Mike Pelfrey started. Billy Wagner finished. The Mets beat the Braves. Gary Cohen and Keith Hernandez told me all about it as I watched exactly what they were watching. And we're still getting a new ballpark.
Have I mentioned that life is good?
Spring training finally began this afternoon. The WBC, save for Reyes and Sanchez, is utterly irrelevant, semifinals or not. The NCAA…what's that? I had the Mets on television today. Not ESPN sterile television, not a technically difficult channel blocked by Cablevision television, but good, old-fashioned Channel 11 television. There were Mets on the field. Familiar Mets. Newish Mets. Mets who I remember as Cyclones unironically wearing 97. It felt like the real spring thing at last.
I'm out of the dumps. There will be baseball. There will be Mets baseball. I'm guessing that I will eventually have access to the sight of it every day and night but until then, the WPIX taste of SNY's production Saturday afternoon was a gorgeous lunch entrée.
Mark it down: Gary and Keith will be superstars. Not just superstars to us but superstars to the world at large. Together they are the best thing to happen to baseball on TV in New York since Tim McCarver told Ralph Kiner that baby, he loved it. They are a chemistry set with all the beakers measured to perfect proportion. Gary is Gary and Keith is benefiting. Keith has so much great stuff to offer and Gary is the first partner he's had who's jarred it out of him.
They showed themselves in so many ways big and small. Keith explaining the art of sunglass-wearing. Gary playfully excoriating the fan who nonchalanted a foul pop because he wouldn't sacrifice his malt beverage, Keith insisting the guy had to make a choice, Gary wondering which cost more, the ball or the beer and Keith sincerely guffawing. Keith coming out against players “Fancy Danning” their catches. Gary dropping his signature p-word (passel) into conversation. Keith only going into his weird sing-song lilt (that bizarre I'm going to TELL THE TEACHER tone) once as far as I heard. Gary drawing out Keith's story about Joe Torre showing him the ropes as a young Cardinal and Bob Gibson not being thrilled that he replaced McCarver (with Gary noting Keith had Met ties before he knew they were Met ties and Keith seeming surprised at the obvious-to-us observation). Gary and Keith jointly dissecting the emergence of Juan Perez as lefty reliever candidate. Fran Healy organizing his sock drawer somewhere outside of Worcester.
These guys are great together! The concerns expressed in some quarters that Gary would find a rough transition period going from radio to video seem downright silly. You put a picture in front of Gary, he talks over it. This is not Michael Kay still boring the spit out of everybody with his “interlocking NY” detail. Gary Cohen is a professional announcer and a budding video star. Keith Hernandez was a brilliant ballplayer who is being drawn out as a brilliant full-time analyst. I'm no longer rooting against the top of the seventh thinking Mex is gonna bolt. They're there and they're on the air. Man, I'm psyched!
Felt compelled to mix in a couple of minutes from the other team, Howie and Tom (though not in that “must drown out inane television voices with superior radio insights” mode of the past two years). They'll be fine. It finally struck me that Howie is now The Man where the FAN is concerned. Whatever Tom McCarthy becomes, this is Howie's booth. He will be, in all those situations where we will inevitably find ourselves tethered to a radio, the Voice of the Mets. I'm happy for him. To think of a guy who grew up rooting for and loving this ballclub and working as hard as he has to get that to that position — it just feels right.
And the Mets themselves looked pretty midseason. The big, impressive kid from Wichita continues to be big, impressive and different from all other phenoms before him; the latest one always is (besides, I have a predilection for those with Kansas ties). Julio Franco is chiseled. Anderson Hernandez is athletic. David Wright filled out. Carlos Beltran is home with a haircut. Billy Wags was having no problem with spring. There were Endy and Tike sightings. All the injuries we want to heal are healing; I'm sure of it. We lost the split-squad game in Viera, but Milledge homered, so who's counting wins and losses? Yet somehow the win in St. Lucie and on Channel 11 felt like a win. We're all winners when we can see our team play baseball.
Oh, and as far as Sheabbets Field goes, my Gotham colleague Mike McGann has some details and even an artist's rendering. Can't wait to sit myself inside the new joint…or queue up by a monitor in an open-air concourse to catch a few pitches as described by Gary and Keith while waiting for better-tasting beer and leaving a hand free to not so Fancily Dan a foul ball coming right at me.
Today, the Mets were on local TV. Today, anything is possible.