Coke Corner Dreams

The Mets held an event recently, announcing changes at Citi Field for the 2016 season.  All manner of exciting new innovations was featured: an animated Coke sign, new burgers, and a cornhole game atop the Coke Corner headlined the event.

There was nothing about a new outfielder.  No one said anything about adding bullpen depth.  The issue of injuries didn’t come up even once.

And finally, not a single person complained about it.

Much as I hate to bash my own people, it’s not without reason that some Mets fans – the ones whose voices are heard, at any rate – have a reputation for complaining.  Because we do complain a lot.  About uniforms.  Long lines.  Fashion.  Ice cream.  We nitpick the trifling instances of perceived malfeasance on the part of ownership, forgetting how good we’ve already got it, having a team in New York in a wonderful stadium with players that we’ve all grown to love.

But then Yoenis Cespedes came along, Wilmer cried, Wright brought himself back with thunder, and 2015 happened.  And suddenly, we’re less like angry jewish mothers and more like, you know, baseball fans.  Baseball fans looking forward to a hell of a season.

People complained a year ago, when the Mets announced an expansion of the scoreboard that would cost $8 million.  Completely illogically, of course: the suggestion that the Mets took $8 million from their player budget and moved it to scoreboard costs instead is on par, in terms of absurdity, with Mike Piazza playing first base, or Brad Emaus being our starting second baseman.  It just wasn’t going to happen.

We like to think that we’re cynical, that we expect to fail and will be surprised to succeed.  We’re not fooling ourselves.  Even this week, as Matt Harvey added “Urination, Insufficiently Frequent” to the Mets lexicon of outright absurd injuries, we continued believing.  We told ourselves we didn’t, but let’s be honest: we do.

We believe in this team.  We believe in the coaching staff.  We believe in everyone minus the Wilpons, from Sandy down through to the head groundskeeper with the possible exception of Ray Ramirez.  We’ve seen what they can do, and soon, we’ll see it again.  There’s no need to convince ourselves otherwise, and, likewise, there’s no need to feign offense over a harmless, or, indeed, positively beneficial video highlighting improvements to our ball club’s home.

I drove by Citi Field the other night, returning from Kennedy Airport on the way back from a Florida trip that, regrettably, didn’t include a trip to Spring Training, because my family doesn’t understand the urgency of driving three hours to watch minor leaguers play a game that doesn’t count.  The road goes close by the stadium, almost contiguous with the parking lot.  I looked out the window of the cab and thought about how close we were to the season.

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We’re getting up on Opening Day, and had I not included a picture of Citi Field in its sun-resplendant glory, I wouldn’t have been doing my duty as a beyond-ecstatic fan.

I didn’t think about how bad the team was.  I didn’t crane my neck, looking for a billboard imploring the owners to sell the team.  I didn’t even bother myself with thinking about whether Citi Field looked quite as special as Shea would have, if I’d driven by ten or twelve years before.

Winning cures all ills, up to and apparently including blood clots in the bladder.  Even when we’re bad, I don’t enjoy complaining about it, but sometimes, it’s impossible not to.  When Chris Heston struck out Ruben Tejada to seal his no-hitter that had, in reality, been sealed since the end of the sixth inning, all as I watched from the promenade, I kicked the seat in front of me in disgust.  That was a game worth complaining about: our offense had about as much chance at scoring as George Constanza at the pinstripe ball.  But even then, I couldn’t hang on to the anger for long: within days, I was already, as the older and much wiser man behind me had said upon conclusion of the game, glad that I’d seen it.

That team, the Mets of John Mayberry Jr. and Eric Campbell, was a bad team.  Now we’ve got a good team, a passionate team, a team that’s easy to root for and even easier to feel good about.  We’ve got Duda and Walker, Cabrera and Reynolds and the cap’n.  Cespedes, Grandy, and Conforto, Lagares and even de Aza.  D’Arnaud, deGrom, Harvey, Thor, Matz, big Bart, and Familia.

And we’ve got even more, as of yesterday: we’ve got new food options, a sign that should be exciting if not downright distracting, and a good time to be had by all in the Coke Corner.

In previous years, this, somehow, would have been cause for complaint — as illogical as it would have been, we would have made it so.  But things are different, and now, for the first time in what seems like ages but is really no more than seven or eight years, the primary emotion associated with the Mets is not a grumbling, resigned anger, but controlled, growing excitement.

And as Opening Day approaches and the home opener follows soon after that, excitement, whether it’s over our four aces, four infielders, or four new burger varieties, is all that true fans should feel.

