February’s Coffee

In a small leather notebook on a shelf next to my bed, I keep a list of every Mets game I’ve ever attended, along with its score, the starting pitcher, and the opponent.  The list is currently 82 games long, which, depending on who you are, may seem like a few or a great many.  Let’s just settle on a fair amount.  I’ve seen my share of the Mets, you might say, and my share figures to continue increasing fairly regularly on an annual basis.

However, I’ve never seen Phillip Evans play. So all of you watching were just as surprised as I was when, an 0-1 count on him in the bottom of the fifth, he took a swing and cleared the bases. It was a classic Spring Training home run, out onto the space between the fields, above the Nathan’s billboard but below the tops of the palm trees.  Evans had another hit later, and another RBI.  He’s batting .375.

Speaking of .375 hitters, Yoenis Cespedes hit one as well, but this one was no classic Spring Training homer.  This one was tall, majestic, heroic, colossal.  It cleared the batter’s eye in center field and kept going; no one’s quite sure where it ended.  Unlike Phillip Evans, I’ve seen Cespedes in person more than a few times, enough to know that this is the norm and not an exception.

You know who else once cleared the batter’s eye at First Data (née Tradition) Field?  David Wright.  Like Cespedes, I’ve seen Wright more than a few times, but unlike Cespedes, I’ve seen Wright far more.  This was back in Spring of 2015, when we thought Wright had already been through enough injuries to last a career but were blissfully unaware that those damn impingements were just getting started.  They were wearing the old Spring Training jerseys, the ones with the patches under the arms, and while it might just be my imagination, Wright looked bigger, stronger, more imposing at the plate.  And you can’t blame him; the man’s been through enough surgery to kill a pack of junior mints.

David Wright doesn’t have a Spring batting average, or if he does, I’m not sure what it is — .250, maybe.  It barely matters either way.  David won’t play again for a while, which could mean anything from a little while to a real while, but either way, is too long.  He’s got a shoulder impingement, which is likewise meaningless in the sense that no one seems to have any idea what it means or how it works, but deeply meaningful in that it will keep a man who loves baseball more than anything off the field.

So if David can’t play, who plays in his place?  Maybe Jose Reyes, who was once Wright’s partner for life, in the baseball sense.  It doesn’t get much closer than young shortstop and young third baseman growing up together.  Reyes didn’t have a hit today; he’s batting .200 on the Spring, which doesn’t look great until you consider that, well, it’s Spring.  I don’t suppose Terry was considering Jose’s performance when he pulled him for Phil Evans, who promptly hit a grand slam, not that he’s after a job.

Or, will David’s replacement be Matt Reynolds, another .375 hitter?  Reynolds hit the ball well today; he drove an RBI double to the right field gap — even looked something like David Wright.  You remember the way David used to drive the ball in the gap like that…like it was nothing!  It wasn’t nothing, it seems; it was far more than nothing, something that over time adds up until it manifests itself as a series of injuries, one after another.  Not that this will happen to Matt Reynolds, after all…he’s batting .375!

Suddenly Brandon Nimmo enters the picture, because we’ve got three .375 hitters, and Brandon Nimmo is getting hits more often than any of them. Nimmo was three for three, including being thrown out at second trying to turn a ball off the first base bag and into right field into a double.  Watching, I was for a split second, just a split, reminded of Daniel Murphy, and the play he made in 2009, flipping to Bobby Parnell for the out.  What’s Murph up to these days?

Well who knows?  But his replacement is doing fine, as we saw when Neil Walker knocked a two-run homer onto the “berm,” if that’s what it’s really called, in right field.  I thought Walker had more power from the right?  Wait, I thought Walker had more power from the left?  Who knows?  Today he had lots of power from the left — tomorrow, we’ll see when we get there.

You know who didn’t have such a positive performance from the right side of the plate?  Adeiny Hechavarria. When his bat went flying out of his hands following a weak swing at a stronger Robert Gsellman fastball (they’re calling him “Rob” now — is that going to stick?), I almost gasped.  Watching the replay that showed Luis Guillorme making the play on the bat, not the ball, I nearly gasped again. Luis Guillorme had five twos in his batting line today; three from his batting average, one for the two men he left on base, and one for the two at-bats in which he failed to record a hit.  Add all those twos up; that’s the score the judges sent down for his play on the flying bat.  It all evens out.

Oh, one thing is certain — the energy of Spring is in the air.  Everyone’s doing something, from the bat-catching Guillorme to the .545-hitting twins Gavin and Travis to the ice-machine-wearin’ trio in the booth; down in Florida the sun is shining and the breeze is blowing; the pitchers are throwing and the hitters are stretching; the scouts are watching and the manager’s laughing; the gloves are popping and the bats are mashing; the ball is zipping and the cleats are sliding; the grounds crew is watering, the umpires are barking, and the fans are cheering; and together they’re all shouting the same thing: Coming soon to a ballpark near you — baseball!

It certainly is.  Come on now — who doesn’t love Spring?

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