The Robin Is Here

I woke up twice this morning before my alarm went off. I didn’t get to bed until 2:00 last night, but sleep always takes a backseat around these occasions. It’s like when you were a kid, and you wouldn’t be able to fall asleep the night before you went on a trip. I woke up thinking about the Mets.

Maybe this had something to do with my alarm itself, which, in the mornings, usually plays “Meet The Mets.” It was fun the first few times; now I’ve gotten used to it, and it’s hardly a novelty. Opening Day, I thought, deserved something more. When the clock struck 8:00, Terry Cashman started singing from the shelf behind my bed.

I’ve counted the days, in a Winter haze, since the leaves began to fall,

Now it won’t be long ’til the sun comes shining through…

Put on my WRIGHT 5 jersey, went to class, got some pancakes, grabbed a few packages that had been waiting for me over Spring Break. Some t-shirts and a book. Everything was passing in a sort of haze, maybe even going more quickly than usual. That in itself is strange, because for five months, not to mention 20 years, off-seasons have moved far more slowly than they should, if my sense of time is at all accurate. Whatever. I’m not complaining.

Came back to my room and knocked out the last bit of homework I had, which was barely homework at all. I had to read four Bill Simmons columns, and with more pressing sports matters on my mind, those went quickly. Some time after that, it occurred to me that maybe Bill Simmons was onto something with his chronicling of game seven of the 2004 World Series. Bill Simmons, I figure, has to be doing something right. Everyone tells me I should write like him, not that I’ve ever tried prior to today, or even read much of his stuff. But at first glance, it seems like he’s got an idea of how things work, and then some. So, an Opening Day Diary. That’s what I’ll do.

12:15: After TuneIn Radio redirects me to the Fox News Talk station (“But they think you’ll like it!” my girlfriend says), I tune into MLB Gameday Audio and find Pete McCarthy interviewing Jose Reyes. His first Opening Day with the Mets since 2011. Seems like it’s my first Opening Day in about six years too. For Reyes, it must seem like dozens.

12:17: Ty Wigginton was the last Met to start an Opening Day game at third base before David Wright. I don’t know how this makes me feel.

12:19: It occurs to me that the weather is cooperating again. It feels cold after three days in Florida, but really, it couldn’t be nicer outside. Maybe I’ll work in the weather when I finally write my column on making Opening Day a National Holiday. I’ve got my window open, for the first time all year: there’s a breeze blowing through my room, and it’s not the least bit unpleasant.

When the camps start breakin’ my spirits awaken to an irresistible call,

Of an old American song, that’s always new…

12:22: Twitter tells me that Steven Matz has a flexor tendon strain. I’m not entirely sure what a flexor tendon is, but I am wondering what this means for Matz’s immediate future, and also trying to remember whether or not I drafted him to my fantasy team.

12:25: It occurs to me that around this time is when Mets Extra! with Ed Coleman used to start at this time for day games, before we moved over to WOR. For the second time today, I’m not sure how to feel.

12:26: Wayne Randazzo announces that coming up, we’ll hear Howie Rose on the radio making player introductions, thus assuaging my more or less constant fear that I’ll miss player introductions, which as far as Opening Day goes are about as good as it gets.

12:30: The 2017 WOR introduction montage plays for the first time, and I’m hooked instantly, not that I hadn’t previously been interested.

12:31: Josh Lewin announces gleefully that it is, in fact, Opening Day.

12:33: Josh Lewin informs me that Julio Teheran had a lower WHIP than Noah Syndergaard last year, while pausing before saying “WHIP” to indicate a healthy dose of skepticism. Howie Rose, he continues to promise, is still just a few minutes away. Twitter confirms as much.

12:35: I look out the window, and determine that most of Terry Cashman’s lyrics continue to ring true, although I haven’t seen a Robin yet.

And the Robin is here, and the sky is so blue…

12:38: I give my girlfriend her Opening Day gift, a stuffed brown bear in a Mets jersey. She wants to name him after Brandon Nimmo, but can’t, because she’s already done so to a different stuffed animal.