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The Year Of Yes

An article appeared in the New York Times shortly after New Years, proclaiming 2016 to be “The year of yes.”  My mother, inspired, read it aloud.  I laughed at her, and as she realized the full ridiculousness of what she was reading, she laughed too.  And then I realized that I agreed.

Now, it’s months later.  Bartolo Colón has stunk up Spring Training.  Matt Harvey, today, was roughed up by the Cardinals’ triple-A team.  Asdrubal Cabrera is out and questionable for Opening Day.  Ruben Tejada is gone.  David Wright seems a daily question mark, figuratively and, given the state of his back, almost literally.

And I say: none of that.  It’s 2016, the year of yes, and we’re not the same old Mets that we once were.  The “2015 National League Champions” pennant currently hanging at Citi Field will attest to that, but even more emphatically, the players will.  We’re no joke.  We’re no longer the Mets of Campbell and Mayberry, four and five.  We’re here to win a World Series, and this time, injuries won’t derail us.

Consider it a sign that I’m even saying what I just did: in any other year — perhaps, and this is what worries me, this year as well — such optimism would be unspeakable.  Condemned.  Derided as wishful thinking, because we all know the Mets get injured.  It’s just what happens.  Paraphrasing Billy Joel’s thoughts on the pub culture of his youth, we just get injured.  It’s just what we do.  And if we do that for long enough, I suppose we’re going to have a problem.

And we’ve had our problems in the past.  Injuries derailed the 2006 postseason, the 2008 bullpen, and the last five months of 2009.  They cost us the arm of a franchise pitcher, the legs of a franchise speedster, much of the prime of a five-tool outfielder, and the back and playing time of our captain.  And that’s just to name a few.  They cost us a year of Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler, the career of Ike Davis, and the Mets tenure of Vic Black.  They cost us months of Jerry Blevins and Travis d’Arnaud, and worst of all, they utterly failed to cost us Oliver Perez or Luis Castillo, while they were here.

But again, that was the past, and this is the present.  That was the era of empty seats and empty promises; of meaningful games in September and meaningless second base competitions.  We’re the team to beat now; even the clown himself admits it.  And teams to beat don’t lose their seasons on freak injuries like Asdrubal Cabrera’s.  Well, some do, but not the ones like us, who have absolutely got some good luck coming their way.

There are always reasons not to say yes, and while I understand the value of keeping expectations low and not overselling what we have, high expectations are part of what makes 2016 different, and say what you will, but we need something different.  I simply refuse to go into 2016 in the same way we went into 2012 and 2013, hoping for a .500 record, thinking getting close to a Wild Card will be enough.  We all know 2016 is different: we don’t want to say it, but we’re in for October or bust.  And I’m taking the liberty of saying it for us.

And if we want to go to October?  Well, let’s damn act like it.  We’re not the old Mets, who were build on a crumbling foundation of aging talent and couldn’t sustain anything more than a mediocre spark for more than three or four years.  We’re new.  We’re young.  We were built by the baseball maverick himself, and now that we’ve arrived, we deserve some high expectations.  I don’t want to be disappointed, but I don’t want to go through the 2016 season holding back happiness for fear of future disappointment either.

So I’ll say it right now: we’re a playoff team.  We’re better than the Nationals and the Marlins.  We can beat anybody in the National League and pretty damn close to everybody in the American League in any given game or series.  We’ve got maybe the best pitching staff in the league, and that’s before we get Wheeler back.  We’ve got a consistent, exciting offense: we’ve got Conforto and d’Arnaud the the perennially steady Lucas Duda and Grandy and Walker, not to mention Cespedes and the captain.  We’ve got Wilmer and Reynolds and Cabrera at short, all of whom can hit consistently if unspectacularly, and really, with our pitching, that’s all you need.  So, again, let’s act like it.

Now, I may be miles off base in my gut instinct that we’ll get a respite from injuries this year.  We may lose all the pieces we have in April, or, even worse, in September.  But if we do, it won’t change what we had going in.  Just for the sake of it, let’s say Thor goes down on April 15th with elbow soreness that we all know will turn into Tommy John surgery.  Will we feel better because we didn’t feel better?  Will our attempt to lower expectations and avoid disappointment have succeeded?

Of course not, because whether we admit it to ourselves or not, we know what kind of team we’ve got, and it doesn’t make a whit of difference what we say about it.  We know the potential our guys have got, and if they don’t live up to it, we’ll be disappointed whether or not we pretend to have anticipated it.  No sense keeping ourselves unhappy in the meantime.

