Had the seventh inning on Wednesday night happened to a team other than the Mets, it would have elicited a very different reaction.
A bemused laugh, a shake of the head and an occasional reference to it in the future when you needed a shorthand reference to the truly bizarre. But when the Mets blow a 2-0 lead in a five-run seventh inning highlighted by five infield singles and sloppy execution by the defense, there isn't going to be any laughter.
Even those with the blackest of humor would find it hard to chuckle in the face of Willie Harris's misadventures at third base. When you don't know how to step on a base, throw to the right place or field a bunt, it is awfully hard to make it as a major league player.
But Harris is a major leaguer so you can't simply sit there and stare with a horrified glaze on your face. It's upsetting to see professionals play the way the Mets have played of late and that leads to a whole different set of reactions.
Like the one you got from Terry Collins after the game, for example. He took his team to the woodshed in the clubhouse immediately after the game and then kept the fire burning when he met with the media.
"I’m running out of ideas here,” Collins said. “Do we play hard? Absolutely. That’s not the issue. The issue is not effort. That’s not it. It’s about execution. We have to add on some points when we get the lead. And I’m not looking for home runs. I’m looking for quality at-bats. We can’t make careless mistakes. We do. We give up at-bats. We can’t do that. We don’t have that kind of team."
There's a lot more where that came from, ending with a promise of changes coming to Flushing. You probably hate the fact that Collins is blowing up like that at this point in the season, but you can't help but like the message that he's sending.
It would be very easy for Collins to throw up his hands and excuse nights like Wednesday on playing with a roster thinned out by injuries. The Mets are relying on several players who should be, at best, bench options and those players are playing out of position to boot.
All of that is reason to expect the team's record to be what it is and it is reason to make your peace with a season that isn't going to be about much but transitioning to the future. It certainly doesn't make it any easier to watch, though.
That's because we're conditioned to expect better than what the Mets gave during the seventh inning and to expect better than a bullpen that turned the game into a 9-3 rout in the eighth inning. Generally, we're conditioned to expect the occasional win when a team leads for the first two-thirds of the game.
Of course we're also conditioned to expect the Mets to eventually turn into the Mets which means that even years with low expectations wind up being crashing disappointments.