Whatever became of Spring Training? Specifically, where did all the Mets go?
This is the spring of our diaspora. The Metropolitan-Americans seem to have been ruthlessly dispersed, scattered from their homeland, no longer allowed to live as a single, coherent tribe.
A third of our starting lineup, a fifth of our rotation and a chunk of our bullpen decided to be nationalistic instead of Metropolitan. Our longtime catcher showed up last week in the New York papers enough to make me think he was still one of us, but he's not (he wasn't even American for the duration of his old/new country's WBC cameo). Our TV network hasn't hit the air. Our primary radio voice has been tending to hockey. Our ace pitcher has been everywhere but on a real mound.
I turned on Sunday's FANcast of the meaningless exhibition game against the Orioles and was aghast at just how meaningless it all sounded, especially as I adjust to life with Tom McCarthy (and endure it without Isle-obligated Howie Rose). By the end of the game, I found myself rooting for pinch-runner Esix Snead to score the winning run for Baltimore a) because Esix Snead, unlike almost everybody else on the field in the tenth, had actually done something meaningful in a Met uniform once and b) my mind was already dispatched to the warning track to get in its running.
Exhibition games are supposed to bore you after the novelty of spring wears off and certainly after the first few innings of any single one of them evaporate, but I find myself surprisingly unengaged by the nuts and bolts of this particular spring. The last time I felt close to this was during the early portion of 1995 when the Mets weren't Mets and neither was any team. This March is waaaaaaaay different from that replacement March, but I have to tell you, I do not feel whole.
It's going to take more than Dorothy Boyd to complete us. Show me the Carlos and the other Carlos and the Jose and all the rest who are off gallivanting around this benighted television tournament known as the World Baseball Classic. I'll admit I've watched some of the contests with more than a smidge of curiosity, but when I pull back from the screen, I don't care whether Team USA beats Team Somewhere Else or vice-versa. I care about the Mets. And I've become positively testy that our players are not playing for us in our pretend games.
I was born and live in a country where despite all our flag-waving on practical matters of self-interest, we're not terribly ethnic about being American. Everybody, save those for whom insensitive baseball teams in Cleveland are named, is from somewhere else. So I can't quite imagine what it means to “represent my country” the way a Delgado or a Beltran does (is it impolitic of me to point out Puerto Rico is a commonwealth of the United States, thus not anybody's country?). I'm sure it's a very big deal for them to play for Team Puerto Rico, for Reyes and Duaner Sanchez to be part of the Dominican squad, for Victor Zambrano and Jorge Julio to be pitching in uniforms that say Venezuela. There is pride and heritage and emotion that doesn't translate perfectly to our way of looking at the world.
But I don't care anymore. I just don't. I want them in St. Lucie and for more than medical examinations. I want my Mets to be Mets and I want them to be Mets starting immediately, not next week when it's convenient by dint of the WBC schedule. Call me Steinbrennerean if you must, but I'm resenting the heck, if not the hell, out of this thing for keeping Mets from being Mets the way they're supposed to be. Maybe come the 21st of March this will all be forgotten, but every day when the fellas who are Mets aren't being Mets is a day they and we will never have back.
I'm lovin' the guys who are here. I'm lovin' Wright and Glavine and Franco (whose native country, the Lost Continent of Atlantis, unfortunately disappeared while Julio was working his way up the Phillies' chain) and Woodward and Hernandez and Heilman and Matsui and Lo Duca and Redman and Pedro (lovin' his toe as it steps toward violently pushing off a real rubber any day now). I appreciate that these guys either bowed out or weren't invited or slithered away from the Classic's clutches.
I salute Billy Wagner for deciding that getting his act together for his new team with his new team was a higher priority than getting his throwing in under the auspices of the Stars and Stripes, no matter how much he or I proudly hail how brightly they wave…or something like that. I appreciate Steve Trachsel and Victor Diaz and Jeff Keppinger going through the motions on my radio Sunday. I revere Cliff Floyd for playing himself into shape, kidney concerns and all (be careful out there, Monsta — even the Mets aren't worth risking extremely serious injury over).
As for the WBC refugees, come home soon — to your real baseball home. This is getting to feel like that M*A*S*H episode in which all the nurses are evacuated and the 4077th is all too lonely an outpost.