Baseball can change in an instant: a ball off a hand, an awkward slide, or a twinge in the elbow can change a season in a heartbeat.  We’ve all seen it.  All that’s certain is right now, tomorrow, and the upcoming game.  Beyond that, we’ve got no idea who will be around to play.

All we’ve got is today’s game, today’s lineup, the team on the field.  And right now, it’s a damn good one.  And what’s the sense in pretending to oneself that our team isn’t as good as we know it is?  I’m taking 2016, and I’m saying, yes we will.

Repeat as division champs?  Yes we will.

Back to the NLCS?  Yes we will.

Another National League pennant?  Yes we will.

A World Series Championship to put a lit on an incomplete 2015 season?  Yes we will.

Or maybe we won’t.  But today, with the team we’ve got, we can, and that’s what matters.  And knowing how quickly things can change in baseball, all we know for certain is that we’ve got a good team right now.  So let’s be proud of it.  Let’s look forward to it.  And let’s do absolutely nothing to suggest that we can’t keep winning longer than absolutely everyone else.

Until further notice, we’re the team to beat, and maybe, further notice is not forthcoming.  We won’t know until it does, in any case, and it hasn’t come yet.  So let’s make 2016 The Year of Yes.

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Setting The Season In Motion

The wait is inexorably shrinking: day one of the 2016 season approaches, and soon after that, day one at Citi Field.

Unfortunately, Opening Day at Citi Field is off the table for me this year: there’s simply too much going on.  But I’ll be back soon after Friday’s celebration of a new year and the defending National League champions: one day, to be precise.

That’s right – the tickets are booked, the plans made.  I’m going back to New York, with two days to take in six hours of Mets baseball and then get out while the getting is good.

The first game of the year at Citi Field and, formerly, Shea Stadium.  It’s an annual pilgrimage, almost a rite of passage, and seeing as how, since I started going to Mets games, I haven’t stopped, I have a “first game of the year” every year.

My first game of 2004, my first ever, was an April afternoon matinee against the Pirates.  Jae Seo on the mound, the heart of the Art Howe era.  And boy, did they play like it.  We lost 8-1, on the way to a lost season.  It was before David Wright, after the heyday of Piazza, during Reyes’ bad year…there was nothing much to get excited about.  And I was over the moon.

How could I not be?  It was a Mets game — a real, live Mets game, like I’d been watching on TV.  All the stories I’d heard about Mike Piazza were right there behind the plate for me to see.  All the talk I’d heard about how cool Shea Stadium was was instantly visible firsthand.  An 8-1 loss couldn’t ruin that, especially when, in 2004, that was, resignedly, the norm.

My first game of 2005 wasn’t until the last week of August, and again, Jae Seo was on the mound.  This time, he got the job done, as was starting to happen somewhat routinely in 2005.  It was a 6-4 win over the Phillies, moving the Mets to 69-62, five games back in the division.  Jose Reyes had two hits.  Beltran was three for three.  Ramon Castro hit a three-run homer in the eighth to give the Mets a lead that Braden Looper would protect (strange, how ridiculous it seems to imagine Braden Looper protecting a lead).  The Mets were solid winners.

The Mets hadn’t yet established dominance in the division at the time of my first game of 2006, a 3-2 victory over the then-Florida Marlins.  Glavine pitched, back when hearing his name wasn’t something to get immediately angry about.  We went down in the sixth, and tied it in the seventh on a David Wright triple.  Wright was already, in my nine year old mind, a superhero.  It was about the most routine, ho-hum walk-off you can imagine: Beltran singled, Delgado singled him to third, Wright drove him home with a sac fly that we all knew would be deep enough.  One run winners.  Very soon, I would realize that the Mets were a lot more than one-run winners against the Marlins in an inconsequential game in April: they were on their way to a division championship.

Of course, we all thought the same in 2007, including myself, when I attended my first game of the year.  I didn’t know enough about the Mets, at that point, to tell myself that nothing good was ever assured.  It was Glavine again, and maybe I should have seen the signs: he was fine, allowing three runs, all earned, in six innings, but then the bullpen took over, and thus the game was lost.  A veritable who’s-who of reviled relievers: Ambiorix Burgos, Scott Schoeneweis, Aaron Heilmann.  Nine runs, six earned.  We scored five in the sixth, gave back three in the seventh, and went down three more in the eighth.  Sean Green came to the plate as the tying run with two outs in the bottom of the ninth.  He grounded out, and my first trip to see the defending N.L. East champions was a loss.

