Friday, May 19, 2017

Maybe it's me?

Thursday morning I walked into my elevator as I headed to the pool and saw my apartment building's resident celebrity, Mets manager Terry Collins. This is not an unusual occurrence. Collins probably recognizes me at this point even if he doesn't know my name, and we've spoken a handful of times, to say nothing of the memorable moment when I passed him on a marathon-training run 12 hours after the Mets had won Game 5 of the 2015 NLDS and an awkward thumbs up as I ran by. This time I wasn't sure if I should acknowledge the manager in the room or leave him be. I've interviewed enough professional athletes to recognize that they are normal people who might enjoy some anonymity away from the field.

But I had my Mets towel as I always do. He saw it. He knows I know who he is. He knows we've said hi before. It wouldn't be neighborly of me to ignore him, right? Maybe after returning from a winless road trip and while in the midst of a seven-game losing streak that has dropped the Mets to seven games below .500, 8.5 games back of first and included not one, not two, not three, but four games in which the Mets had blown a late lead, well, maybe he just wants some normalcy.

"Good timing for a day off, huh?" I said to him, making it plainly obvious that I know his current predicament.
"Christ, I tell ya," he said. "Yeah, I think I'm gonna go out shopping today. See if I can find a relief pitcher somewhere."

At least Terry has his sense of humor even if he doesn't currently have a reliable eighth-inning setup man.

These are the times that try a baseball man's soul. I would not be so bold as to imagine I'm feeling the burden as heavily as Collins, a man whose very livelihood is at stake in situations like these, but I would be lying if I didn't feel that, well, possibly there was some culpability in my corner. I have noted before that I am convinced the Mets play an improved brand of baseball -- at least in the seasons when they're supposed to be good -- when I am out of the country.

This theory is largely driven by an experience in 2000 when I went on a school trip to France that happened to perfectly coincide with the Mets ripping off a nine-game winning streak. Granted, the coinciding events of me taking an international trip and the Mets being in the midst of a decent season add up to a relatively small sample size, but if we take into account that I was on my three-week trip to Japan when the Mets acquired Yoenis Cespedes, invigorated the team and the fans with the legendary Wilmer Flores game and overtook the Nationals for first place in their magical pennant run, well, the idea more or less holds up. Add into that my trip to Germany and France in 2006 during which the Mets went on a hot streak, and, well, you see why I believe what I believe, however silly.

This season the Mets had played a grand total of two games before I boarded a flight to London to visit my sister, celebrate Passover and spend some quality time with Sammy Saint. During the course of this trip, the Mets went on a nice early-season hot streak, at one point pushing their record to 7-3. After I returned, New York lost seven of its next eight games. After snapping that funk, the Mets clawed their way back to .500, but never really looked like a team in control of its destiny. With its record at 16-16, New York looked poised to cap its first series sweep of the year until the Giants scored four runs in the ninth inning to ruin the afternoon. They haven't won since.

This doesn't even account for the fact that New York's best pitcher tore his lat muscle and will be out for months, its closer had to have surgery to remove a blood clot that will keep him sidelined most of the season, its best hitter went on the DL with a hamstring issue and sudden reclamation project Matt Harvey has disappeared into the abyss after being dumped by his girlfriend.

The only institution in more disarray right now is the White House.

So, basically, if Terry Collins' hair wasn't gray already, it would be by now. What on Earth is going on in Flushing and... should I hold myself responsible? I mean, probably not, but I wouldn't really be a sports fan worth my salt if I didn't go in for this nonsense. The only solution I can think of is for the Mets to basically pay me to travel internationally for the rest of this year in hopes of seeing how the correlation works out. It's less expensive than that middle reliever Terry and Sandy Alderson are shopping for when you think about it. And they won't even have to make a roster move to do it.

If they don't go that route, we may be waiting until my European vacation this August to get the Mets turned around. I think what the front office has to ask itself is if it's willing to wait that long to salvage the season.

I know I'm not. Just in case, though, maybe I should extend my trip.

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