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

Signs of Mets

Last night I got some welcome signs of spring.
First off, it was my fantasy-baseball draft — this will be the third season I've played since getting sucked back into the fantasy-sports black hole. I spent 2005 staring at the computer like a cargo cultist, amazed at the fact that there were players and stats behind the glass. Pathetic, but grade me on the curve: Last time I played fantasy baseball, there was still a Soviet Union. I was commissioner and had to put the stats together by hand using USA Today, then mail them to my college pals. By attaching them to the wings of pterodactyls. (Oh, and I was 20 and I wasted a night a week while living for the summer in New Orleans. I hate myself.)
Last year I actually came in third, largely by betting on Ryan Howard and Justin Verlander. Though my real contribution to my fantasy-baseball league was insisting I was taking David Wright with the #2 pick in the draft, then actually doing it. That helped me formulate my commandmants for playing fantasy baseball without losing your soul:
1. Go With Your Heart. I wanted Wright, I got Wright. Santana? A-Rod? Pujols? Ppppt. Watching David Wright play baseball made me happy all year. Having my favorite player on my fantasy team was better than all those Ryan Howard dingers.
2. Don't Be Too Much of a Moron. This is a corrective measure to #1. I don't remember whom my next pick after Wright was, but it wasn't some middling Met. Sure, I opted for Mets I liked over roughly equivalent players — and utterly disdained Mets I didn't like over their rough equivalents. But being a fan doesn't mean you take Shawn Green over Vernon Wells.
3. He Who Rides With Yankees Rides With Satan. In fact, I excluded every one of them from my Auto-Draft. Now, I didn't use the Auto-Draft, but that's not the point. I was making a statement of principle. Along those lines, this year I also used the Auto-Draft to symbolically excommunicate the Jones boys, Roger Clemens, Victor Zambrano, Braden Looper, Armando Benitez, Kaz Matsui, Kenny Lofton and Brett Myers. The only Yankee who's ever been a member of Jaison D'Etres (I know, sorry) was Chien-Ming Wang, and I'm still apologizing to Emily for that one.
4. No Having It Both Ways. If the Mets are facing “my” pitcher, you will never hear me spinning have-my-cake-and-eat-it-too scenarios like “I hope he pitches a one-hitter with no walks but a reliever gets beaten 1-0 in the ninth.” That's deplorable behavior. Same goes for being upset because “my” Met was in the on-deck circle when the winning RBI came. Eyes on the prize: If the Mets trash “my” closer for a crooked number and win, it's a good day.
5. Don't Draft Billy Wagner. This is nothing against Billy Wagner. Rather, it's a simple statement of survival. Closers are notable primarily when they fail, and having them on the mound is stressful no matter what. If Billy Wagner is your real-life closer and your fantasy closer, weeks are being taken off your life with each appearance. No one needs that level of stress. I refused Wagner in a mid-season trade last year, opting instead for Bobby Jenks ( who promptly ate Idaho and began to suck, but that was OK). Wagner was available this year when I decided it was time to grab a closer. I took Huston Street.
So how'd I put the commandments into action? This year I had the third pick, and after watching Pujols and Santana vanish from the board, I shockingly let David Wright go to a subsequent bidder.
Because I took Jose Reyes.
I confess to a brief fear of karmic backlash — that my opting for Reyes might somehow make one of his hamstrings twang at a frequency only dogs can hear and then immediately disintegrate. But I'm getting less superstitious (within reason) as I get older: If my wishes and secret thoughts really affected anything more than an arm's length away, by now I'd either be living the life of a pasha or been struck down for being habitually low and vile. Watching Jose Reyes whirl around first on his way to third or perform celebratory taekwondo with Carlos Delgado makes me laugh out loud, so having him on my fantasy team is a beautiful bonus — whether he's MVP or winds up with a year that's supposed to build character.
I assembled the rest of my offense without further Mets (though somehow I have A.J. Pierzynski as my catcher for the third-straight year), but on the pitching side I scooped up Glavine (another three-time D'Etre), then took Mike Pelfrey, and finally pounced on Oliver Perez. Is having three-quarters of the Mets' probable rotation a good idea, fantasywise? Probably not. But I really do believe in all three of those pitchers. And I was going to live or die with them anyway, so why not?
The night wasn't done with Mets, though. The draft ran very long, which was a problem even beyond being a burden on poor Emily — because I had a ticket to see the Hoodoo Gurus [1] in midtown. The Gurus are a semi-legendary Australian rock band, one of those groups that rules the charts in a better parallel universe where power-pop rave-ups get the respect they deserve. In 1985 I heard “Bittersweet” [2] on WBCN at like two in the morning and sat transfixed in my dorm room, speechless with delight and then numb with fear that the DJ might not tell me what that song was, meaning I'd quite possibly never hear it again. He did and I've loved the Gurus ever since — but I'd never had a chance to see them live.
The Gurus were supposedly going on at 9; as 8:30 turned to 8:45 and the draft kept creeping along, I got antsy. Surely they wouldn't really go on right at 9, I thought — normally, the concept of Musician Time annoys me, but last night the idea of the Gurus hanging around backstage was just fine with me. No such luck: I arrived at around 9:25 and the band was galloping along onstage. I shamefacedly got a beer and hunted down Steve Reynolds — a commentor here, co-proprietor of the very fine Zisk Online [3] and all-around Good People — to find out what I'd missed. (About five songs. Ugh.)
But here's the thing: The Gurus have a song called “Where's That Hit?” in which singer Dave Faulkner imagines himself as a young hitter facing bases loaded and two out in the bottom of the ninth.
Just up from the minors
A kid with potential, they said.
You've dreamed of this moment,
One game you'll never forget.