2008 should have been a rebound, but at the beginning, it didn’t look like it.  On the mound on that early April day that I journeyed out to Shea for the first time of the season — the last first time at Shea, what a waste — was a young pitcher who we said good things about — I like to think we knew how wrong we were, but I doubt it — named Oliver Perez.  You can guess what his line looked like without looking it up: 4.1 innings, three walks, six runs, all earned.  Two batters in, we were down 2-0.  We took a 6-2 lead; Perez gave it back.  Jorge Sosa gave up two in the sixth: Schoeneweis, another in the seventh.  2008, like 2007 but unlike 2006, opened with a loss.  Maybe we should have seen what was coming.

My first game of 2009 was a blur of confusion: getting to Citi Field (by subway, for the first time), wondering where the oft-mentioned Shake Shack was, getting to our seats in time to see the Mets score three in the first against Daniel Cabrera.  The Mets scored eight runs, only three earned, back when the Nationals were a laughingstock.  2009, before the injury madness of late April and early May, didn’t look half bad.  And we found the Shake Shack eventually.

In 2010, my first game, for the first time, was part of a doubleheader, although I didn’t see both games.  We saw Johan Santana in game one.  It was the first time I’d seen Johan, although by then, although the fans didn’t yet know it, his arm was slowly but surely disintegrating.  We scored two in the second, on a home run from Henry Blanco.  We had one hit the rest of the game.  Santana gave it back, and we sank a game closer to the .500 mark, which, of course, would not be a low point for long but something to strive for.

I got back into rhythm in 2011.  Jon Niese beat the Diamondbacks 8-4, Wright homered, Jason Pridie deposited a hanger on the Pepsi Porch, and Ike Davis extended his RBI streak.  Niese left after seven, and was replaced by D.J. Carrasco, who gave up two hits because that was simply what D.J. Carrasco did.  Tim Byrdak got three outs, and Ryota Igarashi sealed it.  My 2011 season was off to a sizzling start: in fact, I was 4-0 in attendance, statistically belying the Mets 34-47 record at home.

2012 saw Niese on the mound once again, and, seemingly well on his way to transitioning into the Jon Niese of more contemporary remembrance, he gave up a three run homer to Jay Bruce in the first.  Wright, batting .357 at the time — and this was in June, mind you — doubled home Murph in the first, but that was all we’d get.  Homer Bailey went eight, and Aroldis Chapman shut down the ninth, starting a 2012 season that would end on the high note of Matt Harvey’s debut with an offensively putrid loss.  I would see Harvey in August of 2012: we lost that game too.

My age of Mets independence began in 2013, as I made my way to Citi Field alone for the first time, meeting a friend but braving the seven train myself.  It was perhaps my best first game, and one of my most memorable: with the eternally mediocre Aaron Laffey on the mound, the Mets somehow avoided Jose Fernandez, then walked it off in the ninth against Steve Cishek, Marlon Byrd driving in the tying and winning runs.  2013, also, ended on the highest of notes, with Frank Francisco bookending his Mets tenure with one-run saves and Mike Piazza’s induction into the Mets hall of fame — we knew they wouldn’t be a playoff team, but if nothing else, my first game of the season had that positive feeling that continued most of the year.

At the time of my first game of 2014, the Mets were in one of their patented offensive funks, some of which have been known to last entire seasons.  This one didn’t quite get that far, but regardless, it wasn’t fun to watch.  Lagares singled home Ike Davis in the second: after that, we had nothing.  Inning after inning, we trudged up to bat, looked at pitches until we made outs, and jogged despondently back to the dugout.  Niese gave up two in the sixth, while we had one hit after the third.  Together, we had a 2-1 loss.  The goodwill that would end 2014 would come later: for now, we were the same old offensive failures that we’d always been.

And then, in 2015, for the first time, I attended Opening Day.

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It wasn’t a simple process: I lobbied my parents, finished school assignments early, and made it clear, on the whole, that this was absolutely essential.  I was a second semester senior, and I’d already gotten into Northwestern: my parents relented.  On the Monday morning that would open the Mets home season, I got on the subway as soon as I woke up, and, an hour later, descended the steps to the Citi Field parking lot.

