New York On Sunday

There’s a day, every winter, when it becomes clear that cold days are on the way out, and day by day, baseball season is inching closer.  That day was yesterday, Sunday in New York.  A relatively unimportant calendar date; not a recognized milestone by any stretch of the imagination.   The hot stove was quiet; we hadn’t added a player or announced a big change; things were proceeding just about as they tend to during an offseason, or, in other words, painfully slowly.  But that old cliche is still true.  Sometimes, you just know.

At the north end of the reservoir in Central Park on Sunday, the Sun came out.  It may have been out before then, but that’s when I noticed it.  The air was no longer frigid.  The park, while no blissful Summer paradise, took on a brightness usually associated with June or July.  A few degrees warmer, and I swear I could have deluded myself into thinking it was Mets Jacket Weather.

January, 2017.  Two years ago, January 2015, I made almost exactly the same walk.  This time, it was a lap, starting and ending on the West Side.  That time, I walked from East to West, coming home from an interview with a Yankees fan.  The differences are superficial.  It was the same walk.  And the same thing happened.

That time, two years ago, the sun was out as I walked across the park, and I knew that baseball season couldn’t wait much longer.  This time, for the most part, was the same.  The sun was out, the worst of Winter appeared over, and it struck me that it was two weeks until first workouts, then a few more until games, then a few weeks after that until I would wake up early, filled with energy in a way that’s rare now that I’m no longer the young and restless kid I once was, knowing that later that day, we would play a game that would count for real.  Baseball, in short, would be back.  It was true then.  It’s even truer today.

I wore my new Mets cap as I walked.  The new caps have taken the internet by storm, or rather, the particular segments of the internet interested in such things; they are a combination of the alternate orange cap, which seemed new only yesterday and whose shine I’m still a fan of, and the classic blue background, orange letters.  Four winters ago, David Wright was introduced at the press conference for his new contract, and the new orange brims were worn in public for the first time.

Those caps, whatever the cap-interested public thought of them, are gone now.  The white-shadowed NY remains; the brim, however, is no longer orange, but blue.  Among the die-hards, the white shadow alone is cause for alarm.  The drop-shadow of the 90s and 2000s was poorly received, and in hindsight is even more reviled; is this too close to that?  Should we be making changes to our caps at all?  And, for that matter, what’s the deal with those road uniforms and caps with that strange combination of blue, orange, and light gray?

I didn’t think about that as I walked from East to West, enjoying the sun, little warmth though it actually provided.  My new cap was beautiful.  It still is; it’s on my head right now.  My new t-shirt, purchased at the same time, orange and blue NY on a gray background, is just as much so.  It’s only January — February soon, but still January.  And I’m already set for baseball season.  Well, I’m always set for baseball season.  But a new cap and t-shirt can go a long way towards giving a Sunday in January that special baseball feeling.

It’s fitting, I suppose, that this took place around 2:30 or 3:00 in the afternoon on a Sunday in New York.  In ten weeks exactly, we’ll be at Citi Field, hearing Bobby Darin’s old-time classic on the speakers while the smells of ballpark food drift through the air.  Well, actually, we won’t, because ESPN pushed that Sunday’s game back to 8:00 — thanks very much, ESPN, for ruining things that seem meant to be.  But regardless, Sunday afternoon games are as close to an essential part of the season as possible.

Sunday afternoon at the ballpark — a day in the sun, watching my ballclub, Citi Field’s vast selection up for grabs for lunch, and all in all, about as perfect an end to a weekend as possible.  And soon enough, it will all be back.

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Bobby Darin, all those years ago, was absolutely right.  New York on Sunday really is just what he says: a big city takin’ a nap, especially if the Sunday in question happens to fall in the middle of Winter.  New York was sleeping; the empty fields, paths, and tennis courts in Central Park made that much obvious.  But no one sleeps forever, and the sun always comes out eventually.  We’re a big city, takin’ a nap through this long long winter of an offseason.  But in New York, on a Sunday, just about as far from baseball season as you can get, I realized that our nap was quickly coming to an end, and that when we woke up, more quickly than we realized, there would be baseball.

That Was Pretty Good

Hey you, you boys in orange and blue (to borrow and slightly paraphrase a British football chant that I’m told is quite popular).  It was some year with you fellas.  But having been through it, and come out safely at the other end, I think I can safely say that I’m in it for the long haul, and you’ll be around for just about as long as I can manage.

