SAN DIEGO — Give Pete Alonso credit. The kid still cares.
How many Mets fans can say the same?
Completely understandable of that latter group, to be clear. If you watched the Mets get dominated by Padres rookie Chris Paddack on Monday night to the tune of a 4-0 loss at Petco Park, their fourth loss in four tries on this road trip that gives the Mets an overall 16-19 record, you’d have to be more blindly optimistic than Chris Elliott at the bachelor auction in “Groundhog Day” to think Mickey Callaway’s group will be just fine.
How much longer will these Mets even be Callaway’s group? Let’s tackle that a little further down in the column.
First there’s Alonso, who struck out twice and grounded out against Paddack, who in turn hilariously talked trash before this game about facing Alonso after the Mets’ first baseman beat him out for National League Rookie of the Month honors in March/April. “We’ll see Monday who the top dog is,” said Paddack, clearly not aware this title gets voted on by media members who generally skim the statistics with the same eye for detail as a drunk trying to put together a jigsaw puzzle.
“It’s a must,” Alonso vowed in a quiet Mets locker room. “We need to win tomorrow.”
With Noah Syndergaard pitching for the Mets and the impressive Paddack, now the owner of a 1.55 ERA in seven starts, not going for San Diego (it’ll be another rookie, Cal Quantrill), maybe the Mets can fulfill Alonso’s mandate. Perhaps Thor, having rebounded from a funk last week with both a shutout and a homer for the game’s only RBI in a 1-0 Mets victory over the Reds, can top his teammate Jacob deGrom, who deserved a win in this one, only for his seven-inning, two-run loss to feel like vintage 2018.
The problem comes in wondering what would occur next after such a win. With Steven Matz out due to nerve irritation in his left forearm, and with the Mets’ pitching depth appalling, they’re going to have to bullpen their way through Wednesday’s series finale. And their bullpen isn’t very good, Justin Wilson’s lousy return from the injured list (two runs in one inning) underlying that reality.
That Dallas Keuchel’s agent Scott Boras attended this game, his client apparently no closer to joining the Mets, displays why this team long ago lost the benefit of the doubt on every level, be it micro, macro or next.
“Long year,” a calm deGrom said. “You’re not going to win all of them.” Well, he’s right on both fronts.
The 23-year-old Paddack, whom the Padres incredibly acquired from the Marlins three seasons ago for veteran reliever Fernando Rodney — displaying that the Mets haven’t patented gross ineptitude — just dominated the Mets, who have now scored six runs on this trip. The Mets managed four hits and a walk and struck out 11 times over Paddack’s seven ⅔ innings, and exactly one man, deGrom himself, reached scoring position when he led off the sixth inning with a base hit and moved 90 feet on Jeff McNeil’s groundout to third, only to advance no further.
“He threw a heck of a ballgame,” Callaway said.
The Mickey Watch figures to intensify if Syndergaard can’t stop the bleeding, and look, maybe it’s not just meant to be for Callaway, a surprisingly raw manager prospect who could’ve benefited from starting in a smaller market and healthier environment. However, if you think jettisoning Callaway for Jim Riggleman — or even, say, Joe Girardi — will cure what ails this team, then I’ve got a Ponzi scheme for you to join.
In order for the Mets to regain the benefit of the doubt, they owe their amazing fans at least five straight years of both winning baseball and minimal nonsense. Until then? No hugs for trying. No celebration of offseason moves, especially when they get eclipsed by those of a division rival.
No, just respect the rookie Alonso, already taking on a leadership role, for taking this L so personally and for trying to rally his teammates. Good luck finding any joy in Metville beyond that.
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