My birthday is December 31. I tell you that because I have a real problem with year-in-review features. Everybody from the World Almanac to Newsweek to Entertainment Tonight produces those looks back at “the year” in advance of the actual year ending. It's understandable, I suppose, given deadlines and the holidays and a belief that nobody will want to wait until the second week of January for what is by definition old news.
The Soviets invaded Afghanistan in the last week of 1979, but no review of 1979 that was published in 1979 had that information. The tsunami that blasted Indonesia in the last week of 2004 came after the 2004-in-review packages were put to bed. I was born on the last day of 1962, and though I hope I wasn't such a disaster, I know I didn't rate a mention in any where-were-you-in-'62?s.
It's within that vein of personal discontent that I refuse to overlook the generally overlooked final sixth of the baseball season. Tomorrow come the Long Season Awards, encompassing the scope of all 162 games the Mets played this year. Today, we do what we do every time a sixth of the season is completed.
We overreact to what we've just seen, which in this case is a 13-13 (.500) fraction of 2005.
This is how we covered this sort of thing previously:
First Sixth: 12-13 (.480)
Second Sixth: 16-13 (.551)
Third Sixth: 12-15 (.444)
Fourth Sixth: 14-13 (.519)
Fifth Sixth: 16-12 (.571)
And this is how we cover it now:
Five For The Road
1. Tom Glavine: The multiple Cy Young winner who decided to pitch all the way to the end.
2. Aaron Heilman: The ninth inning is right this way.
3. Juan Padilla: You go before Aaron.
4. Jose Reyes: This guy is injury-proof.
5. David Wright: Funny, he didn't look tired.
Five Who Should Pack It In
1. Braden Looper: Never mind the blown saves. Think about his bouts with logic.
2. Jose Offerman: Running from first to second is the best route to get to second.
3. Danny Graves: What is the color of futility? Faded Red.
4. Shingo Takatsu: Funk never sounded so tinny.
5. Kaz Matsui: Mark FRAGILE.
Where Did It All Go Wrong?
1. Ryan Langerhans
2. Sleepful in St. Louis
3. Benson Hedges (should I do something about my shoulder or should I listen to Loop?)
4. Let's pitch to Vinny Castilla instead of Keith Osik!
5. Starting at wide receiver, Victor Diaz (he sure wasn't playing right)
Where Did It All Get Better?
1. Pedro! Pedro! There'd be a third Pedro! but he's saving himself
2. Cairo Comes Alive
3. Jakey Gets Back in the Buggy
4. Roberto Hernandez gets better if older
5. Beltran Bests Baerga, Bell
Our Impact On The Way Things Are: N.L.
1. The Phillies are staying home this week
2. The Braves could set their rotation
3. The Cardinals can feel confident
4. The Marlins are in shambles
5. Frank Robinson is even crankier
Our Impact On The Way Things Are: A.L.
1. Angels 2-1 over us allows them to tie Yankees, thus gaining home field
2. Yankees 3-3 against us keeps them from topping Angels, thus losing home field
3. Red Sox stretch run reinforced by John Olerud instead of Doug Mientkiewicz
4. Timo Perez didn't get thrown out on a near home run in White Sox' clincher as far as I know
5. Indians failed to pawn off a used-up second baseman on us and missed the playoffs
If You Blinked, You Missed Them
1. Anderson Hernandez's one hit
2. Mike DiFelice's second hit
3. Howard Johnson coaching first base
4. SNY's first commercial
5. Trachsel, Zambrano and Seo lowering their market values
What's Different From One Year Ago?
1. We were playing with zeal, not just playing Zeile
2. There's no lingering sentiment for former closers
3. Cliff Floyd is running, not sitting
4. We're not looking for a new manager
5. A dozen wins
31 Personal Impressions Stemming From Mike Piazza's Final Game
1. I dithered over whether to wear my PIAZZA 31 shirt because two of the last times I wore it, the Northeast was enveloped by a blackout and I was laid off
2. I wore it for the first time since April 12, 2004 anyway and it felt very comfortable
3. As I pulled it on, the lyrics playing on the bathroom radio were “it was long ago and it was far away and it was so much better than it is today”
4. When Mike Piazza was in his prime, it was indeed so much better than it is today
5. Still, if this was really it, better that it came with the Mets on an upswing as opposed to 2002, 2003 or 2004
6. As I walked to Gate C, I wondered whatever happened to that kid who was on TV all the time in 1999, the kid who had the Piazza facial hair drawn on; is he still a Mets fan?