12:41: Howie Rose welcomes back family members of William Shea, a beautiful tradition that I manage to forget about every year. Bill DeBlasio gets a dose of what might be cheers or boos; police and fire officials are welcomed as well.

12:42: Howie announces that he’ll introduce the Braves. Mets fans hear, “almost time to introduce Bartolo.”

12:44: R.A. Dickey gets an ovation. I can only imagine what Bartolo will do. Dickey is — somewhat unceremoniously — immediately followed by Anthony Recker, who if I remember correctly I once watched hit a double, and Eric O’Flagherty, who as far as I remember never did anything of note.

12:45: Bartolo Colón is announced, and the crowd, from what I can hear, is standing and cheering. The ovation lasts a solid 25 seconds. He is followed by Ian Kroll, who is booed for not being Bartolo.

12:47: Nick Markakis is batting 5th for the Braves. #VoteMarkakis.

12:50: The crowd cheers loudly for Wilmer Flores, whose charm apparently still hasn’t worn off. The crowd cheers even louder the number five, the captain, David Wright, whose charm doesn’t seem likely to wear off any time soon. “We hope he’ll be back soon,” Howie says, as if that motion didn’t already enjoy unanimous consent.

12:54: At Yoenis Cespedes’ introduction, the crowd roars. This isn’t a cheer, a salutation, or anything of the sort; this is the kind of thing you hear at rock concerts and in manipulative dictatorships. In this context, it’s entirely acceptable, because come on, it’s Yoenis Cespedes.

There’s a band, there’s music, and the flags are flying too…

12:57: A beautiful rendition of the National Anthem is performed over the radio as I walk to my girlfriend’s room to watch the game on TV.

1:05: Josh Lewin compares Noah Syndergaard to Bruno Mars. I don’t know how to feel about this, take three.

1:07: Out of nowhere, a montage of Mets working out and delivering inspirational quotes comes on to the MLB.tv broadcast. Some things are certain in life: death, taxes, and the fact that any season, whether dominant, mediocre, or god-awful, will yield an inspirational-style highlight montage.

1:11: Noah Syndergaard takes the mound. “Look at that hair,” my girlfriend says. “He’d make a pretty woman.”

1:13: “Beautiful day, temperature in the mid 50s,” Gary Cohen says. “All you could ask for in early April.” We see a shot of the field, the actual field, for the first time.

The grass is so green, it’s like never before…

1:21: Jose Reyes is already wasting pitches like a pro. Julio Teheran is throwing maybe 93 tops, which must look like a change-up, pardon the cliche, after watching Thor from the field. Noah, it should be noted, set the record, in the first inning (if Twitter can be believed, which we’ll run with for now), for hardest Opening Day first-pitch of all time.

1:22: Asdrubal Cabrera gets the Mets’ first hit of the season. I’m fairly sure he’s also on my fantasy team.

1:25: Cespedes is still hanging in there. Meanwhile, I’m still marveling at how green the grass is. Do I say this every year? Probably. Is it true every year. I don’t know — but maybe. The green of the grass is just one of those things, like player intros, or Opening Day in general: it just doesn’t get old.

1:30: The bottom of the first ends with no score, leading me to make the ultimate silver-lining realization that hey, at least we’re getting Teheran’s pitch count up there.

1:38: Thor won’t throw a no-hitter today. I had considered writing earlier that I thought he might; I suppose it’s a good thing I didn’t, because I would have been both wrong, and to blame for Brandon Phillips singling just now. I considered writing it anyway, because my leg was leaning up against a wooden table, which might have thrown some superstitious wrinkles into the mix, but ultimately decided against it. You tell me what I should have done.

1:42: We see Bartolo in the Braves’ dugout for the first time. I would describe the emotion of the moment as a kind of state of bittersweet hilarity.

1:47: “This feels like the kind of game where Rene Rivera homers,” I think to myself.

1:49: Rene Rivera comes about three feet away from an opposite-field home run.

2:04: Asdrubal Cabrera has another single. I don’t even want to know how well my fantasy team is doing — assuming my memory of drafting Cabrera is correct.

2:07: We still haven’t scored, but man, Julio Teheran’s pitch count is getting up there.