For the most part, everyone hated 2016, and not entirely without reason, although the logic behind blaming a temporal unit for the events that occur during it seems hazy at best.  But in Met land, 2016 wasn’t too bad.  Actually, it was pretty great.

We won 87 games in 2016.  In 16 other seasons, our Mets have exceeded or matched that number.  In 55 years of Mets history, we’ve won 87 games or more while making the playoffs only seven times.  So, yes.  2016 was pretty good, if you stuck with what you saw at the ballpark.

And even if it wasn’t: now, it’s over.  2016’s end came as 2017 began, which meant that the 2016 season’s end, which itself had come on a fly ball off T.J. Rivera’s bat, was receding into the past, as the beginning of the 2017 season, which, in all probability, will come with a Noah Syndergaard fastball exploding into the mitt of whoever we’ve got behind the plate that day, was itself drawing nearer.  It seems complicated; it’s not.  The last time it was 2016, there was no baseball left in the year.  Now it’s 2017, and we’ve got approximately a full season and then some before the year changes again.  A year with no baseball, to a year with as much baseball as you can have.  It takes neither Roger Angell nor a sabermetrician to tell you that that’s a deal you’ll take any day of the week.

So, the end of 2016, and 2017’s associated beginning, is unquestionably a positive step, both in terms of approaching baseball season and ending all the weirdness the former seemed to bring with it.  But let’s not pretend that 2016 was all bad, because before some things happened that turned 2016’s aftertaste sour, we had a pretty good thing going, especially if “we” is taken to mean those Flushing Faithful who remember Jesse Gonder and can recite the concession stands within Citi Field in order of wait time.  For a while, things got pretty good for us — those people.

For one, we had a team that was easy to love, and not only because of a 27-13 run.  We had quirky rookies contributing, heartwarming reunion stories paying dividends, superstars doing their things, and previously reliably ordinary players coming forward and making the season one to remember.  We had Matt Reynolds hitting a home run on 45 minutes of sleep, Seth Lugo setting a record for, basically, dirtiest curveball in a good few years, Syndergaard and Cespedes doing their respective things, Asdrubal Cabrera turning, for a month, into Ernie Banks.  On the field, 2016 had nearly anything we could have wanted, short of a World Series title we weren’t going to pick up anyway.

And then there was the year off the field — “behind the scenes,” I would call it, except that implies a certain celebrity that’s simply not present — at Shea Bridge Report.  I wrote more about the Mets in 2016 than ever before, and certainly than in any previous year.  I addressed what it meant to be a fan.  I summed up Mike Piazza’s induction to the Hall of Fame.  I attempted to express just what it was about David Wright that made him today and always my favorite player.

I can’t tell yet whether 2016 represented a turning point, a defining moment in the way I write and think about the Mets.  I think it may have; on the other hand, maybe it was just another year.  I don’t know yet; I may not for a while.  I’m not sure it really matters.  It happened; now it’s done.  Now we move on to 2017, and see what happens then.

2016, as years tend to do, featured good, bad, ugly, and downright inexplicable.  So we move on to 2017, certain only of the fact that we have no idea what will happen, or how.

Well, actually we can be certain of one more thing.  Soon, there will be baseball.  And that itself is reason to be happy in the new year.

A Visit To MetLove Stadium

I love the Mets.  You know them, that pesky ballclub from Queens?  I’m in love with ‘em.

I was thinking this today — well, I’m always thinking this, but it came up today in particular — as I left Metlife Stadium and attempted to remember where we had parked and how to get there, and also to warm my hands.  Those are three problems you never have as you leave, enter, or spend time at Citi Field.  And hell, this was after a win.  It’s a damn good thing the Jets didn’t lose on top of everything else.

Leaving a stadium, like leaving a restaurant or a close friend’s house, should be a content yet vaguely bittersweet experience.  Hey, we’ve gotta split…yeah, this was fun, food was great, I’m really satisfied…wish we could stay a little longer, but we really gotta go…yeah, of course, we’ll do this again soon.  Leaving a stadium, you’ve seen what you came to see, but wish it hadn’t ended so soon, and that you could just hang around in your seat a few more minutes, finish off a packet of cracker jacks, maybe a souvenir soda.  You’re content, in other words — you wish you weren’t leaving, but you’re glad you got to be there as long as you did.

Metlife stadium is almost the opposite.  Maybe that’s why I’m not a football fan, or maybe it’s because I’m not a football fan.  Either way, Metlife Stadium, despite the uncharacteristically compelling game played on its turf and its superb services, amenities, perks, etc., simply was not the place to be.

