WASHINGTON — If the term “chillax” didn’t already exist, a clever writer (not me, in other words) would’ve coined it Saturday afternoon at Nationals Park while watching the Mets.
For while 28 other major league teams played games that count, and as the Nationals worked to get their COVID-inflicted house in order, the Mets gallivanted around the ballpark like Homer Simpson in The Land of Chocolate, not a care in the world.
“It is weird,” manager Luis Rojas acknowledged. “We’re watching games, we’re seeing everybody’s playing in the league, but at the same time, we understand this is the situation happening. It’s really tough to control once it happens. What can you do? We’re trying to do the best facing the circumstances right now.”
The Mets remain 0-0 through no fault of their own, the Nationals experiencing a mini-outbreak of the novel coronavirus that compelled Major League Baseball to correctly postpone the entire season-opening, three-game series, which would’ve started Thursday, featured the standard Friday off-day after Opening Day and then wrapped up Saturday and Sunday. They aim to begin their season Monday night against the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park, understanding that they’ll eventually have to make up those three contests; they come to the nation’s capital twice more and the clubs exist close enough geographically that finding a common off day also stands as a possibility.
Rojas did put his guys to work on Saturday, scheduling a two-hour simulated game that followed an hour and a half of batting practice, grounders for the infielders and … not much else. On a scale of 1 to Kirk Gibson, the intensity level stood at about 0.5. It was the sort of scene in which Dom Smith, standing with his fellow outfielders in short left field, dove to the ground in a humorous fashion, getting everyone else in his group to laugh uproariously. And in which Luis Guillorme, standing on the infield dirt between second base and third base, literally threw his glove at a Francisco Lindor groundball to the left side in his half-hearted, half-humorous attempt to slow it down.
“The guys are out there having fun,” Rojas said, and the team will work out here again Sunday morning before heading north to the City of Brotherly Love.
If you’re a worrier (and you probably are, if you root for the Mets), then you can meet your daily angst quota by wondering whether this unscheduled four-day respite, after completing a solid Grapefruit League and after Lindor signed a 10-year, $341-million extension, will throw the Mets out of sync. Especially as the Phillies, no slouches, should have three games under their belt already.
“I think we’re going to be as pumped [as they were Thursday], if not more,” Rojas said. “The guys are ready. They’re ready to go.
“I can share with you guys, there was a letdown [at Thursday’s postponement]. There was a sense of, we wanted to play. But the guys are in a good spot right now. They’re here. … They’ll be ready by Monday. They’re excited for it. That’s all I can share. We’ll be ready and excited once again. It’ll be our Opening Day.”
Rojas admitted to binge-watching baseball that counted, as his team’s baseball didn’t.
“I think we can take something out of it,” he said. “You watch. You see some of the things you can detail from teams you’re going to see down the road. You can write them down, take notes. There’s some opportunity, even though it’s kind of weird.”
So very weird. So very 2021, unfortunately carrying over from 2020. For everything positive going on around these Mets, that weirdness might very well prove as defining a characteristic of this season as anything else.