There were gophers, there were weasels, there was one oversized gadfly…oh wait, that was me.
The final fifth game of a season in the history of Shea Stadium: from it I will remember almost nothing fondly. It was just one of those days, even if it was a Saturday, even if it was the home debut of Santana the Savior, even if it didn't rain and instead cried out for shedding one's layers of caution against the elements in the upper deck. There may have been pieces of April to recommend you spend this April afternoon at Shea, yet there have been far better Saturdays in the park.
• Johan: Sometimes home runs are just fly balls that carry. Those weren't what the Brewers hit. The three Santana gave up could have been cancelled by American Airlines. Maybe it's the jetstreams, though those seem to stop acting up the moment a Met comes up with runners on base. We heard he has a tendency to give up homers, especially having pitched half his life in the Homerdome. When he wasn't introducing the friendly skies to Bill Hall and Rickie Weeks, he was aces up. By the time he got to Gabe Kapler, he was huffin' to the finish line, a destination he never quite made. Santana himself said afterwards he didn't pitch well. Four earned runs in 6-2/3 attest to that evaluation. Still, he did have his moments (7 K) and he sure looked good in the pinstripes. I'm not worried.
• Johanmania: The Mets have made back a significant portion of Santana's salary in jersey sales (I'm always surprised when people dig deep for a new guy, even this new guy), but the atmosphere that surrounded him was lacking. I guess I expected Pedro II. The debut of Mr. Martinez the Met in 2005 was electric enough to put the Keyspan sign to shame. That was special. This was the turn in the rotation between Figueroa and Perez. When Johan entered, he got nice applause. When he was pulled in the seventh, he got a little less. He will have his days, but it's interesting to me that he didn't get one right away the way Martinez did. Some guys just light up a room.
• Slopfest '08: I'm past comparing this season to last season. The current edition has yet to put together an early stretch of dominance even close to what the Mets of 2007 racked up. Ten games in, they are, in the argot of the chronically inarticulate, what they are. They are a .500 ballclub, good some days and nights, less so on others. Saturday they were lame everywhere: in the field (Easley's no shortstop, Wright's only occasionally a Gold Glove third baseman, Schneider's reputation as a catcher exceeds him); at bat (Sheets is good, but he shouldn't have manhandled our lineup so easily); and on the bench (untighten at once, I command thee, Jose's hammy!). The Brewers wore their hitting shoes. The Mets barely laced up.
• Amnesia: You know how Scott Schoeneweis won the respect of the crowd the other night by rescuing his teammates in that extra-inning thriller versus the Phillies? It's been forgotten. He was announced, he was booed. That'll show him! I do believe I heard the slightest smattering of disapproval for Johan's performance when he left. One would like to believe there was some distorted sense of irony at work there, though given that the most clever thing I heard all day (amid a thousand references to Prince Fielder's weight, welcoming back Gape Kapler and “Sunglasses At Night” for Corey Hart even though “Never Surrender” actually topped it on the charts) was “THROW THE FUCKING BALL SHEETS!” I'm guessing no.
• Wrong Angle: From section 13 upstairs, I studied how the rotunda sticks out of Citi Field, almost too tumescent for its own good. Oh well, I thought, I shouldn't judge it until it's done. Next year when I'm sitting in the upper deck at Shea, I'll have a better idea of how Citi Field really looks.
• Commerce: It was Citi Field Cap Day. I arrived early enough to get one, displayed enough impact-free high dudgeon not to wear it. Besides, I didn't want to be badgered for a free pizza half an hour after not delivering one. The Citi Field vice president of nothing in particular not only got to throw out the first ball but he unveiled number 77 in the parallel universe Shea countdown. “Now to represent the destruction of Shea Stadium…” After classing it up beyond belief with the Shea family on Tuesday, the Mets have reverted to form, handing the counting-down honors to, in order, their mascot; the countdown's sponsors; a tie-in to their kids' fan club; and the sponsors of the giveaway cap and the building next door. C'mon, Mets — I'll bet Ron Hunt would fly coach if you asked him nicely. How pervasive is the Citi-Mets relationship? David Wright's ineffectual but well-intentioned solo shot in the eighth — Let's Get It Done! — was implicitly brought to us by our naming rights providers, according to DiamondVision. And leave it to the Mets A/V squad and their corporate weasel puppetmasters to make me the last person on Earth to consider “We Built This City” by Starship somehow less than wonderful when the “y” becomes an “i”.
• The Sounds of Silence: Rick Astley can relax. Neil Diamond is now less popular than he is in Queens. The fehcockteh singalong voting is nothing if not cathartic. After harmonizing happily with Neil through the climax of '06 and the bulk of '07, the Mets crowd turned on “Sweet Caroline” Saturday with the vengeance of the manipulated and fed up. I hadn't seen an overbearing New England mainstay's fortunes turn so quickly and harshly for the bad since corrupt Warden Samuel Norton stuck that pistol in his mouth once the authorities were on to him in The Shawshank Redemption. Allow me to be the umpteen-millionth Mets fan to publicly wish they'd can this whole thing and let us chat amiably among ourselves between half-innings. If they really need a tune to distract us — and since this promotion is sponsored by the Carpenters union — how about “We've Only Just Pagan” for our favorite temporary leadoff hitter?
• Serene Exit System: The whole torpid affair Saturday looked like it would have a silver lining in that at around 3:42, the bottom of the ninth approached and the Mets could do one of two things to help my own cause. They could rally for real, and that would be appreciated; or they could get it over with posthaste and let me catch the 4:24 out of Woodside. You know which one they chose. As long as The Log was going to be disgraced, fine. I did my best Mo Carthon impression, opening up holes in the crowd across the upper deck concourse and then down the thousand ramps that would lead me out Gate E (people do not know how to walk down ramps). The new staircase actually kind of works and the 7 turnstile wasn't at all a mess. Plus I'd been sent this cheery press release by the MTA so bloggers like us could tell fans like you that “The first ever weekend express service (day or evening game) from Shea will follow ‘Post Game Express’ service plan.” The game sucked, the day blew, but at least the trains would fly. But they didn't. There were no weekend express trains — and what locals there were sat like Raul Casanova and crawled like Brian Schneider. The 4:24 went from sure thing to dicey proposition, and it was only the deluge of LIRR customers crowding Woodside and a rare personal sprint that kept it from leaving without me. No seats to be had, no escape from the feeling of frustration that pervaded the entire afternoon.
Perversely nice to be reminded why winning so kicks losing's ass.