- Faith and Fear in Flushing - http://www.faithandfearinflushing.com -

He is the Sultan of Swing

You get a shiver in the dark

It's been raining in the park, but meantime…

Know why I'm particularly happy that it was Chris Woodward who walked us off into victory Tuesday night? Because every time he comes to bat, Shea's P.A. plays a few notes from a Dire Straits song, usually 1979's “Sultans of Swing”. I'm not a Dire Straits fan per se (though “Sultans of Swing” is No. 480 on my Top 500 Songs of All Time list, “All Time” encompassing the years 1972 through 1999, but never mind that right now) nor is Mark Knopfler a personal hero of mine. I just like the idea that a 29-year-old ballplayer chooses something relatively ancient and probably obscure to the current generation of players as his theme. “Sultans of Swing” seems more suited to a middle-aged softballer. Or a relentlessly sedentary writer/editor/consultant. Or Gerald Williams.

Good on ya, ya erstwhile Torontoan, for giving us a shiver in the dark in the eleventh inning and for reaching back more than a quarter-century for your intro music. You make me feel so young. You make me feel there are games to be won, homes to be run and a wonderful fling to be flung especially when you, the Woodman, pinch-hit instead of Williams, the human white flag.

Last year, ESPN.com did as in-depth a study as anybody could ask for on which songs are requested by which ballplayers when they come to bat or the mound. As a Jay, Woody went for “anything by Creed”. Glad he switched.

If you've already forgotten how various 2004 Mets [1] set the stage for their respective individual dramatic presences, Jason Phillips rocked you like a hurricane, Todd Zeile let it whip and Mike Stanton associated himself with the red, white and blue.

The flag awaits his apology.

A hit that ends a game at Shea, which by definition ensures a Mets win, is music to the eyes as well as all other senses because when the hitmaker gets to first, he generally raises an arm in the air and pumps a fist, just as Woodward did against the Padres. Ain't that fun? Ain't that joy in a kid's game? The rest of the time a batter who as much as smiles “better watch his step” lest he “violate” the “unwritten rules”. That's why almost all players effect the grim visage of investment bankers about to take a conference call even though they've just batted a baseball off the bottom of a scoreboard 430 feet away.

Last week, when Wright cracked his second homer against the Braves, there was a swelling demand for a curtain call. I knew we wouldn't see one. Diamond Dave is too cognizant of protocol and his single year of service time to acknowledge the crowd as early as the fourth. Too bad. One of the things that made the 1986 Mets so beloved by the fans was the way they stepped out of the dugout to wave their caps — anytime, anywhere for having done anything. No shyness about it. No worrying about how it looked, only how good it felt. The practice made the other team mad but our guys cared about us, not them. I've never understood why it's so wrong for ballplayers to demonstrate that kind of emotion as the rule and not the exception.

Imagine being a Major League Baseball player. You're living the life. You're being paid exponentially beyond anything approximating your or anybody's value to society. You get to run around baseball fields almost every day or night for six months in front of tens of thousands of people at a time, many of whom worship you, cheer you and wear garments with your name and number on the back. To top it all off, your employer will play a song real loud just for you. Not only should you express exuberance when you do something good, you should jump up and down and clap and go “WOO-HOO!” every couple of minutes just because.

That's what I did when Chris Woodward said thank you, good night, now it's time to go home.

The antithesis of the baseball team as an exercise in unpredictable ebullience can also be interpreted as the deadliest, most consistent winners we'll probably ever see in our lifetimes. In fact, we just saw 'em. See 'em again, if you dare, at Gotham Baseball [2].