It was packed, as I’d known it would be but hoped I could avoid.  Stuck in line in front of gates that stubbornly refused to open on time, I enjoyed my time among fellow die-hards.  I engaged the two pin collectors on either side of me in good-hearted banter.  I snapped a picture of Nelson Figueroa, newly hired SNY analyst, in the midst of his live pregame show.  I saw cowbell man and pin man, not to mention multiple sign men.

It was similar when the gates finally opened: with hours to kill, I took advantage of the park.  I spun the prize wheel and won a t-shirt.  I bought a steak sandwich from a newly added concession stand.  I climbed the ramps to the promenade and took in the view over suburban Queens from both outfield corners.  And then, finally, I sat down to watch Jacob deGrom pick up where he left off.

Of course he did: he was Jacob deGrom, these were the Phillies.  He was legitimate: they were a joke.  DeGrom went seven scoreless.  Lagares drove in Murphy in the fourth, on a line drive that Aaron Harang couldn’t find.  Michael Cuddyer, before we realized that he was done, singled in the eighth, went to third on a misplayed sacrifice bunt, and scored on a d’Arnaud sac fly.  DeGrom to Jerry Blevins to Familia: worked like clockwork.  We had a 2-0 win, to the delight of the crowd.  They’d have been all the more delighted had they known that there were nine more to come.

Opening Day 2015 set the tone for the season, and although we’d all like to forget the period from early May to late July, the good vibes returned in full blast in August, when Wilmer cried, Cespedes crushed, Familia saved, and the captain returned.  We didn’t expect, on April 13th, 2015, to find ourselves in the World Series six months later.  But after watching deGrom, Familia, and an offense that looked not quite as bad as it had been, we couldn’t help but think that there was hope.

***

This is the first game legacy that I’m adding to.  Jae Seo, Tom Glavine, Oliver Perez, Mike Pelfrey, Johan Santana, Jon Niese, Aaron Laffey, and Jacob deGrom.  A 6-6 record.  The highs, the lows, and everything in between.  A delightful compilation of Mets good and bad, memorable and unforgettably mediocre, thrilling and absolutely dour.

Game One, 2016, approaches.  Nothing much is clear: I don’t know who will start, let alone what the lineup will look like.  I can give myself permission to look for a win, since we’re playing the Phillies, but if I’m honest, it hardly matters.

I’ll be back at Citi Field, baseball sounds and sights and smells in the air, sun warming the seats, shaking off months of dreary, inactive offseason.

I’ll be over the moon.  How could I not be?

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The Importance Of Being Unique

We saw it today, as we’ve seen it year after year, as it seems destined to be until the end of time.  It’s a cycle that has repeated itself so many times that it seems absurd to be forced to see it again and again — don’t we know how this goes already? — but nevertheless, we saw it again today.

A Met slid into second relatively inconsequentially.  30 seconds later, his season was in doubt.

When Asdrubal Cabrera took off alertly from first, tagging and advancing to second on a deep fly ball from Cespedes, he probably examined his surroundings.  He noticed the center fielder retreating, not in good footing to make a throw.  He noticed the wind, taking the ball ever deeper.  He noticed the second baseman at less than full alertness, and knew that he could take the base if he tagged.  It would all go according to a simple and relatively fool-proof plan.

Here’s what he didn’t notice: he’s a Met now.  And fool proof plans don’t mean a thing.

Statistically speaking, I doubt we have substantially more injuries than the average team.  I’m sure it’s a fluke, just as all teams likely believe that they’ve been cursed with bad injury luck as well.

But, I mean, come on.  We’re absolutely cursed with injuries: we know it.  Why pretend otherwise?

Travis d’Arnaud, sidelined when he took an erratic fastball to the hand.  Jerry Blevins, a line drive to same.  Juan Lagares, a perpetually rehabbing elbow that seems just a nudge away from a full-blown pop.  David Wright, injured running to first, tagging a runner, and sliding into second.

Murph pulling his groin.  Clippard’s back acting up.  Uribe’s normal dive somehow injuring his chest.  An evil slide breaking Tejada’s leg.  Flores breaking his ankle in Winter ball.  Vic Black’s routine injury putting an end to his Mets career.  Tommy John Surgery for starting pitchers, two years in a row, plus our lefty specialist.

A beaning.  A taxicab.  A dugout step.  A hedge trimmer.  A protective boot that made a misdiagnosed injury exponentially worse.  A face-to-face collision.  Valley fever.

Pulling a muscle while running in from the bullpen to celebrate.  Pulling a muscle after having gotten to the celebration.  Dislocating a hip after slipping in the dugout.  Slipping off the sidewalk.  An accidental collision with a golf club.  Food poisoning from the Shake Shack.

