- Faith and Fear in Flushing - http://www.faithandfearinflushing.com -

The Sting

Hours after yesterday was in the books, Chuck called to commiserate. Though we've certainly had these “my god, wasn't that awful?” conversations before, he asked a new question: “Do you sleep after games like that?”

Good question. I didn't know because I don't think I ever saw a game quite like that.

Should I ever run for office or do anything in which I have enemies who need to take me down, they have their killer video. Just show the top of the ninth from yesterday and I will become unhinged. Not even that much of it is necessary. Just flash that bit where whatshisname is running in from the bullpen to whatever that song I never want to hear or hear about again is. Like a slab of kryptonite to Superman, a wooden cross to a vampire, an automobile baby-restraint device to Britney Spears, watching Billy Wagner enter Saturday's game against the Yankees will render me stupid.

I'm notorious in our house for making myself watch and rewatch “highlights” of Mets losses that killed me once, perhaps on the premise that they will make me stronger. The worst loss I ever experienced through the television, the second Brian Jordan game, I did that. I watched him hit that grand slam again and again, as many times as they would show it. Then I insisted I was going to listen to the details of the worst loss I ever experienced through the television on Mets Extra until Stephanie practically slapped (in her understated, completely non-slappy way) the radio out of my hand and dragged me outside for a walk to take my mind off it. That was five years ago. My mind remains on it.

But this I really can't look at. I watched Baseball Tonight last night for the Bonds stuff and the details of the Cubs-White Sox brawl and then they got to our game. And it hurt to look.

It hurt to see the high-angle shot of the Sandman trot.

It hurt to notice the Fox diamond icon that had the slots for first, second and third colored in.

It hurt to see Melky Cabrera get ball four in the 43rd pitch of that at-bat. I actually saw a batter in the Tigers-Reds game last night work a 3-2 count and foul off a slew of pitches and then strike out; how come that never happens to whomever we're facing?

It hurt to see Kelly Stinnett, who looks like he's been managing one of Tom Seaver's vineyards (or at least been joining him for brunch, lunch and dinner) take four consecutive balls.

It stung like the dickens to see Bernie Williams nailed with the first pitch thrown in the general direction of Corona. It's great to see Yankees get hit, but not now!

I looked away until they were done talking about it. Eventually, I slept. As I told Chuck, I slept after the 2000 World Series ended, so why wouldn't I sleep after this? Sleep provides an escape. I did wake up. The sun did rise. The TV did come on again. Stephanie and I had the Channel 2 early Sunday morning news on a little while ago. They went to sports. Change the channel, I said. Change it now. She changed it.

We were famously [1] subject to a blown save in Pittsburgh last July. A lead that couldn't possibly have been touched was touched and tossed aside. It was, on merit, the worst loss of last year, yet I don't think I was one one-hundredth as upset then as I was yesterday. Even the horrible, Rod Kanehl-defying loss [2] in Philadelphia less than two weeks ago — when Heilman threw the ball away and I literally let out the kind of howl [3] that poor horse in the Preakness must have — was child's play by comparison. That was awful, but it seems so far away that it may as well have been Neil Allen surrendering a grand slam to Bo Diaz.

This was worse. Maybe not Brian Jordan worse because that had nails and coffin written all over it. Maybe not Game Five, 2000 WS, because that was that. Yet those snippets I can watch if they mysteriously reappear. I flinch, but I ultimately stand my ground. It's morbid curiosity, perhaps, wondering if maybe this time Franco will rescue Benitez (he doesn't) or Piazza will hit it just a little further (he doesn't).

This I can't look at.

Why was this worse? The obvious answer is who it was against. But I've seen bad losses to the Skanks before. All losses to the Skanks are, by definition, bad losses. Four of them came at the worst time imaginable and I survived. This was worse. I've sat through six of them in person and I survived. This was worse. I've seen the clip of Mike taking one to the coconut from that psychopath Clemens I don't know how many times and no matter how often I see our glassy-eyed hero lying still on the dirt and no matter how many chills it sends me and no matter how it conjures up every wretched thing about that day-night nightmare, this was worse.

This shouldn't have happened. This was preventable. This was within our grasp of becoming great, which I guess speaks to the problem with it. It's one thing to sit in a drizzle all night only to see Armando Fucking Benitez walk home the tying run in the ninth and Satoru Komiyama serve up a two-run dinger to Robin Ventura in the tenth. It was 2002, what'dya expect? This is 2006, I expect better. I expect different. I'm still laboring under the burden of the 10-2 start [4]. That's why the aforementioned Philadelphia loss and everything that went wrong on the last road trip stung so much. This was supposed to be, by my early reckoning, the long-awaited sequel to 1986. Now it's just another year of Mets baseball when what can go right might go right but can just as easily go wrong.

This should have gone right. Winning Friday night was right, to say nothing of Wright. Yesterday shaping up as an uncommonly relaxing afternoon of pre-sweep planning was right. It is wrong that we are groaning this morning and wondering WTF? with our very high-priced closer and realizing that we let a game against our blood rivals get away when our blood rivals came at Billy Wagner with Melky Cabrera, Kelly Stinnett and a Medicare Part D Bernie Williams.

I hate the Braves with more hate cells than most people use in an entire lifetime, but losing to the Braves is like losing to the Rockies compared to losing to the Yankees. If the Braves don't completely regroup (they will, but let's say they don't) and the Phillies are our main competition for the National League East, what will we do? We'll hate the Phillies. Not that the Braves haven't earned an eternity of enmity, but a great deal of that is functional. With the Yankees, it's different. Coming back on them from 0-4 to win 7-6 in the ninth is sweeter than beating anybody by any score in any situation. It only goes to figure that blowing a 4-0 advantage on them as we did yesterday would hurt way worse than any five Jeff Francoeurs, any ten Marcus Gileses, any oversized gaggle of Chippers, Andruws and Brians…and believe me those fuckers sting pretty fucking badly themselves.

What's that? The Yankees don't play in our division or league, therefore what's the big deal? Get a pulse. It's too late for niceties. They're here on our turf and they're here on our schedule and they're not leaving either entity any time soon. Whatever residual griping is to be done about the existence of Interleague play can end. It's a part of our lives. (Don't tell me about how insipid the Devil Ray-Pirate matches are; what games involving the Devil Rays and Pirates aren't going to be insipid?) The Mets play the Yankees because they do and as long as they do, they will always loom as the largest games of the year. If they invented Interleague play in 1971 when I was arguing Cleon Jones versus Roy White at the bus stop, they would have been the biggest games of 1971. It defies defiance. We're the New York Mets. They're the New York Yankees. Of course it's going to matter more than life itself. Of course victory will shine at its brightest and defeat will cast its darkest shadow.

That said, there was something about yesterday that was worse than that. This transcended the opponent. Put those clowns in Nationals uniforms and it would have been extraordinarily brutal. It was that kind of breakdown. Making it an intracity affair just worsened it that much more. And throw in the stratospheric 2006 expectations that grow less realistic by the day and the inanity of the move that precipitated all this (why, why, WHY take out Sanchez?) and just the hellaciously awful lack of command by a closer who has run hot and cold and, I almost forgot, the fact that we couldn't do anything in extra innings and, most of all, how fucking great it would have been to have shoved a matter-of-fact win in our back pocket after what happened Friday night…well, it's no wonder I can't bear to watch what happened Saturday afternoon.

On the other hand, it is tomorrow [5]. Let's get 'em.

See ya there tonight.