2:13: Update on Jay Bruce’s search for a fresh start: after almost falling down playing a ball off the right field wall, it’s not going to well. Bruce showed nothing special when he grounded out in the second, and indeed, took one of the uglier swings anyone has ever seen: how long can he last? I mean, this is the team that gave Luis Castillo and Ollie Perez long term deals, but those were different people! These people are smart: they let Justin Turner go, traded away Angel Pagan, signed Michael Cuddyer, etc. So, how long can Jay Bruce last if he plays as Jay Bruce always has? Answer: who the hell knows?

2:23: Curtis Granderson gets a hit to the opposite field against the shift. In my mind, I let loose a sinister cackle. When will everyone start bunting against the shift? Literally, bunt every time until they stop shifting — is there any reason why this wouldn’t work? And what does it say about me that I’ve spent hours studying a method I created to beat a shift I’ll never play against?

2:28: Jay Bruce draws a walk, and adds a small positive notch to his quest for a fresh start.

2:29: Gary Cohen agrees with my assessment that while we have not yet scored, Julio Teheran’s pitch count is certainly rising quickly.

2:48: We’re still chugging along, no score. Teheran’s pitch count keeps rising, but this doesn’t seem to have produced any runs yet. Cespedes hits a fly ball that gets the crowd excited, but Ender Inciarte catches it on the warning track. I’m struck by the undeniable fact that this world would be a better place in the absence of Ender Inciarte. Is that rude? Probably, especially if you’re a friend of his. But he’ll be ok; he’s got a pestilential career ahead of him, tormenting us time after time after time. He can live with a little rudeness.

2:56: Why ever pitch to Freddie Freeman? Seriously, I’ll bet he’s worth more than one base per at-bat when you pitch to him…just put him on!

3:03: Thor gets out of trouble again (#VoteMarkakis). Thank goodness the Braves’ lineup is Freddie Freeman and company. Well, actually, maybe not — but to Noah, it seems that way. He’s at 86 pitches or so — does he get another? Goodness, I hope so. Today is not a day for the Hansel Robleses of the world, based on what we’ve seen.

3:06: Thor has a blister on his thumb? Jesus Christ, what next? All the ailments, the weird injuries…and, I should add, please keep Ray Ramirez and his quackery away from that Norse God of pitching.  Jeez. Wednesday: Matt Harvey out with injury sustained while piercing his eyebrow. Or something like that.

3:09: I’m rooting for Thor to get the win, so we’ve gotta score here. Jay Bruce has walked — maybe there’s something to that fresh start after all. So Thor’s decision comes down to Lucas Duda? Wonderful.

3:10: Duda flies out. #KillTheWin, or just hit better.

3:12: So, Robles is in. Obviously, great start for Thor, but I know Robles — this is the kind of game he blows. When the Braves score this inning, I will await your acknowledgement. “This is where he belongs in a game,” says Keith. Man, I hope so.

3:15: Two outs — can Robles get it done?

3:17: Robles is pausing at the top of his motion, which brings to mind Satchel Paige and the “hesitation pitch.” It was eventually declared illegal, I believe, and as far as today’s game goes, it’s probably the least of our worries right now. But any mention of Satchel Paige is a worthwhile one.

3:18: I can’t tell what color Robles’ hair is. It’s either a red, a brown, or maybe a blond. Somehow, this seems to me an incredibly apt metaphor for what Robles has done as a pitcher.

3:19: Robles gets it done. Sometimes, I’m glad to be wrong.

3:22: The game’s in a commercial, but for some reason, I’m feeling really great right now. It’s Opening Day! It’s baseball season! It’s warm outside, and today, there’s not a thing in the world to worry about except having a good time. But, obviously, don’t expect me to keep this up if we lose.

3:23: Second pitch, Rene Rivera is going to homer. You heard it here first.

3:23: Rivera takes the second pitch at his feet.

3:24: Rivera singles, which isn’t exactly what I predicted either time I predicted an outcome for him, but it’s something. I should add that it seems that getting Teheran’s pitch count up may turn in our favor after all.

3:26: Gary Cohen confirms my earlier suspicion: “no one got a bigger ovation than Wilmer Flores.” Boy, we Mets fans love a man who cries.