It was cold; too cold, in fact, to waste any time talking about the game we’d just watched or where the Jets would go from here.  The Jets’ season was over, and it was a far cry from the happy, perked-up, “at least we’re here” ending of seasons like the 2014 Mets’.  The Jets have no hope in sight, and everybody knows it.  And what’s more, they let on that they know it, and let it show.  There’s no hope in Metlife stadium.  There’s anger and passion and debate and happiness when the Jets score a touchdown, but no one’s making any bets on the future.

Too often, that’s been true of the Mets as well.  We didn’t have much hope as the 2012 season wound down.  We had David Wright at the top of his game; Matt Harvey throwing bullets; Ike Davis slugging down the stretch; R.A. Dickey closing out the year with his 20th win and a Cy Young Award a few weeks later.  But still, we couldn’t win.  It was hopeless.  And sure enough, no improvement would present itself; we finished 2013 with the same 74 wins we’d had the previous year.

But honestly, who cared?  We had our team, whoever made up the roster, and we had our home building, and we had the fans all around us.  We had the familiarity of pulling on a t-shirt, a jersey, and our favorite cap, driving past Flushing Bay and turning into the parking lot, buying a program in the rotunda, and then studying the giant cards to see who was playing that day.  Who cared what would happen in 2013?  Why not be happy that we’d just won a game?  Why not be happy even if we’d lost?

Mets fans — or at least, many of them — seem, in a certain illogical and patently ridiculous way, resigned to happiness.  Even the ones you see writing angry comments, demanding we trade this guy or that, yelling about the payroll…what are they really angry about?  It’s not players, or wins, or dollar figures — it’s that they’re being forced to be happy about these things.

You’re going to make me sit in the warm summer sun with a bunch of happy people around me, plenty of food, plenty to drink, cheering for my team on the field…you’re going to make me do that and not even put a good team forward?  Well dammit, Fred Wilpon, I guess I’ll do it.

A serious question — how unhappy, even angry, is it really possible to be while watching a Mets game?  I can answer that question on my own part: the angriest I’ve ever been while watching my guys play was June 9th, 2015, when Chris Heston threw a no hitter.  When the final out was recorded, I broke my Hunter Pence sign over my knee.

An older guy, somewhere in the mostly empty row behind me, chuckled.  He was wearing Mets gear, but he was smiling.

“One day, you’ll be glad you were here to see this,” he said.  Eventually, days or weeks later, I would find that he’d been right.  That game remains the angriest I’ve ever been in the aftermath of a loss — and subsequently, I’ve seen some pretty bad losses — and will continue to hold that spot, because win or lose, I just can’t get mad at the Mets.

So as I contemplated my love for the Mets while I walked across one Metlife Stadium parking lot after another, that’s what I was thinking of.  I’m always happy leaving Citi Field.  Walking down the stairs, coming out behind first base, weaving between people, walking past the fan bricks and the flower beds, slightly thirsty after ballpark food but feeling fine all the same, Mets Extra! (or whatever the postgame show is called now; the name still hasn’t changed for me) playing from the speakers on the rotunda awning, and then clambering up the steps to the subway station, moving quickly past the masses and turning right because everyone else takes the turnstiles on the left, getting on the super-express, and soon afterwards, arriving home, but before all that, always, always, turning back for one last glance at the ballpark.  The one last glance that says, ah, to hell with it, I love this team.

That, we’ll always have.  After a win or a loss, after a good season or 2007, when the future is bleak and when hope springs eternal.  That one last glance, looking back over your shoulder as you make your way into the subway station and knowing that whatever happened, and whatever will happen in the future, they’ll play again tomorrow…that’s what it means to love a ballclub.

We don’t have that right now.  The offseason cruelly continues, and shows no sign of abating.  But we’ll get through yet.  We’ll make it.  And after the months of waiting, we’ll find, as we always do, that the time we’re forced to spend apart only makes us love this team even more.

Fandom On Trial

I was sitting in the Upper Deck, about level with third base, listening to the stadium erupt in boos as Chase Utley came to bat.  I don’t remember what Thor was doing on the mound; I’m sure he was calm and cool, aloof and above everything else.  It was early in the evening of May 28th, 2016.

I saw the pitch go to the backstop.  I watched the plate umpire stride righteously towards the mound.  I looked on in disbelief as he ejected our ace from the game, and seconds later, as my brain whirred back into function and I put the pieces together, I realized that what had happened was seriously wrong.

