At last at last at last.
The All-Star break is over and the Mets are returning. Though it feels like they never went away, between my co-blogger's tireless efforts (thanks for making Maine feel a bit less far away), the adventures of David Wright and Carlos Beltran and Paul Lo Duca in Pittsburgh, Wright on Letterman and Beltran, Wright, Lo Duca, Carlos Delgado and Jose Reyes making the cover of Sports Illustrated. The article, by the nigh-peerless Tom Verducci, is good clubhouse gouge (of the universally positive sort), and the cover photo is irresistable, with Delgado's million-watt smile alongside Lo Duca's obvious, gleeful insanity. It's even better than the Best Infield Ever cover as far as making you want to run around with it held over your head grinning before finding a game, because you can't look at it without wanting to see your team play this instant.
Anyway, a last tidbit before Flashback Friday and a return to box scores and recaps: A kind soul sent me an Excel spreadsheet sent out by Met PR types listing the players (most of them) and various fun/dull/odd/inane facts about them as a get-to-know-you crib sheet. And what can we glean from it?
* The Mets are dog people: The pet parade includes 26 dogs (Slider, Dixie, Muddy, Scoots, Crushy, Rocky, Little Rocky, Gucci, Cookie, Lucky, Otis, Oliver, Jax, Rin, Sara, Homer, Toy, Zion, Napoleon, Lobo, Coco, Rookie and Lady Bug, plus various canines not named), with not a single cat admitted to. The only Mets to duck the dog trend? Steve Trachsel has fish. Victor Zambrano has horses. And Heath Bell has a hamster named Blossom. That zany Heath Bell. We'll hear more from him.
* The Mets are focused: Chad Bradford, Juan Padilla, Trachsel, Billy Wagner, Zambrano, Lo Duca, Julio Franco and Beltran all offered bat/ball/glove in various combinations as their favorite childhood toys. Philip Humber's favorite magazine is Men's Health. Matt Lindstrom, Jeff Keppinger and Jose Valentin favor SI. Mitch Wylie opts for Baseball America. Anderson Hernandez goes for ESPN The Magazine. Ramon Castro's favorite TV show is “SportsCenter.”
* The Mets are musically diverse: Willie Randolph goes for Miles Davis. Chad Bradford likes Hank Williams Jr. Tom Glavine likes James Taylor, which I was happier not knowing. Bell opts for Linkin Park and Audioslave. Aaron Heilman opts for Pearl Jam, as does Wright (who also name-checks the Red Hot Chili Peppers). Humber goes for Lynyrd Skynyrd. Trachsel's favorite band is the Killers; Wagner likes Kenny Chesney. Keppinger's pick? Tom Petty. Chris Woodward picks Creed. Cliff Floyd and Victor Diaz like Jay-Z, with Victor also favoring Kanye West; Delgado and Beltran like Marc Anthony. The most-popular pick? The reggaeton duo Wisin Y Yandel.
* The Mets are cartoonally not so diverse: Willie Randolph's favorite cartoon character is the Roadrunner, perhaps foreshadowing problems with Heilman, who picked Wile E. Coyote. Trachsel and Lo Duca like Underdog, which makes me like Lo Duca more and find Trachsel slightly more annoying. Chad Bradford picked Spongebob. David Wright picked Bugs Bunny, as did Xavier Nady. Chris Woodward, perhaps inevitably, picked Woody Woodpecker. But the runaway favorite (Valentin, Beltran, Diaz, Floyd, Redman) is Tom & Jerry.
* Now and then the Mets will surprise you: Heath Bell loves to bake and sold gingerbread houses to make money in high school. Yes, really. Zambrano's hobby is going to horse shows. Anderson Hernandez likes to sing and play the congas. Floyd's favorite childhood toy was a Green Machine. Tike Redman's was Voltron — and he likes to draw. Bradford's first job was on a cricket farm. Wagner says the best thing about New York is “New Yorkers' bluntness.” (Or at least he thought so in April.) Kaz Matsui thought there should be a mercy rule added to the game, but then defined mercy as 29-1. (We defined it as “sent to Colorado for a utility guy.”) Cliff Floyd wants the NL to adopt the DH, which I will now erase from my memory and refuse to admit happened. Glavine's favorite show is “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” Wagner likes “Dancing With the Stars.” Lo Duca likes to watch “House and Garden.”
* A few Mets will consistently surprise you: Aaron Heilman speaks a little German, would like to meet the Dalai Lama (and the Pope), reads Scientific American and Popular Science, and likes to watch the Discovery Channel. (So did Matsui.) Steve Trachsel's oenophile tendencies are well-known, and we just found out he likes the Killers, but he also likes to make pecan-crusted pork chops, play Scrabble and watch “Two and a Half Men.” While it's hard to get around the Creed thing, Chris Woodward says his favorite book is The Lord of the Rings and he'd like to meet Bill Clinton, which in your average major-league clubhouse is just slightly less surprising than wanting to meet Noam Chomsky.
* The Mets have/had their secrets: Asked what most people don't know about them, most Mets kept quiet. But Glavine admitted his shyness drives people away, Randolph said he's “a little bit nuts,” Duaner Sanchez copped to being “a sensitive guy” and Floyd said “I'm just a cool guy.” Jose Reyes? He admitted that “I tend to know everything,” while Wright subtly insulted himself by offering that “I'm fairly intelligent.” (I hadn't assumed he wasn't.) Oh, and Lo Duca said he's actually 5'7″ instead of 5'10″. While not an answer to this particular question, Victor Diaz said one of his hobbies is “relaxing.”
* The Mets are practical: Asked what they'd take to a deserted island, Sanchez, Zambrano, Nady and Valentin opted for water. Heilman settled on matches. Juan Padilla picked a cellphone. Delgado skirted the rules by picking a cellphone and food. Julio Franco would bring prayers. Bradford opted for the Bible. Glavine, Beltran and Lo Duca would bring their wives, Bell and Ramon Castro their families, and Floyd his kids. Victor Diaz would bring “a girl.” Endy Chavez would bring “a good girl.” If you wondered why Endy's starting over Victor, wonder no more.
* Except when they're not: Willie Randolph would bring Haagen Dazs to that deserted island. Trachsel would bring his best bottle of wine. Woodward would show up with his golf clubs. Wright would bring “my puppy.” And Billy Wagner would bring “Copenhagen.” If that refers to the European city and not dip, put Billy in the practical category with my apologies.
* The Mets are playing ball today: And that's the best fact of all.