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

Sweep! Sweep! Sweep!

In a lot of ways, this [1] was the perfect baseball game: Tight and tense early, with some intriguing twists and turns, and then a leisurely gallop away from the field. During Glavine's third-inning duel with Ryan Howard (bases loaded, two out, forces of good clinging to a 2-0 lead) I turned to Emily and declared, “Baseball is so cool!” Because whatever the outcome, how can you not love crafty Tom Glavine willing his frozen hand to wing change-up after change-up (inside, outside, up, down, a little faster, a little slower) at a monstrous young power hitter who can not only hit the ball to New Jersey but also think with the situational acumen of a 10-year veteran?
By mid-summer I'll be hard-pressed to remember Glavine's six pitches to Howard — a non-decisive at-bat in an early-season game that turned into a blowout victory. But this is the absence that leaves us mopey and downtrodden in the winter: a little confrontation that leaves you staring at the TV and trying to think along with pitcher and hitter and nodding and clapping and frowning and holding your breath and saying silly things. Even the least-interesting baseball game is usually good for a moment or two like that. If winter's good for anything, it's eluded me.
And for the record, Howard walked, forcing in a run and making the score Mets 2, Phillies 1. Which was far from the worst thing in the world, as Glavine promptly carved up the once-terrifying, now vaguely pathetic Pat Burrell to end the inning. When the pounding was over, Charlie Manuel apparently had to be restrained from punching a talk-radio host. I think it's safe to say the vultures are gathering around poor Charlie. The Phillies being the Phillies, the odds are at least even that they'll do something equal parts panicky, PR-minded and just plain dumb. (Just as long as they don't do something that might actually work, like naming Jimmy Rollins player-manager.)
While 8-1 blowouts are always welcome, it was nice just to get to see some baseball. And nicer to send the boys down to Florida, where they and we shouldn't have to worry about aging hamstrings, slippery baseballs or whether a foul ball in liquid-nitrogen conditions might shatter poor Paul Lo Duca's finger. Catchers are tough hombres: Lo Duca has a bone bruise, which means he hopes he'll play tomorrow. If my intense life of typing and riding the subway ever left me with a bone bruise, I'd probably wrap my injured hand in a quilt and shriek at anyone who got within five feet to keep their distance. Lo Duca will most likely be squatting behind the dish in Miami with his hand in the line of fire, knowing at least one foul ball is likely to hit him in the exact same place. Great quote from Lo Duca, via John Delcos's awesome LoHud Mets blog [2]: “I wanted to go in the corner and cry.”
Speaking of Florida, I'm heading that way myself, to offer the blogger perspective at a conference on sportswriting. (Talking about blogging will likely prevent me from blogging. I believe that qualifies as ironic.) Will be on the wrong side of the state to see Soilmaster Stadium up close, but as it happens I do have tickets to Devil Rays-Indians at the Trop. Mr. Prince will do the honors until I can return with a full report on catwalks, retiring Wade Boggs's number and whether there actually are such things as Devil Rays fans.