The schedule was for Joshua's grandfather to bring him back on the late side tonight — somewhere between 9:30 and 10:00. So this afternoon Emily and I started batting dinner ideas back and forth. About halfway through, she stopped and said, “Unless you want to watch the game….”
“Nah,” I said. “That's OK.”
As it turned out, I listened to or watched the first four innings or so, brought my portable radio to dinner (it stayed off at the restaurant, since I'm not a complete barbarian), heard Wright and Beltran start the rally on our walk back to our house, saw Alou deliver the decisive runs on TV, and watched Wagner put it in the books after a groggy Joshua was unfolded from his car seat and put into his own bed. This wasn't a WW in honor of the departed Phil Rizzuto.
But something's very wrong. Fanatics who talk other fanatics into starting crazy Met blogs don't shrug off that night's game. Particularly not when the current collection of Mets is in first place. I know that. I've spent no small number of hours worrying about it. But I can't escape it, just as I can't escape the awful truth.
I don't like this team.
I don't know what it is. The personnel aren't that different. The biggest change is the absence of Cliff Floyd, whom I loved unconditionally as one of the coolest guys to ever play the game — yet I was always realistic about Cliff's inability to stay on the field. It's no secret that the clubhouse misses Pedro Martinez and his spit-in-the-devil's-eye charisma. I undoubtedly miss him too. But Pedro was MIA for most of the second half last year, and I didn't love the 2006 Mets any less for it.
Is it the absences of year-ago sparkplugs such as Endy Chavez and Duaner Sanchez? The disappearance of Jose Valentin? Bouts of surliness from the likes of Paul Lo Duca, Julio Franco (from wise old sage to annoying codger in one season — ouch!) and Beltran? My head tells me those guys, however much I cheered for them, never had the keys to my heart. Those were always held by Wright and Reyes, and they're not so different. But my heart won't be reasoned with — it watches last year's heroes try and fail and succeed, and somehow remains cold.
I always suspected that deep down, the day-to-day intensity of our fandom was more a reflection of a team's record than most of us would ever want to admit. 66-52 and first place ought to equate to finding the 25 guys who've forged that record plucky and valiant and loyal and likeable. But at least so far, it doesn't. Yes, there are Mets on this year's roster I have no use for — master out-maker Shawn Green and master run-allower Guillermo Mota come to mind. But last year I actively loathed Steve Trachsel and Michael Tucker and desperately wanted the pathetic Victor Zambrano and Kaz Matsui to just freaking go away already — and I still find myself daydreaming about the 2006 Mets. I get the feeling the 2007 Mets will never be more than an “oh yeah, them” in my memory.
I don't know what it is. Maybe it's the depressing frequency with which this team gets blown out, or looks inept against lousy teams. Or its inability to get out of its own way against the resurrected Braves. Maybe it was that horrid stretch in June and July. Or the inability to keep the same eight on the field so I can really get to know them as a unit. Maybe it's the conservatism that's retained Green and imported Luis Castillo at the expense of potentially deserving, exciting young players such as Milledge and Gotay. Or the endless, paranoia-driving parade of injuries. Maybe it's as simple as the fact that now anything less than the playoffs — and dominance en route — is disappointing. Maybe 2006 was just the prettiest girl in the room, and now I'm stupidly overlooking 2007's many admirable qualities.
I can't tell you, because I don't know. All I know is from the way I feel, it could practically be the 2003 Mets out there. And that's crazy.
I desperately want this to change. And maybe it will. Pedro's on his way back, Beltran has returned, Lo Duca and Castro shouldn't be long and Endy's out there somewhere. Milledge got to play tonight, Sosa's been a bright spot in relief, and Omar can read Mota's stat line as well as I can. A mettle-testing, character-breeding crucible of games against the Phillies and Braves awaits. And Tom Glavine's candor about our having to warm up to him and his having to warm up to us has led me to finally give him my full allegiance. If that can happen, nothing's impossible.
September's coming, with the possibility of an October that matters. But August ought to matter a lot more than it does. I wish I knew why it doesn't.