And then there's this little detail:
Here you are at Shea, your heart's in your throat
Will you make the grade? Will you miss the boat?
Hero of the day — Hero, or the goat?
Winners never quit waiting for that hit.
Where's that hit?

It's a pretty good song — and I always admired the fact that an indie rocker from the other side of the world had gotten the lingo and feel of baseball pretty much dead-on. In fact, for a while a few years back, when an enemy reliever would come in in a big spot I would grab the Gurus CD and give “Where's That Hit?” a quick spin. (I stopped doing it because, to be frank, it never, ever worked.) But I'd always assumed that use of Shea was just chance — that it was a one-syllable name that fit the meter.
Not so. Steve had interviewed Faulkner earlier that day, and it turns out the singer of the Coogee, Australia-based Hoodoo Gurus is a huge Mets fan. Steve kindly shared the transcript of his interview with me — here's an edited bit:
Dave Faulkner: You know there’s a song on one of our albums that is all about the Mets. It’s called “Where’s that Hit,” on the Magnum Cum Louder album. It’s all about baseball. Well if you think about it, it says — the lyrics specify “bottom of the ninth, here you are at Shea” so it’s gotta be the Mets batting.
Steve Reynolds: So when you wrote that, had you been to a bunch of Mets games?
DF: Oh God yeah, I’ve been to millions of them. Cause apart from all the touring — we’d catch Mets games on the road, not just in New York City. I went to Busch Stadium, and in San Diego against the Padres.
SR: Too bad South By Southwest wasn’t in April, so you could work a Mets game into your schedule.
DF: Exactly! You don’t think I didn’t look at that? And when we come back again — we’re talking about coming back again hopefully in October, and the World Series will be on and hopefully the Mets will be in it, but I think it’ll be too late for me to get a ticket.
An Aussie rocker who loves the Mets. Reyes and Glavine and Pelfrey and Perez on my fantasy team. I sense a season just around the corner.
Addendum: Vote for your favorite Mets blog at SI.com [4]. (Visual proof here! [5]) Exciting to see SI dipping into the Mets blog world, and we're thrilled to be mentioned alongside three pretty awesome blogs.