Note to our readers: Appropriately enough, technical difficulties took Faith and Fear in Flushing underground for the duration of the Subway Series. All posts relating to Friday's disaster and Saturday's epiphany are now available for your scrolling, gleaning, perusing and absorption. We apologize for the protracted disappearance. The problem can be attributed to QuesTec; the poor condition of the Shea infield; the relentless wind blowing in from center; a nagging quad; failure to cover home; Congress sticking its nose into drug-testing policy; and the undermanned, inexperienced RFK Stadium grounds crew. In any event, it's somebody else's fault.
They were physical errors. But it was mental torture.
Don't cry for me, San Francisco, or wherever you are. Save your tears for my buddy Jim the Illustrator, my surprise accompaniment for the third game of the Subway Series. He went to two of these things: Friday night and Sunday afternoon. Talk about being the parentheses on the wrong sides of history. We were having such a nice time yesterday, each of us about to break personal losing streaks against Evil Inc. that it was easy to ignore the signs around us.
Baseball is all about signs. Signs on the scoreboard. Signs on the outfield fence. Signs from the coaching box. Those were the signs Joe Torre had in mind Saturday morning when he called a quick meeting to change the signs fearing that some combination of Willie Randolph and Miguel Cairo might be wise to them from their tenure over there. Everybody denied everything, but nobody denied the importance of signs.
I didn't want to ruin Jim's good time yesterday. I didn't want to ruin mine either. But I could sense there were signs that a game the Mets led rather handily 3-1 through seven innings wasn't really going all that well. Those are the signs baseball displays in spades — the signs that you know in your bones are looming. They're usually not good signs.
Sign No. 1: Too Much Heaven
The whole bit's a little too festive to begin with. We're not blasé enough to pretend it's just another game, but it does creep me out some that the Mets and their fans (myself included) all but unfurl banners reading YOU COMPLETE US when the Subway Series rolls around, as if the other 78 home games just aren't valid enough. You can't deny a Mets-Yankees game is unlike a Mets-Diamondbacks game, but it's dangerous to vest it with too much authority. Despite the exploits of the Koos and the Esteses and the Mlickis through the years, we never get as much tangible back in return considering all the emotion we put in.
I was excited when I heard the rotation had been tinkered with to allow Pedro to face the Skanques. Then I caught myself. I can't worry about their storylines. I don't care what he said when he was a Red Sock. He's a Met. I was just glad he was pitching for us and was hoping this hip business wasn't serious.
On the actual subway to the Subway Series, I found three college-age guys wearing Pedro wigs and Pedro t-shirts and bearing K-dro Korner placards. Like I said, very festive. It's nice to be into it. But would K'dro be getting his own Korner if the opponents were the Pirates? These guys got off at 90th Street. Somebody yelled to them “this isn't Shea!” They responded, “We know. We gotta go buy beer.” (They did and reappeared in the mezzanine and even on DiamondVision later.)
Not everybody wore a wig, but everybody was excited beyond what the fourth Sunday in May would usually engender. That's not a bad thing. I guess.
Sign No. 2: Yes, Yes, A-Rod Sucks
I went to the very first Yankees @ Mets game in 1998. It was an overwhelming experience. Just seeing so many of Them approaching Our house was jarring. What were They doing here? It was the loudest night I ever spent in a ballpark. Nobody would give any ground to anybody else. When the actual game started, Al Leiter threw a strike to Chuck Knoblauch. A roar went up. He then threw a ball. A roar went up. There were few roarless intervals because something was always happening that was to the liking of some large portion of the large crowd (though ultimately, there was little to like after Paul O'Neill stuck it to Mel Rojas). It was very much like that (but with better results) in 1999, a little less so over the following three seasons.
You may recall the last time we went through one of these crucibles together in 2002 — you, me, the Human Fight, Armandblow Blownitez in the ninth, Komiyama giving it up to the wrongly clad Ventura in the tenth, me stalking off the 7 at Fifth Ave. in a sizzling-since-Shea rage and you and the HF pulling me back on board because we were a stop shy of Times Square. I was too blinded by disgust to notice my surroundings. After that, I took a sensible hiatus from the wars.
Yesterday, the festiveness was missing something. It was the roar. There was not the back-and-forth that made the Subway Series famous. Part of it was the Mets Marketing Dept. doing its job, apparently. Sure, there were Skanque fans, but from where I sat and looked, not in disturbingly high numbers. Maybe a quarter of the crowd was bastardly. Maybe less. They were outnumbered by Us. Outnumbered, outyelled and, most importantly, outmotivated. I don't think I was the only one among 55,953 (where do they keep finding the additional seats?) monitoring the Collapse-O-Meter.
So when this game got going and matters started going badly for the visitors, the euphoria was tangible. Pedro walks to the pen to warm up. A few boos but mostly a ROAR! Pedro gets into a jam. A little audible, roarless smirking. Pedro works out of it. Total ROAR!
Then A-Rod bobbles a simple grounder from Pedro. ROOOOOOAR!
ROOOOOOAR! And more! The E-5 unleashed the Subway passions in a way I've never felt before. This was it. Even the Matt Franco pinch-hit, a moment I conjure when I need a lift, wasn't this because that was a game-winner at the end of long, searing battle. That proved something. This, A-Rod not handling a ball in the second inning, proved something else.
This was the cows coming home, the chickens returning to roost, a heaping helping of proof pudding. It was A-Rod — $252 million to play in Texas but get me out of here after three years anyway 'cause I want a ring A-Rod; buy my $400 autographed ball after one good night A-Rod; use my smarmy deodorant A-Rod; slap-happy baserunning A-Rod; not a Real Yankee A-Rod; nobody on his own team speaks up for him A-Rod; 24-plus-1 when all is said and done A-Rod.