7. When the lineups were posted and I saw 31 C was batting cleanup, I broke out into a big grin
8. I'd hoped his original music, “Voodoo Child” by Jimi Hendrix, would accompany his first at-bat, and it did
9. The announced attendance of 47,000 was probably a little high versus reality, but I was thrilled that there weren't a ton of empty seats, that Mets fans really did get it
10. Cal Ripken had his midgame jog around the perimeter of Camden Yards when he broke Lou Gehrig's record, but I don't remember an in-game ceremony honoring a player who wasn't doing anything except finishing out his contract
11. Mike seemed so stunned that at the scale of reception he received that it looked like he was trying to calm the crowd the way Springsteen might tell his audience to sit down after it stood for the first three songs
12. I wondered how long the umps would let it go on; they let it go on a pretty long time
13. I didn't see the logic in not giving the man one final at-bat
14. I had turned my cap around during his 7th inning ceremony to honor his catching, but turned it back to its front when he left; I feel no need to honor Mike DiFelice
15. I loved the heads-up fan who taped hand-drawn retired-number discs to the facing of the upper deck in far left field and included 37, 14, 41, 42 (in red, yet) and 31
16. The usual post-game, year-end video tribute to the season just past, including images of the beloved Pedro Martinez, lost its audience as soon as Mike stepped out of the dugout to do an interview
17. I'm disgusted that mere early-season football games took precedence over the departure of a New York sports icon on the local news
18. I'm disgusted that New York Giants football in week four got dibs on the flagship station of the New York Mets on such a historic day for the franchise
19. I loved what I could hear of the awesome montage of Piazza radio calls on Mets Extra when I arrived at Woodside, but it was extra staticky because it was on WBBR
20. The tenor of the Sunday papers' farewell stories didn't quite ring true given their overdoing the “he made the Mets matter” angle — the Mets always mattered to Mets fans whether the media got it or not
21. Mike Piazza undeniably made the Mets better, but in his first season with the team, they had the exact same record as they did the year before
22. The post-9/11 homer got the most play in how Piazza was remembered, but I've always been ambivalent about it because I never bought that anybody who lost somebody could be lifted by an eighth-inning home run, no matter how swell it was on all counts
23. I decided my favorite Piazza homer will always be the one off Terry Mulholland on June 30, 2000; it was such an unlikely inning yet he was such the obvious candidate to do what he did
24. I decided my second-favorite Piazza homer is the one off Smoltz in the NLCS. I like to call it his Cobra shot, as in Smoltz was the disease and Mike was the cure.
25. I decided my third-favorite Piazza homer is a tie between the Billy Wagner shot in 1998 (when I felt compelled to declare Mike “the greatest man who has ever lived”) and the moonshot off of Ramiro Mendoza in the Matt Franco game, which unleashed the fury of furies in me toward any and all Yankee fans in my section that afternoon — if somebody had wanted to fight, I swear I would've fought; Mike had my back
26. I've never stopped being amazed that Mike loves to catch, that he didn't look at first base as a Get Out of Pain Free card
27. My favorite Piazza non-homer moment was when he dove over the rail at Dodger Stadium to catch a foul ball in 2000 and he came up with the ball even after his helmeted head hit concrete
28. I chanted ONE MORE YEAR! with the rest of the vocal majority, but I just don't see it; if there were to be one more year, why was there such a fuss on the last day of the season?
29. My train home was delayed because somebody stumbled and fell getting off at Lynbrook
30. Driving home from the station, I discovered a roadblock near my home because a power line fell a few hundred yards from where I live, but the police (after briefly making fun of the Mets) let me pass without incident
31. Yet a bad thing did happen to me after wearing PIAZZA 31. Mike Piazza stopped playing for us. The shirt goes back into retirement pending his next appearance at Shea.