In the immediate aftermath of Thor’s draconian ejection, I talked to a great many people about what had happened.  Some agreed; others did not.  The ones who did not gave almost as many arguments as there were respondents: the pitch was nowhere near him, you give a warning first, players should police themselves, “make baseball fun again,” and the like.  I vigorously agreed with all, in the spirit of pragmatism and ill will towards Adam Hamari.  But none was exactly the response I was looking for.

***

What is fandom, exactly?  What does it mean to be a fan?  And how does it work, when you’re sitting in the stands with a shackburger™ and a lemonade and you just want to see your guys do well?

The question came to my mind the other day, as I scrolled through the comments — already, silly me — on a blog post about David Wright.  Would his number be retired, the post asked?  Did it deserve to be?

I have one answer that will not change: of course it does.  David Wright, over his 13-and-counting years in orange and blue, has given us everything he could, and then some.  He’s worked back from injury; he’s played while still injured; he’s gotten hits and driven in runs like nobody else in franchise history.  He’s been the face of the franchise; always working hard; courteous and polite with the media.  He’s got everything.

He’s the best position player in Mets history; that, I should think, merits a number retirement on its own.  His off-field comportment only adds to his case.

But I digress.  The real question was, who exactly is rooting against the retirement of David Wright’s number?  And why?  How one can be a Mets fan, and at the same time advocate — positively, no less — that David Wright’s number should not be retired?

It’s a simple case, to me.  I’m a Mets fan.  David Wright is a great Met.  I’d love to see his number on the left field wall, or rather, displayed on the overhang above the upper deck.  I’m not worried about precedent, whether if you retire Wright number you have to retire someone else, and that someone else means you have to retire someone else, and so on and so forth until eventually retiring David Wright’s number five means we have to number 33 for Vinnie Rottino.  What’s done is done.  David Wright’s retirement isn’t done yet; what happens when he does finally hang ‘em up remains to be determined.

So, as a Mets fan, I’m a fan of the Mets.  It should seem self-evident; I think it is.  But this doesn’t mean I root for “the Mets” as an intangible concept, or I really like the logo, or anything like that, any one of those abstract constructions of fandom that misses the forest for the trees.  I’m a fan of the Mets, or in other words, the players that make up the team.  I root for them.  I like them.  I’m a fan.

This, I think, is where a distinction comes in between most fans and whatever I am.  Die-hard, true blue, fanatic, whatever.  I think I’m just a true fan.

What makes a true fan?  It’s a tough question, rife with all kinds of criteria like whether one remembers a certain foul ball Dave Magadan hit in 1990 or whether they can name the entire Opening Day roster from 2010 (Alex Cora, Gary Matthews Jr., et al).  But really, I think the distinction comes down to a simple difference.  The difference between being a fan, and rooting for the Mets to win.

I root for the Mets to win; all Mets fans do.  It’s in the definition.  But I don’t root for wins in a vacuum.  That, to me, misses what baseball is all about.

I saw people writing surprisingly nastily as I scrolled through the comments, about how David needs to give it up and hang ‘em up, how he’s done and needs to quit before we spend any more on him, how people are big, big fans of David Wright, but maybe he should just retire.  These people, I’m sure, all root for the Mets to win.  They want more money freed up to spend.  They don’t want a player with an injury history taking up a roster spot.  They think David Wright’s role could be more effectively and efficiently filled by someone else.

Sure.  Check.  What else?

Is that all the persuading you need, before concluding that David Wright, the captain, should just go away?  It’s certainly not, at least in my case.  Sure, I’d like the Mets to win.  But even accepting for argument’s sake that Wright won’t help with that (and I don’t agree; I’ll go to the grave believing that David Wright has a good year or two left in him), does the argument really end there?

Of course it doesn’t.  David Wright is a Met, and just about the best Met there is.  I’m a fan of his, as I am of almost every member of the Mets past and present, but to far greater extent.  Cast out our captain, who’s given us his health and his career, because we might gain a win or two from it?  Sounds like something the Yankees would do.

Just like the Mets aren’t some unreachable concept but a group of players, David Wright is a player himself.  He’s not numbers; he’s not a glove and a bat; he’s a kid from Virginia who’s pretty damn good at playing third base.  You don’t root for the Mets; you root for the players among them.  And David Wright stands out emphatically from that group.

