During one of the many, many godforsaken Jets seasons in which I’ve entangled myself while waiting for baseball to return, I recall they lost four of their first six games after spending prodigiously to produce a more favorable ratio. One of their Hessians insisted they were much better than their record indicated, that they were, in fact, the best 2-4 team in football.
In that spirit, I never dreamed I’d feel this good about a 1-5 start. With Sunday’s win, it was like the first week didn’t happen. The five losses are bookkeeping. The one win is enormous. We’re three out with 156 to play. We can handle that.
Instead of burying my head on the LIRR and trudging into Shea this afternoon with little to anticipate save for the booing of Clemens (who should only now be finishing a three-to-five at Attica for assault) during the pregame ceremonies, now it is truly Opening Day, the home version.
Because yesterday was the day we became who we are in earnest.
Boy, isn’t that Martinez something? No kidding. We haven’t had a guy like this since Doc in his post-prime, maybe Cone. Certainly not Al or any of the others who struggled mightily to give us seven valiant innings from time to time. It’s only two starts, but this is the Pedro Martinez I remember from Montreal. He is electric. All hail Randolph for not removing him after seven or eight, something Howe would’ve done, something my beloved Bobby V would’ve done. The beauty part was that at the end of the day, he’d thrown all of 101 pitches. We’re not draining him dry as far as I can tell.
Wow, I’d forgotten how much I hated the Braves. Wow, I hate them. I’d forgotten all kinds of little details relating to the pox they’ve been on our well-being for so long. I’d forgotten that Chipper/Larry named his son Shea and that it was as backhanded a compliment as he could pay us. I’d forgotten Furcal was a convicted drunk driver who only got his anklet off to play in and lose playoff games last October. I’d forgotten that Brian Jordan, who always seems to crash through the line against us, used to be a professional football player. I’d forgotten that Brian Jordan had ever left Atlanta.
But I hadn’t forgotten Smoltz. What a phenomenon. When the Marlins lit him up in their Opener, I figured it was bad news for us. What a thrill it was to come back on him more than on any other Braves pitcher who’s still wearing a Braves uniform. Given the man’s stated views on animal attraction , I was particularly pleased to see him come to know Carlos Beltran’s bat in the Biblical sense.
Is it irresponsible to compare Sunday to a weekday afternoon game at Shea three Aprils ago? We had taken two of three in Atlanta and then the first two at home. We were in first place, the Braves were in last. Maddux started but was forced to leave after one. We were about to have a very big inning against a thrust-into-relief Millwood. With two out and multiple runners on (including one at third), Jeff D’Amico singled to right. Or so it seemed. B.J. Surhoff, who nursed a grudge against us for not signing him instead of Ventura, charged the ball and threw D’Amico out at first. You see that play, what — every couple of years? It wasn’t like D’Amico was dogging it either. He was slow and Surhoff was quick. It was the Braves-Mets rivalry played out on the head of a pin. Natch, the Braves won 2-1 that day. Natch, Smoltz threw two perfect innings for the save. Natch, the Braves won their umpteenth consecutive division title. Natch, the Mets didn’t.
Is it irresponsible to believe Sunday was that game in reverse? That maybe Beltran and Floyd and Wright and Martinez just transformed 2005 and shifted the longest of long-term paradigms? Probably, but it did cross my mind, and I’m usually very careful about what I allow in there. While we rode high on Opening Day, I reported to a Cubs fan acquaintance that based on the small sample at hand, Pedro and Carlos were clearly worth the money (irony implied). The next day he chastised me for gloating ahead of the final score, especially since he was the Cubs fan who invited me to the now-immortal Victor Diaz game last September. I wasn’t gloating, I swear I wasn’t. But maybe I should’ve kept my typing fingers in my pockets until last Monday’s victory was secure.
I’m sure not gloating now over a 1-5 start, but boy it’s nice to see Omar’s mutual funds pay dividends in such a meaningful fashion, especially when we’re desperate for a win, especially against the bunch who are still our archrivals (and by the way the “Turner Field faithful” act, we’re still theirs). Yeah, Bobby Bo hit two homers in his first game, but you know that’s not what I’m talking about with Pedro and Carlos. It’s not just a two-hit shutout or a game-turning, season-saving/season-turning home run. It’s about the poise and the clutch and the certainty that we’re not buried as long as they’re on our side. It’s the difference between having great players and running Gerald Williams and Jae Seo out there over and over and over. That’s what Minaya paid for. Why shouldn’t we have nice things?
The hot dogs are going to cost six bucks either way.
Among the myriad reasons beyond just plain common sense that winning a game was a good thing, is now the Mets’ vibe will be a positive one, at least until results otherwise dictate, but certainly as I work my way to Shea shortly. During the long, cold offseason, Stephanie bought me a beautiful orange, satin jacket with a blue NY on the front and a rendering of Mr. Met on the back. I’ve been wearing it as much as temperatures have allowed. I wore it Saturday morning when I entered the convenience store up the block to buy the papers. I’ve been living in my current neighborhood less than a year and haven’t really formed any strong bonds with local merchants, but the guy who runs that store recognizes me a little by now. He certainly recognized my jacket. “Oh, I hope they finally win tonight!” he told me as he made change. I made some self-deprecating remark reflecting the 0-4 start, and it was all very friendly-like, but I’ve had enough of these types of transactions to last me a lifetime. There’s always some guy in a store, some stranger on the street, somebody living down the hall who manages to find me when the Mets are losing in historic proportions, but they’re inevitably absent the minute things brighten up.
Sunday, after Pedro conquered the heretofore unconquerable and I spent requisite time soaking it in, we went out to run various errands, one of which involved buying a new cordless phone at PC Richard & Son, a proud sponsor of New York Mets Baseball. I was wearing my circa-2000 windbreaker when I heard some guy blowing hard about the Yankees. Here I am in black, blue and orange and oy, I’m thinking, what now? I started formulating snappy comebacks, some of which you probably used a quarter-century ago (yeah, well, Craig Swan won his ERA title for a last-place team, which is WAY more impressive than what Guidry did) in anticipation being forced onto the defensive. But wait a second…they lost. We won. And in fact, though nobody’s seen fit to congratulate me on my choice of jacket, the Yankees fan is whining about how Baltimore took two out of three and now Boston awaits “and they’re gonna shove their rings right in our faces. Probably sweep all three, too.”
That’s right! You guys suck! You’re 3-3. You have your own problems. Us? We’re the best 1-5 team in baseball.