Eeeek. But it all turned out OK.
I'm officially onboard with your psychological explanation of Carlos Beltran's strange double push bunt on Sunday. It's genius, it shows true leadership at work, and I very much want it to be true. And it's worked for two days, hasn't it? Perhaps Carlos is the Gen. Patton Mike always wanted to salute and follow. Stranger things have happened.
This was a scary one — our galling ineffectiveness early (we got effective late), the wait for Aaron Heilman to revert to the form from Heilman-Ramirez I (he didn't), Kaz Matsui continuing to bunt stupidly (but not fatally stupidly), Roberto Hernandez finally pitching poorly (but cleaning up his own mess), Braden Looper battling a tight strike zone and some bad luck (but not enough bad luck), David Wright booting a potential game-ending play (but…well, hang on), David Wright booting a second potential game-ending play (but not having the ball hit at him a third time), and realizing that it was over and we'd won the damn thing, 5-4. (But the Braves will be back tomorrow.)
Funny thing: Early on, I found it odd that the usual Met-Brave nerves weren't firing. Part of it is not being able to see the tomahawk and the familiar faces. But it's also that a lot of the familiar faces aren't around anymore. Chipper and Andruw remain, and Smoltz, and Brian Jordan returned to torment us, and Bobby Cox is still stamping around in the dugout whining and scowling, and Leo Mazzone is davening of course, but Maddux is gone and Glavine (where'd he get to, anyway?) and Eddie Perez and Javy and Rocker and Boone and Millwood and all the other guys who just killed us are no more. The only one of the new guys I've managed to truly loathe is Rafael Furcal — Julio Franco's too great a story, I wish Marcus Giles were on our team, and the rest of the guys are just too new to really register. This is a team in transition, and while I've gotten pretty good at rooting for laundry, with the exception of the Yankees it's just too taxing to stay good at hating laundry.
Heck, maybe the turnover on the Mets will have the same effect. What business do Beltran, Pedro and Minky have being terrified of the Braves? Nowadays it's just sportswriters and fans who get tight at the merest glimpse of them. I'm sure tomorrow the papers will say games like tonight's are the kind of early-season acid test the Mets used to fail and so things are looking up, but the truth is games like tonight's are the kind of early-season acid test 22 or 23 other guys wearing some bizarre concoction of blue, orange, white and black used to fail against 17 or 18 other guys wearing gray and red and navy blue.
Maybe I'm just not feeling mythic. Don't get me wrong: I'm glad Willie took Heilman out with a lot to feel good about. I'm glad Cliff looks like he's swapped legs with the 2001 model. (Frantic wood knocking.) I'm glad Mike may not be quite as old as I feared two days ago. I'm glad Wright's homer wasn't erased by those two ninth-inning botches. I'm glad Braden can go home hearing “Loo” instead of something similar. And I'm glad tomorrow's Pedro-Smoltz II: The Fury in Flushing. I'll be up for it. But mostly because it's Pedro-Smoltz, not because it's Mets-Braves. Not yet? Not anymore? Guess we'll find out.
Postscript: Will someone please, please, please explain to me how Looper wound up taking the mound to “Lightning Strikes”? For the uninitiated, “Lightning Strikes” is from “Rock and a Hard Place,” the dismal 1982 Aerosmith album recorded with a couple of studio nitwits standing in for Joe Perry and Brad Whitford, an album Aerosmith now basically pretends never existed. I don't think it's been heard in public since…well, since 1982, probably. It's like finding a Dylan fan who worships “Neighborhood Bully,” a Stones fan who's got “Indian Girl” on repeat, a Springsteen fan who won't stop going on about “Mary, Queen of Arkansas.” It's like finding a Met fan who lives in his 1993 uniform top with the hideous underscore tail. It's just deeply weird.
I know it's at least mildly insane to obsess over the musical choices made by/for a middling closer, but I can't help it. This stuff bothers me.