OK, admit it — you thought the bad dream of a year was over, that the swagger was back.
Well, perhaps it is. Even teams with swagger are going to lose 60 or so a year, some of them badly. But for fear of upsetting the new positivity, maybe we shouldn't look too closely at this one. The box score would seem to indicate the Mets showed plenty of fight, grit, guts and all those other Joe Morganesque intangibles (3-0 deficit erased, 4-3 shortfall made up), but we'd be grousing about an agonizing, punchless offense if not for the fact that the Dodgers' Blake DeWitt apparently considers throwing guys out at home unsportsmanlike. (And he doesn't know how to break up the double play. I bet Keith Hernandez is stomping around outside the visiting clubhouse waiting to heckle him.) After the scratching and clawing, well, the roof fell in, as Aaron Heilman's location was dreadful and hit after hit went between Delgado and Easley. Not so easy to extract something good from that wreck, particularly not with Chan Ho Park looking nothing like he did when Emily and I endured him in blue and orange last year. But I will say this: When the bad call came on Pierre and Heilman collapsed and even Schoeneweis got nicked up, I thought, “Ahh, every bullpen throws a rod every so often.” Which is a lot different than not being surprised because I'd been sitting there waiting to be punched in the stomach, which is how it felt until Willie started semi-platooning and calling out Delgado in the paper. (If you missed it, make sure you read my co-blogger's definitive analysis of Delgado.) The Mets lost, but that sky-has-fallen feeling wasn't there. Here's hoping it doesn't come back.
As with any baseball game, this one had its share of quirky little things. There was our first view of Clayton Kershaw, the L.A. hurler who's too young to drink and reminded me of some vaguely punk modernization of Orel Hershier, with a similar bladelike face and beady-eyed stare. There was the mystery of why poor Nick Evans is still around — Evans can work a count and understands the strike zone, which is good, but he's clearly overmatched, which only lots more at-bats will cure.
And there was the sight of Pedro Martinez in the dugout, obviously pleased as punch to be there. Gary, Ron, Keith and Kevin Burkhardt spent a fair amount of time discussing Pedro, leadership and the role he hopes to take on the team. According to them, Pedro seems determined to take some of the clubhouse weight on his shoulders — but only once he's healthy. Until then he'll keep to himself, apparently.
Ron and Keith seemed utterly unsurprised by that, but I found it baffling. This is one of those clubhouse rules I don't get — that if you're hurt and therefore not contributing, you keep your mouth shut even when everybody seems to think the team would be better off if you spoke up. Why is that? What would happen if this code were violated? Would Joe Smith or Carlos Muniz show Pedro the back of their youthful unlined hands if the old man spoke up in San Francisco next week? Hasn't Pedro done more than enough in a legendary career to open his mouth in the clubhouse whenever he feels like it?
Maybe solace will come from a spiffy new Mets garment — like the famous Faith and Fear Numbers shirt. You can get one (or more than one) right here.