Sometimes the social ramble claims a game from the schedule. Hey, it happens. It's a long season.
But sometimes the social ramble claims two in a row.
And sometimes those games include a pitcher you've never particularly warmed up to either making his bid to possibly become the last 300-game winner (though I think there will be others, as surely as I think
256 640 KB won't, in fact, be enough for anybody) and your first chance to view Luis Castillo. I had two can't-miss events the last two days, both of which I thoroughly enjoyed, but by the time I walked out of Varsity Letters tonight (and tell me this lineup isn't the sportswriting equivalent of Murderers' Row) I was feeling a tad guilty about my team, off in the wilds of Central Time battling another division leader without me looking in on them. They needed me. Well, no, they didn't need me. But I'd missed them.
On Tuesday I'd begged the occasional update from a pal with a decent cellphone and watched the final couple of queasy innings in an Upper East Side bar at a fairly ungodly hour. Tonight I had my faithful radio, the cheap plastic one whose lettering has long since worn off, so that every April I wind up staring at its buttons in consternation and have to relearn their functions through trial and error. Top of the ninth, Mets up 8-5, two men on and Castillo at the plate. An excellent time to get acquainted via the word picture with our newest Met, except Luis Castillo promptly rammed into what sounded like a fairly unlikely double play. Great, I thought as Delgado lined out and I crossed the Bowery, I'm a jinx.
But I was a jinx who needed his Mets fix, so I decided to skip the subway and walk home over the Brooklyn Bridge, a trek that seemed about right to cover the rest of the game (barring unforeseen and unwelcome reversals) and the out-of-town scoreboard and highlights. There aren't many better ways to get caught up on your team's doings than a late night in the city and the game in your ear; as I passed through Chinatown I found myself thinking that Billy Wagner and Howie Rose deserve more credit than they get. Wagner has had an astonishing season — I wasn't worried as he tiptoed through tonight's moderate jam, whereas last year I would have been up a lamppost by the time J. J. Hardy stepped into the box. Being a closer means he doesn't get the credit he deserves — closers are generally in the news only when they're flubbing their lines and not following the script. As for Howie, he did a masterful job describing the scene in Miller Park, zooming in and out between the outfielders' readiness and Wagner coming set and runners being checked and batters stepping out and looks ahead. Sometimes I feel Howie doesn't get the credit he's earned because we mourn the fact that the dream team of Rose and Cohen only got two seasons, despite now being well deployed with new partners. And as with closers, it can be tough to notice a terrific inning of play-by-play — the masters of it take you so smoothly and thoroughly into the game that you barely register the role they're playing, even though that role is, well, everything.
Wagner and Delgado ensured Howie could yell “Put it in the books!” around the time I started across the bridge; a bit after Marlon Anderson's interview I encountered a crew shooting a commercial that involved a mob of unkempt-looking people, a spotlight-wielding helicopter and the usual army of harried, vaguely occupied film-crew people and attendant bored cops. I had to wait with the other pedestrians and cyclists caught in the live-set dragnet, but that didn't seem like a big deal — there were Braves and Phillies and Yankees and Red Sox to check on.
After 10 minutes or so we were released by a production assistant, who noted gratefully to another assistant that compared to the last group, we were pretty nice. I suppose we were. But you know what? Speaking for myself, when the city's been kind to you and the radio guys are on top of their game and your team's won, it's easy to be nice.