A strange day and night at Citi Field began Tuesday with David Wright taking swings in a “simulated game” that simulated almost nothing about playing major league baseball. It ended with Jacob deGrom pitching great and still falling to 8-9 in the Mets’ 5-3 loss to the Marlins.
DeGrom was his usual Cy Young-worthy self, allowing two runs in seven innings with nine strikeouts. It was a shock when Lewis Brinson hit a two-out, two-run double off deGrom in the fourth.
It was not a shock that the Mets were their usual feeble selves behind their ace. DeGrom left trailing 2-1. His ERA rose from 1.68 to 1.71.
If falling under .500 hurt his NL Cy Young Award chances, then shame on NL Cy Young Award voters. The guess here is it will hurt with some, but deGrom still has three starts left and we won’t find out the results until November.
“It’s frustrating,” deGrom said. “But that’s baseball.”
As for Wright, he took batting practice under the shroud of a persistent mist at 3 p.m. and barely dented a pitch against two minor-leaguers (including Long Island’s Justin Dunn). But the captain was buoyant in the immediate aftermath.
“How do you feel?”
“Great. Hot. Sweaty.”
That’s all Wright wants – the chance to be on a big-league field again, to be around the game he loves as more than the Ghost of Christmas Past. Whether it leads to him actually getting into a game this month will be mapped out Wednesday when Wright meets with team COO Jeff Wilpon.
You know the issues. Most of Wright’s contract is being covered by insurance while he’s on the disabled list. If he’s activated, it’s not like the Mets can call a new insurance company and try to save 15 percent in 15 minutes. They’ll be on the hook for whatever’s left. You may also know the Mets owners don’t like to spend more than they absolutely have to.
That’s why it was interesting that Wright – who absolutely, positively thinks he can make it back this season – threw the ball directly into Wilpon the younger’s court.
Wright has been around long enough to know who makes the decisions here. To Wilpon’s credit, he came out in the drizzle to watch the practice session.
Manager Mickey Callaway also watched, and threw some cold water on Wright’s enthusiasm. Asked if he saw progress, Callaway said: “I wouldn’t say progress.”
Callaway is trying to build something at the end of a wrecked rookie season as manager. He has the proper respect for the person, but Callaway has no emotional ties to Wright the player.
From what we saw from a seat in the Mets dugout, Callaway was right, even if the truth hurts. Wright didn’t show much against the righthanded Dunn or Single-A lefthander David Peterson. If Wright’s name was Joe Schmo, Wednesday’s conversation would be about packing it in for 2018 and coming to spring training next February if he wants to try again.
But Wright’s name is, thankfully for him, not Joe Schmo. Wright is still one of the faces of the franchise, which is part of the Mets’ problem as they await the arrival of the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, i.e. the executive who will take over baseball operations following the season.
That executive will have to decide, among other things, what to do about the other half of Tuesday’s twin bill – DeGrom, who pitched in a stadium with only slightly more people present than when Wright took his cuts.
Remember when whether to trade deGrom for a bushel of prospects was a thing people talked about? It seems unlikely the new general manager will do that, but how do we know until we know who that person is?
DeGrom is – you guessed it — the Ghost of Christmas Present. The Mets’ best bet is to sign the righthander to a long-term deal and try to build around him, whether he wins the Cy Young or not. Whoever ends up running the show, there’s no reason to Scrooge that decision up.