We were ready for A-Rod's miscue. Our row was enhanced by a couple of guys in particular who anticipated this. One wore a garden-variety black on white JETER SUCKS A-ROD t-shirt. Swell. His companion backed up his YANKEES SUCK garment with A-HOLE 13 on the flip side. Fantastic. Thanks to their leadership, Section 23 led the entire edifice in a chorus of A-ROD SUCKS! A-ROD SUCKS! A-ROD SUCKS!
It felt like it would never end. It felt like A-Rod would never stop sucking. It was fun. It was a lotta fun. And as we built on his bobble and eventually took a 3-0 lead, it was worth repeating intermittently for the next several innings.
A-ROD SUCKS! A-ROD SUCKS! A-ROD SUCKS!
In the top of the sixth, A-Rod, despite being the sucks object of the chant du jour, drove home the first Yankee run.
All right, fellas. Alex Rodriguez does suck. We all agree on it. Now let's keep it to ourselves until we win this baby. We will win this baby, after all. I mean I thought we would. Damn pencil! Yes, I was beginning to pencil this in as a win in my head and had to erase it immediately. I could tell Jim and all the boys in Row J had done the same. Bad move, everybody. ERASE!
Sign No. 3: Say, Our Run Total Is Rather Stagnant
Daddies, schmaddies. Pedro was gemming it. The Skanques couldn't touch him. I don't care how many pitches he threw in the first. After that, he was mostly untouchable. The run in the sixth was the only blemish. In the seventh, Giambi, Flaherty and Repulsive Rey Sanchez (nobody booed him harder than I, thank you very much) went down meekly.
Pedro Martinez was pitching beautifully. But so was Carl Pavano. Couldn't help but notice he'd stopped giving up runs since Cliff's Monsta shot in the third. Once it was 3-1, I muttered that we could sure use another score or two to salt this chess match away. Damn Carl Pavano. He was here in 1998, too. Not the Subway Series, but something far worse. Last home game, a Wednesday night. The Wild Card hangs in the balance. And Carl Pavano, an Expo because the Expos couldn't afford to keep Pedro Martinez, shut us down. Three hits in six innings. It was the second of five season-ending losses. Wild Card? No, as in Pava-No. (Four days later, he was gleefully giving up McGwire's 70th home run. Prick.)
Seven years later, and suddenly Tony Phillips is our leadoff hitter again. Lenny Harris is starting in right. Ralph Milliard would be pinch-running except we weren't exactly getting within 90 feet of home. Carl Pavano had caught up to Pedro Martinez. That's not a good thing, I guessed.
Sign No. 4: Koo Much Heaven
Look, who's coming out to start the eighth! It's our hero, Dae-Sung Koo! Hey Skanques! Look! It's your worst nightmare! Somebody cover the plate! You suck! A-Rod sucks!
Nobody actually expressed any of those exact sentiments, but it did seem like a big eff-you to the Yankees. I'm certain that wasn't Willie's intent. He has one lefty reliever and it is Koo. Nevertheless, it felt like bringing in Shawn Estes to pinch-hit the night after he took Clemens deep. We had all the Koo karma we were going to get for one series. Leave it alone, Willie. Leave it alone.
Goodness knows what happened next wasn't Mister Koo's fault. He was Lord of the Manor, King of the County, Master of His Domain. He took care of Russ Johnson (Russ Johnson? The guy we got for Ordoñez who didn't make the 2003 Mets? Rey Sanchez, Russ Johnson, Mike Stanton…no wonder they suck so badly). He teased a simple grounder from Tony Womack. Another from Ruben Sierra.
It wasn't His Kooness's doing that Wright and Reyes pulled A-Rods on those last two balls. But there they were, runners on first and second, one out and a bunch of Skanques with portfolio heading to the dish. Everything that happened thereafter in whatever form it took place was essentially predictable.
Sign No. 5: Oh, We're Here
With the double-steal (Jeter on the back end, just where he likes it), H. Matsui's ugly single (everything about him is ugly) and ancient Bernie Williams coming out of retirement to further demythologize Roberto Hernandez's resurgence, Jim sank into a blue and orange funk. “Not again,” he grumbled while affecting a thousand-yard stare. “Not Friday night and now this. Not again!”
Yeah, again, Jim. You and me until yesterday, we were unbeatable. I don't mean as editor and art director (though we were pretty good in our day) but as fan and fan. I hesitated to bring it up before it was over for the same reason I hesitate to bring up anything before it's over — because it usually backfires — but the Mets had never lost a game you and I attended together: 7-0 since 2002.
But whatever each of us brought to Shea on those occasions dissipated in the toxicity that's developed around our respective presences at Subway Series time. Jim's been groaning since the Estes game, figuring everything worthwhile he was ever gonna extricate versus the Skanques was extricated then. Me, I haven't left one of these things happy since the last century, specifically Matt Franco's two-RBI single off Rivera. That includes one wayward sojourn to Mets @ Yankees, which I don't wanna talk about right now.
Only two positives came out of Sunday when all the signs had been read:
1) Even when the loss became a loss, the Skanque fans were relatively tame. Tame for them. No ROOOOOOAR! was heard, not really. The commute home, to be dreaded post-Subway Series past, wasn't so bad in terms of reminders of what had just happened. Maybe it was the outnumbering factor. Maybe it was the Skanqueophiles no longer being terribly surprised that they beat the Mets late. Maybe it was the voices in my head drowning out what I'd otherwise be aware of.
2) Chevy Cap Trade was a success. I exchanged a misbegotten, fitted Astros cap for the adjustable Mets model they were offering. It's pretty sharp. Every time I wear it, I'll wear it with the pride of someone who, despite all he knows, never learns.