Quick, who is your all-time favorite San Diego Padre?
It's a trick question because you can't choose Mike Piazza. Mike Piazza isn't a San Diego Padre.
If he were, why would have I heard myself say quietly and routinely, “c'mon Mike,” as he worked the count against Steve Trachsel in the top of the second? It was the natural thing to do. I'm in the mezzanine, Mike's hitting cleanup, I want him to get a hit. It's an act he and I perfected from 1998 through 2005. At this point it's instinct.
I'm not talking about the long standing ovations that accompanied his every step from the bullpen to the third base dugout to behind the plate to the box at its left. That stuff was predictable. Thrilling, but predictable. It was within the context of the game — after a video detailed his myriad Met accomplishments, after the PA announcer uttered his name, after Jimi Hendrix strummed the first notes of “Voodoo Child” in an unprecedented playing of a visiting batter's theme song — that Mike Piazza surprised me. He got me to mindlessly root for him during a Mets game in 2006 merely by showing up at Shea even though he batted in the top and not the bottom of an inning.
Mike Piazza comes to Queens, I root for him. I don't even think about it. What's a road uniform between friends? Mike Piazza, it's been established here, there and everywhere, will always be a Met. I root for Mets.
But who the hell is Adrian Gonzalez?
That's the San Diego Padre first baseman, the San Diego Padre fifth-place batter, the San Diego Padre who followed Piazza in the San Diego Padre order. And when Trachsel retired him in the top of the second, I let out a little “damn.”
The guy batting fifth after Piazza, whether it was Brian McRae or Robin Ventura or Jason Phillips or Cliff Floyd or whoever, was always someone I wanted good things for and from. They were Piazza's teammates. Root for Piazza, root for his protection.
Wait just a New York minute now. Adrian Gonzalez is a San Diego Padre. I have no interest in this Friars club. So what the Tuck is he doing in the same lineup as Mike Piazza? Mets game…Shea…mezzanine…cleanup…Piazza…cheers…undying affection…endless applause…
It took me an instant but I quickly curbed my instinct and understood that Adrian Gonzalez wasn't a part of any of this. Him I could root against. Ditto Todd Walker and Geoff Blum and Josh Barfield. Having finally snapped to and paid attention to the entire tableau, I established a handy protocol for the Takin' Care of Business portion of the evening.
Mets in Mets uniforms: hope for something positive.
Padres in Padres uniforms: wish them nothing good.
Mets whose uniforms got mixed up in the laundry: cheers…undying affection…endless applause…