3:28: d’Arnaud slides WAY past the bag breaking up a double play, but no objection from the Braves…honestly, it’s only a matter of time before the Utley Rule works its magic against us, as everything ultimately does. We’re never going to get Chase Utley out again, are we?

3:31: This is a classic Reyes at-bat…lots of fouls, fighting everything off. All we need is a single — of course, because Wilmer Flores is the runner, it’ll have to be a single that gets stuck in the outfield fence.

3:32: Come on, Asdrubal. Do it for the Mets — and the fantasy team, the Loyal Order of Raccoons.

3:33: I mean, what do you expect? Wilmer Flores is literally the slowest player in the game — was there any other outcome possible? Replay looks like he’s safe — but I gotta trust my instinct, I doubt this gets overturned.

3:35: Add “a catcher two or three behind home plate” to the list of things Keith has never seen before.

3:35: I’m wrong, he’s safe — my predictions are way off today, and I’m loving it.

3:38: Apparently, Noah left the game with multiple blisters. Let’s recap: valley fever, spinal stenosis, herniated back fragments, finger blisters…all in the last two years? How does Ray Ramirez do it?

3:41: Eric O’Flaherty enters for the Braves. Poetic justice says we should absolutely smash him — so obviously, he’s going to shut us down. Amazing how that always happens — although, as we’ve seen, my predictions have been off today.

3:45: Granderson hits a sac fly off O’Flaherty, which isn’t exactly the ideal embarrassing meltdown inning I was looking for. I was hoping for, you know, an RBI walk, a run-scoring balk, a grand slam. But this is something. No need to be overly vengeful towards Eric O’Flaherty — we made the World Series anyway, despite his best efforts.

3:50: THERE we go. O’Flaherty walks Bruce to drive home Cabrera. Some guys never change — even though most guys like O’Flaherty get inexplicably better after leaving Queens. O’Flaherty remaining solidly sub-average is, I must say, an entirely pleasant change of pace.

3:52: Eric O’Flaherty has imploded. I was wrong again, but this time, it seems like there was a kernel of correctness in there. Maybe. Why can’t Ollie P. ever have one of these complete meltdowns against us?

3:54: Travis d’Arnaud walks. (“That is teríble,” says Keith).Immediately, my mind zooms ahead: maybe d’Arnaud is going to be a big piece! Maybe his batter’s eye has improved! I can see him hitting .270, maybe 20 homers — then I remember he won’t be facing Eric O’Flaherty every time out.

3:57: Just struck me that we’re still waiting for the answer to the trivia question. I don’t even remember what the question was, or whether I knew the answer.

3:58: As Keith notes, Tyler Flowers’ bad tag on Flores at the plate completely changed the course of the game. Huge break for us, in other words. Hey — maybe our luck is turning! I’ve only said that about 12,000 times in my life; this time might be for real.

4:02: Fernando Salas is in. Let’s get six outs.

4:09: Salas gets the job done. It’s hard not to love going to the bottom of the eighth with the lead — one more chance to score, then in comes Addison. Things are looking fine.

4:15: Here’s yet another montage, this time with a voice over from Sandy Alderson. I mean — why not? Headed to the ninth.

4:19: Time to check the scoreboard — Nationals win, Marlins lose, Phillies just getting started. Rob Gsellman is in to pitch — three outs, and we’ve got a win. They just answered the trivia question — I had the answer the whole time. Cliff Floyd — brings back memories.

4:26: Well…wow. Mets turn a 1—3—6 double play to end it. Tapper out in front of the mound, Gsvllman throws to first, Duda throws in behind at second, and Kemp is out. So maybe I was right after all — maybe our luck is turning in a new direction after all. I can hear “Back in the New York Groove” playing in the background — that means it’s time for me to take my leave.

4:28: Well, a good game all around. Shut-out pitching, solid situational hitting, and, of course, Asdrubal Cabrera racking up the fantasy points. The sun is shining, the grass is green, the robins are out, and the Mets are winning. So saddle up, Mets fans — Wednesday night, and then for six months after that, we’ve got baseball to watch.

It’s Opening Day,

I can be

A kid once more.

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