Today is the day we remain who we are in earnest.
It’s come to this: I’m fuming at the Braves for blowing an eighth-inning lead to the Marlins and thereby costing us a Saturday night clinch of third place outright. Dan Kolb sucks just enough to not do us any good. On the other hand, who wants to back into the division’s third-best record to say nothing of sole possession of one of the league’s top five marks overall? That’s what Sunday is for.
We’re walkin’ real proud and we’re talkin’ real loud again in A-Met-ica. And you never did think that it ever would happen again.
Congratulations to the 1973 National League Eastern Division champions who, thanks to Joe Randa and the San Diego Padres, after hearing about it for 32 years, are no longer the titleist with the lowest winning percentage in baseball history. (I can hear the 1972 Miami Dolphins popping champagne corks right now.)
Today is the day we are still Mets fans in our natural habitat, the baseball season.
You know who I was missing from Saturday night’s penultimate triumph? No, not Him. Doug Mientkiewicz. After Piazza pinch-hit for Jacobs because a lefty came in the game, Hurdle brought in a righty to face Castro. So when the next inning began, Randolph double-switched in Padilla to bat in what had been Jacobs’ spot and to play first and bat ninth (due up in the bottom of the seventh), he inserted Chris Woodward.
This stumped me. I love Woody — especially when he’s half of Charlon Woonderson — but you’re protecting a two-run lead, you need defense, you could use a left-handed bat and you skip Minky? I saw him on the bench Friday night chillin’ with Cammy and Pedro. Unlike them, as far as I know, he’s available to play. I feel bad that he winds up the season as a forgotten footnote. I’m not advocating bringing him back or even starting him in the finale (though I wish they’d quit reminding us that Jakey’s home run feats are matching those of Shane Spencer, Kevin Maas and Benny Agbayani; no Pujolses in there?), but Doug has seemed like a good guy no matter how his season dissipated. He gave us some of the great quotes of the year (available via the vigilant Metstradamus). I simply like the guy too much to see him buried from here to Offerman.
Today is the final day that past stays past and future runs far off because, for one more day, we have a present with which to concern ourselves.
As for Him, it’s dawned on me what’s going on with the “almost totally certainly” manner in which Mike’s last game is being billed as Mike’s last game. Wilpon or whoever remembers how the Mets were pounded for wallowing in useless veterans to their bitter end for so long — Leiter, Franco, Zeile — that the organization now feels it must make a clean break from any remnant of its past. But Leiter and Franco were running things (into the ground) and Zeile was essentially preposterous. Mike hasn’t inflicted his weight on the front office, he can still hit some and he hasn’t made a pest of himself or allowed himself to become the center of attention in any fashion other than organic.
Mike Piazza on the 2006 Mets would not be a horrible distraction or a sign that the Mets don’t know how to move on. Half their lineup is living, breathing, running proof that they’ve made progress, that they’re not stuck in the mud somewhere in the swamps of Flushing. But leave it to the controlling interests to fight the last battle.
We’ve already obliterated 2004 by a dozen wins and counting. Remember where we were last year at this time? Remember how we got ourselves together to wave bye to Zeile and Franco and Art Howe even? How there was nothing certain about the final day except that it was now or never for Joe Hietpas and nevermore for the Expos? We’ve come a long, long way together.
But don’t let me give you the wrong idea regarding Closing Day 2004. That was a great time. I’m a big believer in going to The Closer (and I’m not the only one). Any idiot can go to Opening Day. Most of them do. It takes a real fan to understand what’s at stake on a day like today.
I don’t know why more people don’t cherish Closing Day. It’s the last chance to sit in the sun for several hours, to wear a cap for a reason, to eat ice cream out of a helmet, to retreat for a few more hours into this Brigadoon of ours that thrives over a six-month clip. Cap and t-shirt selection loses its meaning when the season is over. Gate E ceases to be a destination. Woodside’s no longer my point of transfer or reflection.
If somebody’s kind enough to leave one piping hot final baseball game cooling on the window sill, what kind of idiot would I be to not calmly wander by, furtively grab it and run like the dickens? Later today will be my eleventh consecutive final regularly scheduled home game, thirteenth in all. A few left me cold, but most of them have bathed me in warmth and given me just enough to hold onto to get me to the start of the playoffs, maybe even the second round. It ain’t much but it’s somethin’.
Today is the day.
We’ve never finished with 84 wins before. I’d like to get there. Jose and David are one run shy of a hundred. I’d like them to get those. It would be nice if Cliff could drive in three. And yes, let’s get Anderson Hernandez a hit and Doug Mientkiewicz some face time and Victor Zambrano a little rotation cred and Carlos Beltran something happy to take home (besides his paycheck).
I ask nothing of Mike Piazza. He’s given us everything.