We just refreshed our links section over there on the left side of the screen, particularly the New Breed, our now exceedingly expansive guide to our blolleagues on the Mets' Worry, Wallow & Wail circuit. Give 'em a try sometime. You'll also find a few new fun things to distract you at work in the Picnic Area and a piled-high snow drift of our cold-weather contemplations under the heading Winter League. The more-or-less best of us from last year can be found by clicking on the newly stashed 2005 Faith and Fear Yearbook.
2005 will always be special to us here as it was our first year of doing this. And it certainly had its charms from a purely baseball standpoint, what with the winning more than losing for the first time in four years and the making a move on a playoff spot until September and the Pedro and the whatnot.
But putting aside personal attachment and hardcore Metsopotamian values, it's hard to imagine a tied-for-third, 83-79 enterprise would be straight-up memorialized as it has been in a real book by a real Mets beat writer.
Pedro, Carlos and Omar by Adam Rubin is all about last year. It's 2005 in 210 pages. It's all there, front office intrigue to final day curtain calls — everything you remember, a lot you forgot and a bunch you can't imagine any sane person would need to know again.
Every sit-through-two-rain-delays Mets fan (“because I wouldn't want to miss a comeback from down 13-1 in the eighth inning, and besides I never ever. leave early”) should own this book. It needs to be nestled in your baseball library somewhere below your Breslin and your Koppett and somewhere above your Shamsky and your Golenbock (way above your Golenbock). If you're not of the “no, that wasn't Lee Guetterman, that was Eric Gunderson” strain of human, then, honestly, it might strike you as The Bland Guys Won.
While almost none of PC&O is salacious, let's just say there are details and then there are details. If you're curious about the kinds of t-shirts that were popular in the clubhouse in 2005 versus 2004, then you're a detail devotee and, therefore, the audience for this book. If it fulfills you to know which Met draws faces on watermelons and which Met tosses them, go for it. If you need to relive a four-game series in Houston in which the biggest development was nothing much changed, why are you waiting? Buy it now.
Yet as someone who is squarely in the demo for this book, I found myself thinking this is nice, but if I want to recall what it was like to lose three to the Astros in July or how it felt to watch Carlos Beltran grab his quad in Washington or remember how Pedro Martinez lit up an early June night with a smile and a sprinkle, I'd read us. I don't mean us us, per se. I mean I'd dig through the archives of the blogs written by Mets fans. That's where I lived a lot of 2005, that's where I'd relive it if so motivated.
No disrespect to Rubin of the News, Shpigel of the Times, Lennon of Newsday or any of the local beat reporters. Nothing but respect for them, actually. They're doing the heavy lifting that we can't do from our keyboards and, in the case of most of us (I assume), never seriously tried to do. Last baseball game I covered, for a journalism class, was the opener of a fall league doubleheader between the University of South Florida and South Florida Community College; South Florida won. After it was over, I interviewed USF coach Robin Roberts, Hall of Fame pitcher himself. Whatever it was I asked him, it wasn't enough to get him to look up at me from his between-games sandwich. I didn't stick around for the nightcap.
Couldn't tell you what grade I received for the assignment, but I do recall my teacher demanding to know what kind of sandwich Coach Roberts was munching on. From there, I pretty much lost whatever appetite for sportswriting I might have had.
But somebody has to sit in the press box and delve into the clubhouse and record the thoughts of undressed 24-year-old millionaires and take note of who draws faces on watermelons in case a publisher might ask. I never planned on it being me, so my hat's off to the beat guys.
That said, my hat's off to the likes of us as well. Reading PC&O, it struck me that something was missing from Rubin's reality-based account. It was the passion that a baseball season nurtures among the people most passionate about it. It was what it felt like to watch the 2005 Mets and listen to the 2005 Mets and live with the 2005 Mets…literally if not physically. I got that feeling blogging in 2005 and blog-reading in 2005. I got it that way over the winter and I know I'm going to get it again starting Monday when 2006 begins and the New Breed gears up in earnest.
Last week, Sports Illustrated acknowledged us as a class in a feature that declared “the Internet is changing sports coverage.” It was about sports bloggers and online sports sites and the people who swear by them and how the sports fan has become empowered by technology. Author Chris Ballard and his sidebar sidekick Albert Chen visited with a number of veritable icons in our field, including ESPN.com's Bill Simmons, Deadspin's Will Leitch and Aaron Gleeman, the Twins fan credited with helping to make baseball blogging relatively fashionable (I hope he's not expecting residuals). As he explored this territory in his respectable publication, I could almost see Ballard's eyes roll.
The tone of the article was less “hey, there's some interesting stuff out there, but buyer beware” and more “irresponsible idiots write this stuff and brain-dead morons actually bother to read it.” The undercurrent was these…these…these bloggers aren't real sportswriters like Chris Ballard, but rather fans who decided sports piqued their thoughts enough so that they downloaded them onto a server and shared them with anybody who might get a kick out of them. In Ballard's view, we are practicing “fan-alism” and “reclinerporting,” making each of us a “self-appointed expert.”
The nerve of us.
Seems to me I've read variations on this theme for a decade or more. If it's information and it shoots through a wire to a place convenient to your eyeballs, there must be something wrong with it. The new thing has to be belittled before it's accepted. Potential users — in our case readers — have to be turned off before they have a chance to tune in. In the mid-'90s, it was the Internet as a whole. Of late it's been blogging. Tomorrow or the next day it will be some other heretofore unfamiliar element. The most extreme and uncomfortable examples (Ballard chuckled at Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers blogging basketball) are plucked out of context and held up as wholly unprofessional or inanely unorthodox. Cumulatively, we are led to believe the whole world is going to hell in a hand BasKet.
Funny I should find myself a defender of the electronic faith in that I don't much know what I'm doing technologically. This just happens to be a more efficient means of communication than the Brother electric typewriter my sister gave me for my high school graduation. The rest is thinking/talking/writing about the Mets. I check my spelling, I avoid libel and I attempt to tell a story from a perspective that's mine. Give or take some proofreading, I think that describes what each of us in the New Breed is about.
I'm happy every Wednesday when SI appears in my snailmailbox. I still dutifully lay out two dollar bills to feed my lifelong daily newspaper habit. But I dare say that when it comes to reading about baseball, I go to the blogs, the ones I enjoy and trust, first and last. This is truly where it feels like it's happening — here and over on the left side of the screen.