And now, the relatively tame case of Asdrubal Cabrera and the Strained Knee Tendon.

Who knows what happens now?  Maybe Ruben Tejada becomes the starting shortstop, after it’s already being implied without being stated that Cabrera will not be ready for Opening Day.  It would be fitting: Tejada is coming back from a Metsian injury of his own, namely a slide so illegal that they hadn’t even considered it seriously enough to outlaw it, and it seems fair for him to get his chance.

Or maybe things will go even further, and we’ll finally – FINALLY – see the long-awaited major-league debut of Matt Reynolds.  Reynolds surely deserves it: he’s been waiting in the minors, hitting consistently if not spectacularly for a few good years now, and far too soon, he’ll become that guy who may have been good, but just never got his shot.  No one wants to see that; he seems like a good guy.  It would be nice, if not ideal in the current circumstances, to see Matt Reynolds get his chance.

Or maybe we’ll see something even more ridiculous, something truly Metsian, and before we know it, we’ll see Eric Campbell at short, Kevin Plawecki playing third, and Antonio Bastardo at backup catcher.  That, in some strange, multilayered way, might be the most fulfilling situation.  It almost certainly would not lead to the highest win total.  But it would reaffirm my faith that the Mets remain truly transcendent of all logic and reason.

Why do I want that?  Who the hell can tell?  I’m a Mets fan.  I myself moved beyond logic and reason some time ago.

So yes, I’d love to see Hansel Robles in the outfield and Anthony Recker re-signed as a third baseman and Rob Johnson brought back when we need an emergency reliever.  It would be, as we always want the Mets to be, completely unique.

But even more than that, I’d like the Mets to be inspiring, uplifting, and just plain nice.  So, more than anything ridiculous, I’d like to see Matt Reynolds finally make his debut.

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25 Days: Happiness Resumes

Sometimes it’s the little things, the trivial occurrences, the throwaway comments, that conspire to turn something good into something barely better than terrible.

Tonight, for example.  It should have been a good one.  All the factors were lined up, as they say, for an enjoyable, if not spectacular, time.

Then those damn little things kick in.

It’s the things you’d never think of, because they just don’t come to mind.  The circumstances that, while you didn’t even plan for them because they came up so spontaneously, are no fun to lose either way.  The tentative plans go awry through no fault of anyone involved, but because sometimes, things simply go wrong.

I wanted to spend a night watching The Office with a friend, laughing at the funnier side of the presidential election, and not worrying about tomorrow.  Well, we all want some things.

Now Hillary is losing, my friend called in sick, and to top it all off, Opening Day isn’t for nearly a goddamn month.

I’ve got a countdown running, on the board outside my door: 25 Days until Opening Day, it currently reads.

Just this morning, as I left for class, I marveled at how quick those 25 days would go by.  Now, I’m uncertain about the end of the week.

Well, uncertain may be the wrong word.  The week will pass, as weeks have passed since before we knew what to call them.  It just won’t be fun.

Imagine it — just this morning, I was excited about my new haircut, a slice of pizza for lunch, and the Michigan primary.  Now I’ve got a losing candidate, nothing to do tonight, and class at 9:00 tomorrow to look forward to.

Over one crazy week of the 2015 season, things changed around Citi Field more dramatically than we’d ever seen.  In two or three days, we went down, up, down, and up again.  We could barely settle in one place long enough to know how we felt about it, and just as soon as we did, we moved a different direction, and how we felt about where we’d been became unimportant.

That ridiculous roller coaster of emotions — it’s something we’ve all experienced time and again as Mets fans.  And thank goodness for it, because although the Mets do seem to dominate our waking lives, there are other things, and those other things go up and down as well.

In that sense, Mets fandom is an inoculation: against premature and unmerited celebration, yes, but also against bitter devastation.  We’ve seen the lowest of the low: compared to September 2007, anything real life can throw at us is a wave of the hand.

And tonight, in keeping with the 2007 theme, I’m disappointed.  But I’m not devastated.

Life goes on, things get better, and when they do, it’s all the more enjoyable for having been through the bad.  I learned that this year, having been through 2007-2014 before embarking on the nonstop torpedo journey of awesomeness that was the 2015 season.  Baseball, at least in that sense if not in many others besides, is a perfect metaphor for life.  My BABIP is low right now, but my line drive rate is high.  Things just aren’t working out well.  But they will.  If there’s one thing we learned as the Mets gave up three huge runs over five games on weak ground balls, it’s that luck, like everything else, regresses to the mean.  Bad things now mean good things later.  I have to believe that: I’m a Mets fan.

