Jose Reyes was swinging at the first pitch.
David Wright was learning on the job.
Carlos Beltran seemed, at last, to be finding himself.
Aaron Heilman pitched a couple of key innings.
Ramon Castro came off the bench and made you wonder why he doesn't start more often.
Tom Glavine looked like he'd never get close to 300 wins.
And Marlon Anderson was the player of the game.
It's recent vu all over again!
Thursday night was 2005 Night in Los Angeles, an inadvertent salute to our own rookie season — the beginning of the Omar Minaya, Willie Randolph and Faith and Fear in Flushing eras. It was a more innocent time, when you would have been thrilled to have seen the Mets win two games out of four on the West Coast, astonished that they'd rise even one game over .500 and ecstatic to learn a six-run lead hadn't been given away by some combination of Kaz Ishii, Danny Graves and Braden Looper.
Welcome to back to those moderately thrilling days of yesteryear or, more accurately, the year before it; to the Sixthies; the Dirty Thirty; the identity of Deep Throw; the ill-advised Collapse-O-Meter; the whirlwind journey of Mister Koo; the earliest revelations of The Holy Books; the Pedro who wasn't Feliciano; the string of self-referential allusions that continues unabated to this day.
The 2005 Mets…ya hadda be there. For one night at Dodger Stadium, it felt like we were once more. While the ninth inning loomed like something out a twisted radio commercial that fed off your darkest fears, the result was as much fun as a pinch-hit inside-the-park homer with bubbles blowing…or perhaps a megarun romp through Arizona.
Aw, c'mon, don't tell me you've already forgotten 2005? The New Mets? The relative joy of 83-79? Maybe you weren't with us back in the 730-days-ago day, but watching Marlon Anderson's dynamic return to the team from which he never should have been permitted to wriggle (we give three-year deals to batboys and Scott Schoeneweis, we could've given two to Marlon) brought back some fine semi-fresh memories. Anderson's a real ballplayer. That's admittedly a strange observation when the 25-man roster is supposed to feature two-dozen other professionals who fit that description, but Anderson carries the aura of a guy who knows how to play the game. The Moneyball crowd would cackle at such scouty appraisal, so let's try this:
He had two hits, including one in the first when the Mets were deconstructing Derek Lowe.
He drove in two runs.
He scored one run while improvisationally coaching the runner in front of him (the unsettlingly regressing Jose Reyes) to get the hell home.
He hit the ball hard all night.
He made a diving catch to prevent the ninth from hemorrhaging momentum.
He caught the final out in left, even though he's not really a leftfielder.
It's hard to imagine Marlon Anderson is going to be inserted in the outfield and be the catalyst who will jumpstart our tender divisional lead into an imposing margin, what with Milledge around and Alou allegedly en route, but wasn't I just saying that we needed to pick some forgotten veteran off the scrap heap and have him go all Cesar Cedeño on the rest of the league
I think I also said that Marlon Anderson wasn't going to be the answer, but what do I know?
I'm also the guy who was suppressing every instinct to count this as Tom Glavine's 299th win after the top of the first, mildly giddy that I'm holding tickets to his next likely start and, oh boy, potential 300th win. But Tom Glavine's streetcorner Rolex of an outing kept me honest (it was only two years ago that I was in my third year of adjusting to Tom Glavine being a Met). To tell you the truth, I had a sinking feeling about Glavine once we went up 6-0 in the first. It was just too good a setup. The 2007 pessimist in me would note we were outscored 9-7 from the moment Glavine threw his first pitch, but the 2006 practicalist interrupts and says a win is a win, don't be a schmuck.
Meanwhile, the 2005 revivalist can't believe Ramon Castro doesn't play more often. He's the same guy who pushed Mike Piazza for playing time again and, ahem, for all of Paul Lo Duca's wild-eyed passion, Paulie ain't Piazza. Unless the nine runs surrendered were the direct result of Ramon's lousy pitch-calling — and as long as we're harboring three catchers — let's see some more Castro out there.
The rest of the '05 crew meshed nicely with modern times, particularly offensively. I've been having a running argument with a friend over Beltran for weeks. He's been giving me the two-year-old line that he's soft and he plays for the money and he's not a New York type of ballplayer while I've been countering with yeah, he's in a slump, but if you don't realize you're watching the best, most complete player this franchise has ever had, then you're just not watching the same centerfielder I've been. I'm not going to forecast great things for Beltran from here on out, because I learned two years ago in this blog's infancy that my blessing is generally the kiss of death on any Met I single out for praise, but I'll take my chances with the man who first called us The New Mets.
Thursday night's edition felt like a new Mets, certainly an improvement over the creaky version that's gone 18-23 since early June. But as in 2005, we've been threatened to go off on a season-pleasin' roll a lot lately only to sputter in our own mediocrity. Whatever year this is, let's keep the spirit of the last game we played going. And enough of the Dodgers already. To paraphrase Green Day from the summer prior to last summer, wake me up when this road trip ends.