Some guys, you don’t have to root for.  Vince Coleman.  Bobby Bonilla.  You know the type.

But if you’re a Mets fan, you root for David Wright.  And that means that when you hear he’s getting close to returning to baseball activity, or whatever stage he’s at right about now, you don’t grumble and moan about how he’ll just get injured again.

Rather, you celebrate it like it’s news that your brother just got a promotion, which, for me, is as close to the truth as can be said of any non-familiar relation.  David Wright is one of our guys.  So you root for him.  And when you hear that he’s almost recovered from yet another freak injury, you don’t tell him to retire; you’re happy about it.

***

Likewise, when Adam Hamari stole the show and the happiness and ejected Noah Syndergaard, I was insulted.  Not because it was against precedent, or was bad for the fabric of the game, or any of it.  Put simply, Noah, like David, is one of our guys.  You don’t eject him.

Sure, there may have been grounds for ejection.  Adam Hamari may have made the best decision of his life.  In front of the Supreme Court, that ejection may well have been held up as an example of flawless decision-making under pressure.

When, remind me, did we start playing in front of the Supreme Court?  And why do some act like we are?

No one ever said that fans have to think critically about each and every choice they make.  So why even bother with the legalistic interpretation?  Why not just say it like this?

Noah is one of our guys.  You ejected him.  I’m against you.

For the experts, of course, more nuanced interpretation is needed.  But no one said fans needed to be experts.  We’re just folks who love our team.

That, I think, is where the line between fandom and super-fandom, or whatever it is I and my ilk practice, lies.  Fans become superfans when rationality leaves the picture, and is replaced with undying allegiance.

In the real world, of course, this is hardly a desirable mindset.  But baseball isn’t part of the real world; it’s almost the opposite.  For fans, that’s the whole point of the game, and of sports in general.   You can root, secure in the knowledge that if you lose, you’ll be okay eventually, and if you win and keep winning, eventually you’ll find yourself holding a trophy in early November, and you’ll be happier than you’ve ever been or ever will be.  Rooting, for the most part, is the same.  There’s no lasting harm done either way.  It’s not a trial; Citi Field is the opposite of a courtroom.  You can root however, and for whatever reasons, you want.  So why not choose the happiest, most positive ones?

***

After Thor’s ejection, things went south quickly.  Logan Verrett gave up a bundle of runs, we failed to do much ourselves besides a Juan Lagares eighth-inning solo home run that could be featured in the dictionary next to the entry for “too little, too late,” and we lost 9-1.

I wasn’t too miffed as I left the ballpark.  I was secure in the knowledge that tomorrow was a new day, that David Wright was and always would be my favorite player, and that the crew of spare parts on the field, despite the lopsided results, had given everything they had.

I don’t presume to tell anyone else how to be a fan; as I said, you can root for whatever reasons you want.  But I find that my style of fandom — stepping back from the complaints about Curtis Granderson’s arm or Yoenis Cespedes’ sleeve, and appreciating being out on a summer night, watching a team you love give everything it’s got to win ballgames, while also appreciating the players who make up the team, and have devoted their lives to playing this game as long as they can, as well as they can, and treating these players as neither overpaid hacks nor robotic baseball machines but rather as friends and brothers, who we stick by through thick and thin — makes for a fun night at the ballpark.

First In War, First In Peace…

Raise your hand if it makes you smile when you hear, “The Nationals have never won a playoff series.”  That many of you?  Good.  Me too.

There’s something special about seeing the Nationals fail on the biggest, brightest stage, or at least the stage that stands in for the biggest and the brightest in the months from November to March.  The Hot Stove, the pipeline, or whatever the pundits are calling it these days.  That’s where the Nationals failed.

There, and in every playoff series they’ve ever played.  Never gets old, does it?  Especially if you catch the allusion in the title, which does nothing if not prove that losing ways in Washington have been around for a while, and very well could be for a while longer.

I got slightly nervous a few days ago, as did most of Mets fandom, when it came out that the Nationals were out to make some moves.  They were going for Chris Sale and Andrew McCutchen, the story went, and what was more, they thought they had the prospects to pull off both trades.

Remember that time we heard that we had the prospects to get a deal done, and we all believed it?  I don’t either.  Whatever credibility our front office once had when it comes to being near to completing deals, it dissipated in the aftermath of July 29th, 2015, and then completely vanished when, during the 2015 offseason, it was reported that our guys thought themselves the favorites to land Ben Zobrist, when he had already done everything short of installing the furnishings in his Chicago apartment.

