Just when you want to start paying attention to the Mets, they make you regret it. Or feel flat-out stupid for doing so. That's been a problem for a while now in Flushing, and Wednesday night's events served as another Lucy-with-the-football moment.
Got us again.
We showed up at Citi Field with good intentions, ready to thumb our nose at the Bronx. The Mets were 51/2 games away from the second wild-card berth, same as the Yankees -- despite spending $120 million less, with a core group of players a lot closer to college than AARP membership.
It had all the makings of a nice column about a late-September push, maybe a fun last few weeks and some hope for 2015. Daniel Murphy returning to his roots at third base, an extended look at Dilson Herrera and seeing how Travis d'Arnaud warms to the cleanup spot.
Even a sneak peek at Rafael Montero, who could prove himself another young building block for the future rotation or a valuable trade chip this winter. Yep, this had the potential for an interesting night -- and who knows -- was it possible for the Mets to trick us into thinking about them as (long shot) contenders?
"We're pretty excited about it," Terry Collins said before the game. "You've got to make September mean something. We've brought it up to the guys that they're not out of the hunt just yet. We've got something to play for."
Good enough for us. We were willing to buy in for a little bit longer. Suspend belief for a few more games. What could go wrong?
And then, whammo. Same old Mets.
This time, the uppercut came from a Brooklyn courthouse, where a lawsuit was filed against chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon. It is filled with very ugly accusations about Wilpon harassing a former employee for being pregnant and unmarried. The Mets responded with their own denial, claiming the allegations are "without merit," and here we are. Stuck in the same unforgiving place we always seem to be with the Mets.
Shaking our heads. Wondering what the heck is going on.
We thought we were free of this to some extent. That the Mets had stepped from beneath the long shadow of Bernie Madoff to begin operating like a regular Major League Baseball team. They spent a few bucks last winter, a couple of Sandy Alderson's trades were working out and we even heard Brandon Nimmo's name on occasion.
For the die-hards, the few thousand or so that keep showing up at Citi Field, there was a slight glow among those embers. It was downright scary how few people actually made it through the turnstiles for Wednesday night's game, but we also get the feeling the bottom has yet to be reached if the Nationals squash any remaining optimism this weekend. With David Wright gone, that's one sizable draw on the shelf, and there's likely to be a more-than-usual, ticked-off section of the fan base that could stay away because of Wilpon's alleged bad behavior.
Perhaps next year, with Matt Harvey's anticipated return and a healed-up Wright, the Mets might capitalize on the still-maturing pieces they've gathered. But if Alderson has any predictions, better to keep them to himself. His 90-win proclamation back in spring training will go down as one of the worst ever for the Mets, a team that now would be thrilled to finish .500.
"I hate to put numbers on anything," Collins said. "Because if you don't reach them, all of a sudden it's a real failure."
Normally, we'd agree. But the next few weeks will tell us if the same holds true for Alderson, who can use this upcoming stretch to make his final evaluations about the manager.
Depending what ultimately happens with this lawsuit, the Mets could again be looking to change the conversation -- something they are perpetually in the process of doing over and over. For once, we'd like to stay on the topic of baseball, about the possibility of the Mets returning to the playoffs for the first time since 2006.
Hard to believe it's been eight years. On second thought, maybe not.