Your pal Manny Aybar's arrival on the mound (God bless WPIX)
reminded me, again, of the weird feelings when former enemies big
and small join the Forces of Good.
It's easy to forget Pedro was briefly a member of the Forces of
Darkness, drilling Piazza in June 1998 and afterwards pulling out one
of his under-the-mango-tree ruminations about being a
poor boy with class while Mike was a millionaire without it. The brief
contretemps has blotted out memories of the actual game, which is too
bad: Pedro lasted just four innings, giving up 1,254 feet worth of home
runs to John Olerud, Bernard Gilkey, Luis Lopez and Alberto Castillo —
the latter two leaving me bounding around the office in astonished,
giddy delight. Some large man named Vaughn countered with two homers
for the Bosox, perhaps opening eyes that should have stayed shut. Then
Pedro was a head-hunting menace to society; now he's the genial prince
of the clubhouse. (Actually, between baseball's great mi nombre es Pedro ad and his habit of head-hunting Yankees, I forgave him long ago.)
The elephant in the former-enemies room is, of course,
Tom Glavine. You and I are exactly like several hundred thousand
other Mets fans in remaining lukewarm at best on Glavine after
two seasons. All those years beating the tar out of us carry
a certain psychological weight — particularly that 1-0 strangulation
in Game 3 of the '99 NLCS, which we got to watch side by side
in glum misery. There's his failure to beat the tar out of
clubs in the same way wearing our uniform. There's his status
in the freelance-GM clique of the clubhouse. Geeks like us
still mutter about brother Mike's fantasy-camp tenure in
orange and blue, with the associated blather about great family
atmosphere. No, it is safe to say we have not warmed up to Tom
Glavine. And you get the feeling we're not alone: From the press
coverage this spring, you'd barely know Glavine was on the roster.
[Side note: Chris Woodward probably just made the team. Time for
the McEwings to start scouring the St. Louis real-estate listings.]
When I think of Glavine, I admit to still seeing him as an
impostor. With Atlanta he and Maddux epitomitzed the
strain of Brave arrogance I particularly loathed: disdainfully silent
and distantly supercilious toward competitors and even in their
own clubhouse when they objected to something. (Chipper and Bobby Cox
were and are different, given to shooting off their mouths in a
moustache-twisting way, but I always found that easier to take — at
least they acknowledged we were on the field with them.)
I've tried, but I still feel that way about Glavine. I'm
sure this is unfair. It's not Glavine's fault that we signed him
when he may have begun his natural descent as a pitcher. It's
not Glavine's fault that he's been backed by a
defense that might as well have been put together from the rest of
the Glavine clan. It's not Glavine's fault that he was invited
into the circle of Mets allowed to interfere with decisions better
made upstairs. Regardless, I can't shake the feeling.
Here's the thing, though: If Glavine had had a better defense and
won 15 games a year, would I feel differently? If he'd no-hit the
Rockies last year — as I, for once, firmly believed would
happen — would I feel differently? I think I would. Fandom is a fickle
thing, and mere facts need not apply: If Pedro's 3-8 at the break
and we're last in the league in hitting and defense, something
tells me we'll be grousing about him hitting Piazza back in '98.
I showed Joshua (with the benefit of pen, paper and a Met hat)
that the weird symbol on our cap is in fact two letters on top of each
other. He got it and said he wanted to watch more baseball. Attaboy!
On the other hand, he was nonplussed why a team cool
enough to be named after tigers wouldn't have tigers on their uniforms.
I had no explanation for that.
Hey, what was the first Met game you attended?
[End note: Yeah, Chris Woodward definitely just made the team. Sorry, Super Joe.]