However, the news was A) not about us, and B) good news for a major division rival, so we assumed it had to be true.  Honestly, even when news is false, good for us, or not related to a division rival, I assume it will end badly for us.  That’s what I call Met Luck right there; when you know, immediately upon the non-tendering of Justin Turner, that he’ll come back sometime, and come darn near close to grabbing a playoff series from our fingers.

Thank goodness we had Thor to extinguish Turner’s otherwise Gubraithian bat (it’s a reference, google it; you’ll understand).  Let’s hope we’ve got a pitcher of similar capabilities (not to mention hair) the next time Mike Baxter digs in against us.

But this was good news for the Nationals, and bad news for us, so it had to be true.  Off the top of my head, besides Daniel Murphy and all that he’s done, I can’t think of many news items that have actually fit this description over the last few years.  Maybe the Nationals have actually been having a slow go of things.  But come on.  They’re the Washington Nationals.  They don’t have any kind of ridiculous, laughably awful luck innate to the character of their team (besides the fact — and I mention this for the benefit of Nationals fans who are reading this, as well as Mets fans who like hearing it — that they’ve never won a playoff series).

They’re the Nationals.  They’ve never had Norihiro Nakamura.  They’ve never traded Scott Kazmir for Victor Zambrano, literally or figuratively.  They didn’t have to go through Jason Bay or Ollie P.  So, contracts and other formalities notwithstanding, Chris Sale and Andrew McCutchen were basically Nationals.

Even then, honestly, I wasn’t too worried about it (if you said that in a Mr. Krueger voice, raise your hand — good, good).  They’re the Nationals; we know what they’ll do.  They’ll be okay, maybe pretty good, maybe really good, maybe mediocre.  They’ll finish first, maybe, or second.  Chris Sale and Andrew McCutchen don’t change the inherent uncertainty that surrounds the Nationals, the ineffable fact that no matter what they do, they’ll always be pretty good, but not great.

And regardless — you can trade for Chris Sale and Andrew McCutchen, but you can’t trade for victories in playoff series.

However, it can’t be denied that Chris Sale on the Nationals is a foreboding thought, just as each and every one of our four or five or possibly seven starters can be a foreboding thought in their own right.  As a matter of principle, as well as a finely-calibrated appreciation for winning and an even more narrowly tailored desire to win divisional matchups, I don’t like to see the Nationals improve, unless they’re doing so by adding players who will ultimately tear their team apart and lead meltdowns that are entertaining, as an opposing fan, to watch.  Basically, I mean to say that I don’t mind the Nationals improving, so long as they’re doing so by signing Jonathan Papelbon.  Ah, someday.

As for Chris Sale, Terry Collins agreed with me.  “I really thought for sure Sale was going to end up in Washington,” said Terry Collins, who really thought Matt Harvey was good to start the ninth, and was really sure that there was no need to pinch-run for Wilmer.  Terry, who thought Jim Henderson’s arm would be fine, no trouble, pins and needles needles and pins, thought this was going to happen.  So maybe I shouldn’t have been so certain.

Of course, we all now know what happened, or if we don’t, we at least have inklings, based on the amount of tweets I’ve seen today mentioning, in no uncertain terms, that the Nationals have never won a playoff series.  They didn’t get Chris Sale.  That doesn’t help.

Everyone healthy, everyone pitching and hitting and running — I tell ya, I can’t wait to play the Nationals this year.  Thor, deGrom, and a resurgent Harvey, facing off against whatever scrubs they throw against Reyes, Cabrera, Walker, Cespedes, Conforto, Granderson, Wright, Duda, d’Arnaud…etc, etc, etc.  Hey, maybe Chris Sale isn’t enough to beat us, although the Nationals will never know.  You know, maybe we’ve got some better hitters than Andrew McCutchen on our roster — although the Nationals may never have the chance to find out either.  We’re pretty good, is the point — Sale and McCutchen or just McCutchen or not, we’ve got a team that you’ve got to work to beat, and without Sale, you’ve got to work all the harder.

Sandy Alderson, apparently, isn’t ready to admit that maybe, just maybe, we’re doing ok.  “If he ended up in our division we would have had to deal with it, but it didn’t happen,” he said, again regarding Sale. “But guess what, somebody else will end up in our division, so we’ll have to deal with that.”