Yes, Hillary is losing and I’ve got no one to watch The Office with and I’ve got papers — albeit, not due for a while — to write, and before Opening Day, I’ve got a veritable mountain of less pleasurable tasks to get through, not to mention the raw time.  But I’ll get through it; I’ve been through worse.

Hillary will win eventually, and even if she doesn’t, things will turn out fine.  My friend will recover from what I’m sure is nothing but a passing bout of sickness, and we’ll watch The Office tomorrow.  I’ll get through everything I’ve got to do, and have a ball come Opening Day.

That’s the Mets fan in me talking.  And I know he’s right.

Bad things happen.  Good things do to.  All things, good and bad, will pass.  Mickey Rivers once said something to the effect of whether or not you’ve got control over something, there’s no sense worrying about it.

I know all this, and I know that come tomorrow, I’ll more likely than not see things in a whole new light.

I’m a Mets fan: I can get over the bad, and learn to make the good last.  But it’s easier, dozens and dozens of times easier, when it’s May or June, and there’s a ballgame on in the background.

UPDATE 11:49 p.m: Class tomorrow morning was canceled.  Things are already looking up. Also, only 25 days until Opening Day!

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Chase Utley Freaking Sucks

If you’ve been following the news recently — and let’s face it, if you’re the kind of person who reads the Shea Bridge Report, you’ve more likely than not been following the news recently — you’ll know that Chase Utley’s suspension, issued for the, for want of a better word, slide that broke Ruben Tejada’s leg, was, earlier today, revoked by the MLB.  Joe Torre, MLB’s secretary of emergency press conferences that seem somber and official, stood up and gave a long, tiresome explanation that basically boiled down to John Kasich saying we needed some common sense.

Me, I’m fine with it.  Let bygones be bygones, I say.  I’m sure Utley is sorry about what he did: now let’s move on.

That’s what I would say if I was lying.  I’m not fine with it: I don’t plan to ever be fine with it.  Utley deserves a suspension: he deserves a helluva lot more than a two game suspension. But, it is what it is.

In his explanation, Torre cited the fact that there was no rule against what Utley did.  Most people seemed to see this as a damn good reason that he shouldn’t be suspended.  Sure, it seems logical.  But it should raise a few red flags.

For one, the reason there’s no rule against it: Chase Utley committed a slide so terrible that no one had even imagined it realistically enough to make a rule against it.  And as soon as it happened, there was immediately a rule introduced against it, with the caveat that hey, the guy who did it before, he wasn’t doing anything wrong.  He didn’t endanger an opposing player: if he had, there would have been a rule against it!

But as I say, it is what it is.  Utley won’t be suspended, and he will, in all likelihood, be on the Dodgers roster when they visit Citi Field from May 27th-29th.

You know what that is?  1986 weekend.

Can you think of a better time for an absolute hoedown of a brawl?

I’m sure someone will plunk Utley a good one for what he did eventually, but I don’t know exactly who it will be.  I’m hoping it’s Thor, because he seems to have the temperament, not to mention the velocity, for this kind of job.  Also, watching an aging and physically decrepit Chase Utley attempt to charge the mound against Thor, in all his 6’6’’ Texan glory, will be a lot of fun for us Mets fans, while tough to watch for Chase Utley’s family and friends.

Here’s what I’d really like to see: Utley gets hit, and goes down.  He charges towards the mound.  Then all of a sudden, something crazy happens.  Lucas Duda grabs a water balloon from the dugout and puts Utley on his back.  Thor pulls a can of pepper spray from his back pocket and puts him down.  d’Arnaud, having secretly attached a bungee cord to the back of Utley’s uniform, gives a hearty pull, and Utley goes sprawling.

Then, as the offending party is approached by umpires intent on ejection, they shout to the world, for the TV cameras to see and hear, that the MLB rulebook does not currently contain a rule that specifically prohibits pepper spray, water balloons, or bungee cords.

Utley, this season, will be a bench player, maybe even less.  He can’t play anymore.  He’s a shadow of his former self, at least in terms of talent – in terms of smugly irritating nastiness, he’s everything he ever was and then some.  But on the field, he’s no use to anyone any more.  Maybe he’ll be that “clubhouse leader” that everyone hears about.  Maybe he’ll teach the Dodgers about the aging curve of a former superstar.  But somehow, I don’t see him having much value.

