Friday night, the whole division gained ground on the Mets. Saturday night, the Mets snatched that ground right back from under them. With a New York win over Washington and losses by Philadelphia, Florida and Atlanta, the Mets' magic number was reduced to increasingly inevitable.
John Maine's pet gopher, out to lunch since his doubleheader start against the Marlins more than a month ago, came back to nibble on him a bit. I wish it hadn't. And I wish we could have scored a couple more TDs from the red zone…I mean runners from third (damn football). But those are not problems.
Problems are Iraq when it refuses to receive the memo that things are getting better all the time; Israel and Lebanon in the heat of a ceasefire; anybody who was just getting comfortable with the notion of flying again; anybody whose car runs on petrol.
There are problems in this world. As has become custom during baseball season, I focus on the limited-perspective quandaries I'm under the illusion of having some control over, like begging Delgado to hit to left or urging Willie to bring in Bradford already yet. My impact on these situations is every bit as negligible as anything I could do about peace in the Middle East, but it sure is more fun worrying about the Mets.
Alas, every now and then I force myself at twenty minutes before or after the hour to turn to WINS instead of WFAN and I am reminded that our 14-game lead isn't saving a single life or foiling a single terrorist plot or dropping the price of gas nine-tenths of a single cent. Then it's back down the dial to the FAN to join Joe Benigno in stressing about who our third starter will be in the NLDS.
Am I disturbingly shallow in my information-gathering priorities or par for the course? If history is any guide, I'm merely one of a long line of Mets fans for whom the back page trumps the front page as often as the severity of bad news will allow.
The following passage is from Jerry Mitchell's The Amazing Mets, a seminal team history first published in 1964. It pretty much explains that when the world teeters on the edge of extinction, we are the one group that can be counted on to keep its concerns on an even keel.
It was the morning of October 23, 1962. President John F. Kennedy had the night before declared an embargo on Cuba, taking a step which could have meant the beginning of thermonuclear war. There was a sense of crisis all over the United States and all over the world.
In the quiet little village of Cooperstown, N.Y., far from the centers of anxiety but feeling the impact nevertheless, Lee Allen, historian of the Baseball Hall of Fame, sat at his desk. He was thinking that if the Russians picked up the challenge it might very well mean the end of life as we know it. Brooding over the future, Lee attacked his mail. He turned over a postcard from New York's Bronx, and read:
What was the record of the New York Mets this year on Thursdays? I would appreciate a game-by-game total. Thank you.”
The preposterous postcard pulled him right out of his depression. He suddenly realized that, to the Met fan anyway, crises were commonplace. Somehow the card made him feel a lot better.
“My first impulse was to toss it into the wastebasket,” related Allen. “But it occurred to me that the writer must have had a purpose in asking the question, as unusual a one as I ever received. I checked the records and found that the work of the Mets on Thursdays showed no victories and 15 defeats.”
After replying to the fan, Allen forwarded the postcard to the Mets with the observation, “With the world on the verge of ruin, I thought you might be interested in what the Mets' fans are worried about.”
The Cuban Missile Crisis was resolved. And the Mets improved to 6-12 on Thursdays in 1963.
We're 10-5 on that day this year…in case you were wondering.