Congratulations to the Cardinals and their fans. It wasn’t a classic series by any means, but it was an object lesson that you never, ever quit fighting. They showed that. So did we.
If you’d been told we’d get that pitching performance from Oliver Perez, you’d have taken it. That we’d give up three runs? You’d have taken it. That we’d hold Pujols at bay all night? Ditto. And if we’d been told it would come down to bases loaded, a dunker away from tying it and a gapper away from the World Series and Carlos Beltran at the plate, you’d have taken that too. (And if I ever meet Endy Chavez, I’m buying him a beer for a catch that will always have me leaning closer to the TV in disbelief.)
Look, you’re going to replay that drive of Spiezio’s just missing Shawn Green’s glove in your head for a long time. You’re going to be puttering through some winter duty and realize that for several minutes you’ve been muttering to yourself, Called strike three. Called strike three. Goddamn it. It’s going to happen, just like I can close my eyes and see Orel Hershiser raising his arms (in a Dodger uniform) or Kenny Rogers missing the plate or Piazza’s drive not going far enough. Be ready for it.
But give it a little time and you’ll remember other things, too. Carlos Beltran connecting on a better night against the Cardinals and leaping into a waiting sea of teammates. David Wright willing his ball over Johnny Damon’s head. Endy Chavez about to take flight in celebration. Paul Lo Duca finding not one Dodger within his reach, but two. Pedro Martinez coolly eyeing Jose Guillen like a gunfighter in a frontier town. Jose Reyes heading for first with him and you knowing his final destination is third, and he’ll be there in a few seconds. You’ll remember these things too. In fact, close your eyes. You can see them, can’t you? In the darkest days of winter, when all the baseball news you have to chew on is some agate-type invitations to spring camp — for the Royals — you’ll smile to think of them.
And come this weekend? Take Tommy Lasorda’s advice. Get out of the tree. Turn on the set. There’s baseball left to be played, and don’t be kept from it by the fact that it (heartbreakingly, bitterly, impossibly) won’t include us. Because win or lose, romp or get stomped, baseball is fundamentally beautiful. The rising line of a home run, the sleight-of-hand of a 4-6-3 double play, the arc of a curve ball that bends in and hits the black — these are among the most-perfect things ever to spring from the mind of man. In a few short days, they’ll be gone. Don’t miss what little is left.
And too long from now but sooner than you think, it’ll be February in Florida, with guys we’ve never heard of wearing impossibly high numbers and hopelessly trite interviews and pitchers running on the warning track during games. And a couple of more blinks more and it’ll be too cold and you’ll be chewing your nails over being 3-4 or celebrating being 6-1, and able to recall every game of the young season. And another blink or two and you’ll find yourself at Shea on a lazy summer night, 25,000-odd sprawled in the stands, looking down at some interchangeable game against the Brewers or the Astros or even the Cardinals, and some Met will get on and then someone else will get on and the crowd will start to stir and you’ll hear it. You can hear it now, can’t you? Listen.
let’s go mets. let’s go mets. let’s go mets. let’s go mets. let’s go mets.
Someone will poke a single to right and bring us closer, and you’ll hear it louder this time.
Let’s go Mets! Let’s go Mets! Let’s go Mets! Let’s go Mets! Let’s go Mets!
And then the tying run will be out there on the basepaths and the go-ahead run will be at the plate and they’ll be hearing it at 111th and at Main Street in Flushing and you’ll be yelling it as loud as anybody under the night sky.
LET’S GO METS! LET’S GO METS! LET’S GO METS!
And you’ll look around Shea and see all the other loons chanting and yelling and pleading and you’ll look down on the field and you’ll think that very, very few things in this life can be better than this, than this achingly beautiful sport and this team you love beyond reason and finding yourself caught up in the middle of it.
And you’ll be right.
You know what? It’s really not so far away.