What I’m trying to say is, the Dodgers haven’t got much to lose from a 99 MPH fastball to Utley’s ribs.

I’m sure, after the whole fiasco settles down, that there will be some reflexive team loyalty, some Dodgers blindly claiming to be in Utley’s camp through the whole affair.  They’re lying.  It’s so blindingly obvious to everyone, even Dodgers fans who still think that they’re sincere in believing Utley not to have done anything wrong, that Utley deserves a good solid plunking, a suspension, and more, that we, the fans, are already debating, almost planning, his plunking, detail for detail.  That it’s deserved is beyond doubt.

I can’t help but wonder what Utley himself thinks of this, sitting at home surrounded by Bruce Springsteen merchandise that he bought to help prop up the charade of an All-America, stand-up guy.  I don’t think he’s sorry: his interviews after the slide showed that clearly enough.  I don’t think he’s scared either: to me, he’s sitting there laughing at us, convinced we’re not tough enough or serious enough to follow through on our big talk of high, hard, fastballs.

Oh, but we’re serious: what we did to his team in the NLDS should be proof enough of that.  We’ll welcome Utley into our home in May; maybe we’ll even cheer when we see him, anticipating the show we’re about to get.

Well, that part I doubt.  But it will be on our minds.

So we’ll watch, and as Thor or Harvey or deGrom or Matz — all of whom can hit 95+ MPH on the gun relatively easily — rears back and fires, we’ll be ecstatic, almost giddy with glee, because you’ll be just about to get what you’ve deserved for so long.

And then see the pitch coming from our pitcher, who will be 10-14 years younger than you, in substantially better shape, and much more invested in the situation.  And you’ll anticipate a pain in your side, or your ribs, or wherever you get hit.  And right about then, I hope the following question comes to your mind.

Are you still upset about being, as your agent said today, “unfairly demonized”?  Because it so, you’ll need to get ready in a hurry for the hurt that’s coming next.

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For What It’s Worth, Baseball

It’s any ordinary Thursday.  I’m sitting in class, and material that, on any other day, would enthrall me, is flying right over my head. The impression of attentiveness that I’m giving off is cursory at best, and “half-assed” is probably a more accurate description.

The Mets have a game in an hour. I don’t have time to think about anything else.

No, it’s not a game that counts.  No, few or none of the regulars will play. Yes, many of the players to take the field today will probably be gone before Opening Day.

Does any of this matter to me?  Not in the slightest.  It’s Mets baseball, and it’s today.

That’s it.  That’s all that matters.

Will I feel this way in 31 days, when the Mets are in Kansas City playing what I’m sure will be a nail-biting, thrill-inducing opener against the Royals?  No, probably not.

But Opening Day is 31 days away.  Until then, why not get excited about Baseball, even is it’s a game that doesn’t mean much?

I’ll tel you what it does mean: it means, as I’ve said multiple times because I just can’t get it out of my head, that Opening Day is only 31 days, one long month, away.

Today’s game will not be televised.  All the better.  It’s the first opportunity of the year to turn on the radio and listen to Howie Rose calling the action.

Today’s starter, Rafael Montero, will likely not start the season in Queens.  All the better: this may be one of our only opportunities to see him.  He was once a big prospect: no reason not to take every look that we can.

Our captain, David Wright, will not play today.  He didn’t even make the trip.  I don’t mind; he’s our captain.  He knows what’s best for himself.  He’ll play eventually, and he’ll be fine when he does.

Is there anything I wouldn’t see in a positive light today, you may be asking?  That you had to ask should be an answer itself: of course not.

Later today, there will be baseball.  Real, professional, Mets baseball.  How could I be anything less than thrilled?

So please, today, I ask only one thing.  You may not like Spring baseball.  You may find today’s game meaningless.  You may find those fans who looked forward today simply because it’s the Spring Opener ridiculous and irrational.

But here’s my request: don’t take your dull, monotonous, rationality out on the rest of us.  It’s been a long, dark, crazy offseason, and now that it’s near over, we’ve earned the privilege of a little celebration, even it it’s slightly less than fully warranted.

There’s a ballgame today.  We’re Mets fans.  Irrational as it may seem to outsiders, take our word for it: irrational celebration, today, is fully and completely logically warranted.

And to Mets fans, a similar message: don’t give a second glance to the people who insist that Spring baseball isn’t worth one itself.  We know better: it’s baseball, and that’s enough.  Until April 3rd, it’s the biggest event of the season.  So get out there and party like it’s Opening Day.

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