You know what the Mets are? They're selectively desperate. They saunter and they mosey and they stop to smell the roses and pick at dandelions the great majority of the time, but then something suddenly lights a fire under them (to quote an old friend, “You know what burns my ass? A flame this high.”) and it's all for one and one for all and let's get hell-bent as all get-out.
But they're just not very good at it.
Game One revealed the schizophrenia. The Mets slept like England by JFK's reckoning most of the opener. Even as they rallied — showing some “fight” as Wayne or Howie or Gary or Ron or all of them called it — they approached the battle as ambivalent pacifists might. No point taking extra bases. No point thinking fly balls might not go out. Then, all of a sudden, it's every man to his station…double-time! Then the Mets cannot be stopped. You can only hope they will contain themselves.
That they did.
If the standings truly mattered anymore, there'd be a head-shaped dent in at least one wall around here. But Brian Schneider being urged by Sandy Alomar to think he can, think he can chug his way home on Milton Bradley's arm amid all the single-cheeked rallying the Mets did in the eighth and ninth — it was mostly amusing. Having already divined the best way to accept their shortcomings might be to to treat this crew as linear albeit better-compensated heirs to Marvelous Marv — the 1962 Mets also lost 8-7 in the opener of a Father's Day doubleheader through play that was less than brainy — these Mets surely merit fewer snits and more giggles.
Game Two's result was more pleasing, probably because I didn't see or hear a pitch of it. Since the nightcap was ladled onto the regularly scheduled afternoon affair, and since it was Father's Day, my plans took me away from the television, kept me away from the radio and made being at Shea prohibitive. Though I patted myself on the back for giving my father a few hours' of unMetted attention, I will confess to sneaking into a restaurant men's room to tap the little-used Web browser on my phone. It was there I saw we were winning thanks to Robinson Cancel.
Don't know if that meant the Mets were fighting, but they sure must have been desperate.
Well, what the hey. Most of our 2008 grace notes have been delivered by the likes of Nelson Figueroa and Nick Evans and Fernando Tatis. Why shouldn't Robinson Cancel join the parade of Mets who will never adorn the cover of the pocket schedule but can at least claim to have attached themselves to one of its squares? Or in Robinson Cancel's case, the unscheduled half of one.
Can't say I knew a bloody thing of Robinson Cancel's existence before this Spring Training, but Robinson Cancel and I had every reason to remember September 21, 1999. That was the night the Mets went down to Georgia with a division title on the line and Chipper Jones commenced to bury them. He hit a homer from the left side off Rick Reed, a homer from the right side off Dennis Cook and the Braves won 2-1, increasing their lead on the Mets to two games. Everything tumbled downhill from there, straight into a seven-game losing streak that put the Wild Card in peril.
I'm a big Mets fan, so I remember that date for Mets fan reasons. Robinson Cancel, one assumes, is a big Robinson Cancel fan, so he would remember that date for Robinson Cancel reasons: it was the date of his final Major League hit.
He played for the Milwaukee Brewers.
They played in County Stadium.
Bill Pulsipher was their starting pitcher.
The hit came off Chad Ogea.
The Brewers are still around, but County Stadium, Ogea and Pulse are long gone from the scene (Long Island Ducks notwithstanding). Yet somehow the hit Robinson Cancel delivered for the Brewers on September 21, 1999 is no longer Robinson Cancel's final Major League hit. It's merely his second-most recent hit, one that happened to have been delivered nine years ago.
Not everybody's heard. As of Sunday, Baseball-Reference still listed Robinson Cancel as having played his final Major League game on September 29, 1999, and they don't list final Major League games until they're good and sure a player has hung 'em up. When Robinson Cancel made an appearance in San Diego last week, my friend the Other Jason sent me a note that on September 29, 1999, Mets fans were marveling that John Olerud launched a grand slam off Greg Maddux, driving in Al Leiter, Rickey Henderson and Edgardo Alfonzo, each of whom had singled (just after Darryl Hamilton, Roger Cedeño and Rey Ordoñez had done the same). All of those guys are long gone, too, except for Maddux the six-inning Cy-borg…and he's older than Moises Alou. Other Jason's point was Robinson Cancel hadn't played in the big leagues in a very, very long time and what kind of team is this giving a roster spot to Robinson Cancel from the last century?
“Was he hitting like 4.200 at New Orleans?”
It never occurred to me to check. I suppose now that Robinson Cancel's become the latest savior to rise from these streets, we can waste our summer praying in vain that he is at least platooned with Schneider…or that another hit will help us before another nine years pass.
Chipper Jones is still around, too, come to think of it.