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

Let's Play Hardball

Spring Training has officially become a blur. I turned on SNY in the office earlier and saw the Mets losing to the Braves, thought “not again” and kept it on in the background waiting for things to turn until I noticed Kevin Burkhardt conducting the exact same in-game interview as yesterday. “Oh, this is yesterday's meaningless, depressing exhibition,” I concluded. I finally turned it off when I realized the score would not change in any sort of favorable manner.
The Mets won this afternoon's meaningless, less depressing contest. They'll play one more tomorrow and one more after that against the American League (9-18) version of us, the Devil Rays, in the Stupid Dome Saturday before packing up their troubles in an old kit bag and recycling them into the Gulf of Mexico. Oh-and-Oh from there, you know.
Hoorah! Spring Training is always a revelation once it starts and an utter and complete drag by its end. Glad to know one more eternal truism has come home to roost. Baseball is so reassuring that way.
A couple of other things are on track. The Star Struck catalogue arrived the other day with hundreds of dollars worth of apparel that is a single unfettered buying frenzy away from being mine, but I'll probably keep my Visa in my pants for now. Every March the MLB people send me this brochure and every March I'm ready to refurbish my wardrobe with new and better shirts and jackets and caps and whatever they've got my favorite four-letter word stitched onto. You know the rule: You don't not wear blue and orange after Opening Day. I'll succumb to temptation to some limited extent at a later date, though maybe not to the tune of the $107.95 Alternate Color Elevation Premier Jacket [1] (“Dress like your favorite pitching coach!”).
There's also the matter of getting used to the new names [2] I'll be calling out toward the television in the living room once the television in the living room gets fixed (not having our primary boob tube transmit its cathode-ray warmth toward us 12 hours a night is probably why I can't tell one day's St. Lucie debacle from the next). The turnover wasn't so vast this winter that I'll be rooting for a city of strangers, but it's always a bit rough on the tongue acclimating myself to vocally contemplating, complaining about or once in a great while complimenting new Mets.
• If Chan Ho Park sticks, will his de facto theme song [3] stick in my head and pour out of my throat the way it has every time I've seen Park on Baseball Tonight since I first saw Ghost World in 2003? That's a given. I greeted every 2005 Ramon Castro at-bat with an approximation of Mira Sorvino's “Rrrraaaa-MOAN!” from Romy & Michelle. It's funny once, grating soon enough. Stephanie still cringes at 1991's loop of “Carreon! You Will Always Remember!” — and she's from Kansas [4].
• How long will it take Damion Easley to definitively drop the unflattering middle name I applied to him on June 5, 2004 [5] when he wrecked a reasonably lovely Saturday afternoon in the mezzanine by launching a three-run bomb off Mike Same Unflattering Middle Name Dating Back To When He Was A Particularly Unlikable Skank Stanton? If I could find it within me to be pro-Michael Tucker, pro-Guillermo Mota and, for that matter, pro-Mike Stanton for mutually beneficial stretches, I suppose I'll accept Damion Easley into the family with little prompting. Besides, Sunday night will remind me that the middle name in question is sole eternal property of Yadier Fucking Molina.
• I'm pretty sure I've seen Scott Schoeneweis referred to as Shoney. That's a modern-day, lazy-ass baseball nickname if ever I've heard one. I'll bet his mom called him Shoney.
• David Newhan and Aaron Sele…get your own first names. You're Other David and Other Aaron until further notice. Got a gripe? Take it to Other Jose.
• Ben Johnson? Doesn't strike me as a Beh-NEE! Get recalled and we'll talk.
• Joe Smith is probably Smitty, though I prefer Pseudonym.
• Jon Adkins…I still say getting rid of him is an option.
• Ambiorix Burgos, should he make the team, is Amby already. I shorten long names and lengthen short ones. Endy Chavez became Endomorphin Machine from Prince's overlooked 1995 Gold album early in '06. It came out without a second thought the other day. (And in the mind's ear, Jay Payton still fires JPEGs to second in hopes of nailing Quilvio Veras.)
• I imagine I'll be spending a lot of time yelling at those who call Moises Alou “Moses,” which right now is Mike Francesa. I'm veering toward Moishe, which would put him in honorary kosher company with the Mets' all-time franchise record of three Jewish players at once. Worst-case scenario: Fifteenth inning, Shawn! (who brings out the Wallace & Gromit [6] in me) on third, Other David on second, emergency pinch-runner Shoney on first…and Moishe strikes out to end the game. Next day's headline in the News or perhaps the Forward: MOI VEY. Not very likely, I grant you, since shorn [7] Green would have to actually get to third base in the first place.
Besides, Julio Franco has dibs on Moses [8] among the Met-huselah set. Sudden thought for a bumpersticker: The 2007 Mets: We Go For Older Men
Best news is we get to call the season here. The runup has been unbearably long, even if it started later than usual (October 19, to be precise). So glad baseball isn't politics. I mean literally. The 2008 presidential campaign started before Spring Training and the same one will be in progress after next year's World Series. Not a single nominating vote will be cast until January. Talk about extended Spring Training.
In baseball, unlike politics, your dark horses have a track record of making legitimate runs once or twice a decade. The '69 Mets…the '82 and '91 Braves…the '03 Marlins…the '06 Tigers…the can't-possibly-happen happens. A while back I read a quote attributed to somebody in the Jim Gilmore '08 [9] campaign. Counting the person who was quoted, the person who reported the quote, me who read the quote and Jim Gilmore, that's four of us who know there's a Jim Gilmore '08 campaign.
No offense to the former governor of Virginia, but a lifetime of watching politics as my other favorite spectator sport clues me in that a 2007 Devil Rays-Rockies Fall Classic is more likely than a 2009 Jim Gilmore inaugural ball. How overheated is the political process? Tom Vilsack and Evan Bayh have already entered and dropped out of the 2008 race. At least Colorado and Tampa Bay will show up and play the full 162. Except maybe in the last season of the ABA [10], sports teams generally don't bow out of contention because they can't raise enough money.
When I was studying journalism in college, a famous syndicated columnist came and spoke to us. An election cycle (a much shorter one) was underway and the writer was writing off the candidates of the moment as a collective of clowns. I raised my hand and asked whether this wasn't self-fulfilling prophecy masquerading as political coverage — you've decided that those seeking the highest office in the land are not to be taken seriously therefore you don't take them seriously. The columnist paused, said that was interesting and went back to mocking them.
Baseball coverage is conducted in a not completely dissimilar manner. Experts ride the Conventional Wisdom train all winter. The obvious is pounded into granite and those who have not revealed themselves as contenders ahead of time are easily dismissed. Yet the games will be played without these experts' input. The teams and the players will prove themselves and no agenda of any substance is set by anybody but them and their record. In politics these days, it's hard to imagine anybody not deemed a favorite in the preseason breaking out of the proverbial pack. In baseball, all it takes is pitching, hitting and fielding to turn the polls upside down.
Enough bloviating, enough prognosticating. Let the 2007 campaign begin in earnest.