When the Mets hired Terry Collins, they were mostly looking for someone who would make people forget about Jerry Manuel.
Little did they know they were actually getting Captain Ahab. That's not a crack about Collins' much talked about intensity, but instead a reference to the way a .500 record has become his white whale.
The Mets were close to grabbing it in Pittsburgh on Monday night, but, for the third time in the last week, she wriggled free of their nets and swam off to leave a hole in Collins's heart. The culprit this time was baserunning, a longstanding bugaboo for the crew of
the Pequod the good ship Mets.
In both cases, the problem was the runner's unwillingness to consider the downside of their decision before bolting off for the next base. Daniel Murphy broke too soon on a bunt attempt by Mike Pelfrey in the fifth inning and got tagged out when Pelfrey failed to get the bat on the ball.
You would hope that a rookie like Lucas Duda would learn from such a mistake while watching the game in the dugout, but it seems that he was too busy trying to figure out why the world's largest coffee chain wound up named after a mate on Ahab's ship. Duda ventured too far from first on a Jose Reyes liner to left in the eighth and got doubled off before he could return to the base.
The double play killed a great scoring chance as the Mets were down 2-0 with two on and nobody out and the result was academic from that point. The Pirates, who have had their own Moby Dick-sized issues with getting to .500, held on for a 3-1 win.
Extended struggles to get to a record that stands for nothing more than mediocrity is a pretty good shorthand for what the 2011 Mets season has been all about. They are too shorthanded to overcome the kind of stupid mistakes that cost them a win on Monday night, mistakes that were all the more damaging because they wasted a strong start from the erratic Mr. Pelfrey.
His inconsistency will continue to loom large for the pitching staff thanks to news about Johan Santana that broke on Monday. Santana experienced soreness in his surgically repaired left shoulder when ramping up his throwing program earlier this month.
That pushes back the rehab schedule indefinitely, meaning that hopes of a return around the All-Star break are now dreams of an August surprise for the Mets rotation. No one was really counting on Santana for all that much, but in the back of minds there was always a hope that if the Mets could get above .500 and get healthy then maybe, just maybe, Santana could push them over the top.
As it turns out, you'd be better served counting on Queequeg's coffin to save the day. That's nothing to cry about until the Mets actually take the first step in that sequence, though.