Sure, somebody else will land in our division.  And we’ll have to deal with them.  Meanwhile, they’ll have to deal with our fearsome pitching staff, our solid solid bullpen, and our slugging, powerful lineup.  We can deal with people.  We’ve been doing it for the last few years now, and I don’t see it stopping any time soon.  Maybe we’re the ones who are actually tough to deal with.

“We dodged a bullet,” Terry said, regarding Sale’s trade to Boston.  He neglected to mention the fact that within our 25 man roster, we’ve got, ready to fire, some pretty formidable bullets of our own.

I Was Countin’ Down The Days…

No one likes the offseason.  Well, no one who’s anyone likes the offseason.  It’s too long.  It’s windy and cold.  Nothing happens.  It hurts to throw and catch.  And, again, it’s cold.

This offseason in particular, it seems, is really taking its sweet time.  Maybe it’s something that always happens; when you go to a World Series, the offseason the year after always feels slower by comparison.  I wouldn’t know; the last time I had two consecutive offseason, one coming after a World Series appearance, to compare, I was four years old, too young even to know who the Mets’ Opening Day starter in 1982 was.

But regardless, we’ve got one clunker of an offseason to get through, so we’ve got to get down to it.  Watch some highlights.  Read some books.  Even listen to some old radio calls, assuming they’re available (they’re not available on mobile devices, as I discovered in cruel fashion on the treadmill a few days ago).

And, from time to time, check back on your progress with the Shea Bridge Report Official Opening Day 2017 Countdown Clock.  Give it a look now, and then in the New Year, and then mid-January, and suddenly, before you know it, it’s Pitchers and Catchers, and there’s no need for a countdown clock anymore because we’re absolutely absorbed in such urgent Spring Training details as Matt Harvey’s hairstyle and, invariably, animals of some sort.

The point, if there is a point, is that the offseason will pass – temporally quantifiably.  Already, since I created the countdown, we’ve shaved a good few minutes off it.  We’ll continue to do so – after all, it’s almost the Winter Meetings, which will signal that the worst part of the offseason has ended – and before we know it, it will be early on the morning of April 3rd, 2017, and we’ll be up and rearin’ to go, counting down the minutes and the seconds until we can once again turn the radio on after a commercial and hear, “From Citi Field, in Flushing, New York…”

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The countdown won’t matter then.  In months leading up to then, which is to say the months immediately ahead of us, it will matter only marginally more.  But it’s got orange and blue lettering, and if memories of the orange and blue can’t get us through this long haul of an offseason, I don’t know what else can.

And if you’ve missed the previous links, the countdown can be found here.

Singing The Joe McEwing Blues

It’s a long offseason.  A damn long offseason.  Let’s for a moment pretend that I usually practice a steadfast abstention from obscenity, just so that “damn” means something, because if anything deserves the sternest of rebukes, obscenity included, it’s the length of this godforsaken offseason.

The offseason, in its simplest terms, can be summed up thusly: the fact that Alex Guerrero, a player who prior to visiting www.mlbtraderumors.com a minute ago I had never heard of, is on the verge of a deal with the Chunichi Dragons, a team about which I haven’t the slightest idea, is front page news.  Who cares about Alex Guerrero?  Who cares about the Chunichi Dragons?

But really, the question should be put a different way — who doesn’t?

We all care about Alex Guerrero, or at least some form of him.  Joe McEwing brings smiles to our faces.  Alex Cora makes us wince as we remember the Jerry Manuel days, bad contracts and bad uniforms and all.  Chris Woodward takes us back to our earliest days as a fan, to the time we went to the game at Shea for a friend’s birthday and got there early and saw Omar Minaya in the parking lot, then a friend told us that they’d seen Chris Woodward himself.

Change a few letters around and swap out some mediocre stats for an identically mediocre set of numbers, and how different are any of these guys from Alex Guerrero?  Here’s the difference: they played for us, he didn’t.  But one of these days, someone will come around who did.  We’ll see Daniel Herrera signing with the Long Island Ducks (hell, he may play for them already, as all forgettable former Mets seem to do), or Nick Evans striking a deal with the Yomiuri Giants, and it will do nothing if not remind us of how quickly time passes, because it seems just yesterday that Nick Evans was interchangeable with Daniel Murphy, and Daniel Herrera was the crazy reliever with the long hair who was actually pretty good.

And that thought of time passing brings us back, all to quickly to the offseason, which we wish would pass faster.  If the offseason could pass as quickly as the minor league careers of Anderson Hernandez and Victor Diaz, the world, I believe we can agree, would be vastly improved.

