The biggest hit in Sunday’s Game 1 came about because the Nationals got the matchup they wanted and the Cardinals didn’t.
Down 2-1 with two on and two out in the top of the eighth, Nationals manager Davey Johnson sent up lefty Chad Tracy to hit in the pitcher’s spot in the order. The Cardinals had their regular eighth-inning guy, righty Mitchell Boggs, in the game at the time, but Mike Matheny chose to counter with left-hander Marc Rzepczynski. Of course, that just led to another move from Davey Johnson; he put in right-hander Tyler Moore to replace Tracy.
Matheny should have known this was coming; Tracy had nine at-bats against lefties all year. It was a no-brainer that Johnson would go get Moore off the bench. And Moore, getting to face the southpaw, came up big, delivering a two-run single that proved to be the difference in the Nationals’ 3-2 win.
It was Matheny’s second of three very questionable decisions in the game. In the sixth, he picked Skip Schumaker over Matt Carpenter to hit for the pitcher with two on and two out against Craig Stammen. Maybe he felt Carpenter could be employed in a bigger situation later, though that chance to break the game open seemed plenty big at the time. Schumaker ended up striking out to end the inning. And Carpenter did get to bat in an important situation in the eighth. He too struck out, thanks to Tyler Clippard getting a strike call on a pitch four or five inches off the plate.
The third decision came before Carpenter hit in the eighth. With just six outs left in a one-run game, Matheny chose to give away one of them to bunt Adron Chambers — who was pinch-running for David Freese — from first to second base. The sac was successful, but the Cards failed to score.
It’d be silly to say Matheny lost this game for the Cardinals; an offense that came up with just three hits all day was the bigger problem. What Matheny didn’t do was put the team in the best position to win.
It’s can’t be easy being a Mets fan. Your team plays in the biggest city in America and should, theoretically, have big payrolls and always be in contention. They aren’t, however, partially because of horrendous luck and ill-timed injuries, partially because of poor baseball decisions and partially because the team’s ownership got taken down by a Ponzi scheme that, one would think anyway, sophisticated businessmen would recognize as a Ponzi scheme. We’ll leave that go, though.
What Mets fans are left with are (a) occasional windows of contention, such as we saw in 2014-16; (b) times of frustrating austerity on the part of ownership when, one would hope anyway, some money would be spent; (c) an inordinate focus on tabloidy and scandalous nonsense which just always seems to surround the club; and (c) a lot of disappointment.
You can file this latest bit under any of or many of the above categories, but it is uniquely Mets.
Team president Jeff Wilpon spoke to the press this afternoon about team payroll. In talking about payroll, David Wright‘s salary was included despite the fact that he may never play again and despite the fact that insurance is picking up most of the tab. Wilpon’s comment:
I’m guessing every team has a line item, someplace, about the costs of insurance. They’re businesses after all, and all businesses have to deal with that. They do not talk about it as a barrier to spending more money on players to the press, however, as they likely know that fans want to be told a story of hope and baseball-driven decisions heading into a new season and do not want to hear about all of the reasons the club will not spend any money despite sitting in a huge market.
This doesn’t change a thing about what the Mets were going to do or not do, but it does have the added bonus of making Mets fans roll their eyes and ask themselves what they did to deserve these owners. And that, more than almost anything, is the essence of Mets fandom these days.