltimore.
Feeling like visitors even at Citi Field, because when you get a season like this one you feel like you’re merely intruding on the other team’s business, regardless of how many fans show up wearing your team’s colors.
By the end, after a two-hour-plus rain delay there were only scattered few hundred folks to watch the Mets take an 11-2 win from the Cubs, and by the time they started singing “I Want it That Way” in the eighth inning, you could hear just about everyone in the house taking their turn at the solo.
Oh, and there’s more: Monday night was the first of 32 home games the Mets have left among the 50 remaining on the schedule. In a year like last year — hell, in a year half as good as last year — this would be a subject of relentless good feeling for the Mets, and for their fans, exactly the kind of schedule you want to make a serious run at glory.
Instead, it’s almost a cruel joke, because there are a lot of Mets fans — even those for whom this is an essential part of their DNA — who can’t even bring themselves to watch any more on TV; what could possibly draw them to watch the carnage live?
“He can take a deep breath now,” Buck Showalter said, and he was referring to Baty, freshly demoted, but he could have been talking about any of the folks in and around the city who deeply care for the Mets. A season isn’t supposed to be over on Aug. 7 anyway, especially not when the memory of what it was like exactly 52 weeks before is still so fresh.
Even for those who endorse the Mets’ decision to swap today for tomorrow, these are hard days to stomach. And even harder to watch. Friends and family only. And by the end, even friends and family had found something better to do.
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