But it doesn’t, which means the offseason passes exactly as fast as it does and no faster, or in other words, too damn slowly.  The offseason passes about as slowly as anything can, or in other words, only slightly faster than Wilmer Flores rounding third.  Only slightly.  Now that’s saying something.

It’s November 25th.  It’s been slightly more than three weeks since baseball season ended.  You don’t need to pause in distress to exclaim that it can’t have been only three weeks because it feels more like three months, because I already agree.  The current calendar year will end in five weeks.  After that, it will only be January, which will take four and a half weeks of its own to end, and then February will start, which will be a good sign because it will signal the approach of Pitchers and Catchers, but also not quite so good in that it will mean we’ve still got eight or nine weeks until the season starts.  Count it up; that’s eighteen weeks, give or take.  It’s not even Winter yet.

Or, you could just sum up how long this infernal offseason seems to take as Keith would: a prolonged jeeeeeeeeeeeeeeez, followed by a sigh that expresses more emotions than I could ever hope to capture with strokes of the pen. 

This may be the worst part of the offseason, the days we’re forcing our way through right now.  Baseball season is farther away than it will be until next winter, for one thing.  That’s not so much as a feature of these days as a vague definition of temporality in general, but it’s true in a grander sense.  In March, we’ll be closer.  Way closer.  Hell, I’d settle for January right now.  Just bring us baseball.

But even worse than the gap in time between today and April 3rd is the isolation that comes with the latter days of November, when the season has already largely faded from memory, and there’s nothing ahead but snow.  It’s tough, right now, to feel any connection to the Mets, past, present, or future, and connection to the Mets, during the offseason, is pretty much what sustains us.  We — and by “we,” I mean fans who remember what they were doing when Duaner Sanchez got in his cab accident — don’t have much to look for right now.  The season is behind, we’ve got a whole lot of nothing ahead, and right now, there’s just not enough Mets happening.

Well, at least, it seems that way.  And I’m not about to offer up some secret Mets events, so it may well be true.  But while there may not be much going on, there’s always something, or at least, something can always be made.  For even the most casual of fans, it’s not the hardest thing in the world to make like Reyes and bunt your way on, steal second, move to third on a groundout, come home on a sac fly, and whaddaya know, you’ve made something out of nothing.  Which is all you can do, when it comes to passing the offseason without losing some semblance of sanity.

See what I did there?  The topic was passing the offseason, and suddenly I was off and running (pun) with a Jose Reyes metaphor, and before you knew it you were (or at least I was) distracted by memories, whether from 2006 or 2016, of Reyes legging out triples and bunting for hits and stealing base after base.  Maybe you — if you’re like me — googled some highlights, and relived the good old days of Reyes and Wright, kings of New York, for a while, and tomorrow, and this week, and next, instead of being bogged down by thoughts of how freaking long (sorry to keep reminding you, but it can’t be avoided) this offseason is, you’ll think of Jose Reyes sliding into third and gesturing in celebration to the dugout, and you’ll remember how fast things can move when we just let them move.

So that’s how you pass the offseason.  Mets, Mets, Mets.  More Mets.  Everything Mets.

It’s late November and between now and baseball season, there are 130+ days and a mountain of work and uncertainty?  David Wright career highlights, let’s watch ‘em.

It seems like happiness is impossible while this frigid hell of an offseason continues?  Here, I’ll google “Brandon Nimmo Smile.”

The offseason will never end, so we might as well pack it in and give up?  Here’s Asdrubal Cabrera’s walk-off three run homer from that crazy game against the Marlins.  “Outta here!  Outta here!”  You don’t hear that too often.

The offseason can only get us down if we let it, and easy as it is to let it, we don’t have to.  Rather, we can hang around long after the offseason should have knocked us out.  We can stay strong and relive the season until we’re blue in the face and say to the offseason, we’re here to stay.

And let’s be honest — we’re fans of the 2016 Mets, who were, as we all know, 60-62, then went 27-13, secured a playoff spot, and came within a few lucky bounces of a trip to the NLDS and quite possibly beyond.  We’re fans of the ya-gotta-believers of 1973 and the Miracle Mets of ’69.  Is there anything we’re better at than sticking around long after we’re told that we should leave?

We’ll beat it.  We’ll get through it.  Offseasons haven’t beaten us yet, and coming off a season that saw us produce one of the most resilient, determined Mets teams in living memory, they certainly won’t start now.