The Comeback Player of the Year ballots were due early this year. Had to have 'em in, like taxes (or extensions), by April 15. Fortunately plenty of candidates nominated themselves Tuesday night — and just in time.
Here in no particular order are who and what I filled in on my ballot:
• Fun. Yes, fun. Unalloyed fun. The kind of fun I complained or at least observed had been missing from Mets baseball in 2008. This was a good game for seasons when you're 20 games up or 20 games back or only 12 games in. It doesn't need to indicate a turning point or anything. It was just a good night to be better than the visiting team.
• Reyes. The hammy got a workout and it looked pretty healthy, having spent quality time at every base against the Nationals. The leadoff spot is whole again. The lineup might not be so ordinary.
• Pelfrey. Back from maybe to definitely as in definitely the fourth starter in this rotation, definitely capable in the present, definitely less of a question mark for the future.
• Sanchez. Who's the goggled stranger wearing No. 42 and materializing from the bullpen to pitch the ninth? Call that man some room service and give him anything he wants. It's on us.
• Wright. Back from Letterman. Back over the fence. Back on fire. No contempt here.
• Milledge. It was silly that he got booed on his return to Shea, but in a Nats uniform, he's not my problem. His first-inning double was predictable. So was his “eat my dust, Willie, Omar, Billy, whoever” attempt to steal third that was cut down by his trade booty Brian Schneider (who's got a gun for an arm if a doggie door for blocking balls in the dirt).
• Field Level. It's been so long since I watched an entire win from the orange seats that I couldn't tell you exactly when the last one was without a late-night tour of The Log, but there I was — part of a pretty formidable foursome (your two bloggers and these two authors) — closer to grass than I've been in almost a year and etching my first W of '08 in yon trusty Steno Notebook. Now if everybody could sit down so we could see the batter…
• Jack Heidemann. A utility infielder for the Mets in 1975 and 1976. A crackerjack realtor now. His name came up at some length in conversation. Of course it did. When Faith and Fear in Flushing meets Mets By The Numbers not too many rows from David Wright, would you expect anything less? Anything more?
• Daruma. Great Neck's greatest export, a field level mainstay for a decade, a delicacy readily accessible when some thoughtful person arranges for orange seats. I got to Shea way early just to suckle a salmon roll in pregame bliss.
• Auxiliary Clubhouse Store. I arrived so early I had time — with no line — to check out the commerce hut just west of Citi Field. Lots of stuff, lots of cost, but lots of courtesy. “Have an Amazin' day,” I was told as I left. OK, it was a night game, but points for trying.
• Rachel Robinson. As perilously close to OD'd as I am on the Mets' cloaking themselves in the hand-me-downs of the Dodgers, kudos and then some for their support of the Jackie Robinson Foundation, for serving as home office for this happiest of April 15 commemorations (beats Tax Day), for making room for Mrs. Robinson every year. She is a remarkable woman, the 42s all around were a remarkable gesture and — gasp! — the Mets made a remarkable choice in tabbing Ed Charles, who grew up in segregated Florida and was literally inspired by Jackie, to reveal their countdown number du jour.
• David Patterson. Here is the politician who is the exception to my rule that politicians should stick to their jobs and not bother us with first balls and such. If you saw the governor interviewed on Opening Day, you saw a lifelong Mets fan who knows his Mets and his Shea from jump street. He replaced a Yankees fan who replaced another Yankees fan who replaced another Yankees fan who was once a Pirate farmhand. After a quarter-century of Cuomo, Pataki and Spitzer doing no more than patronizing us, there's hope from Albany yet.
• The Super Express. The 7 that zooms from Shea to Woodside to Queensboro Plaza to Grand Central to Times Square actually works. It works so well that I stayed on all the way into the city just because the ride was so smooth. Besides, on an Amazin' night like this, who was in a rush to get home?