That said, if it were as easy as switching managers for the Mets to materially improve, they wouldn't have had to have switched managers, would have they now? The previous manager wasn't helping matters, but it wasn't like the players were sitting on their talent just waiting for the right man to make like Hellmann's and bring out their best.
Monday night the New York Mets could have been managed by the Hand of God and it wouldn't have mattered. The Hand of God can't swing those bats, not against King Felix, nor against his court of random relievers. The Mets are still the team for whom adversity can be overwhelming on any given night; statistically speaking, it blows them away approximately every other night.
On Monday night, they were, to borrow a phrase from Casey Kasem, ponderous, man — bleeping ponderous. Figured, though. Shea Stadium was torpid, humid and a failure as a proving ground in the Mets' quest (if indeed they really care) to show they are ready to become anything more than a .500 team.
But at least it was refreshingly quiet.
Felix Hernandez was living up to the legend he is building in the wilds of the Pacific Northwest. He toyed with the Mets and outshone Johan Santana, who more often than not has pitched this year like a pretty good, sometimes very good pitcher but almost never like the kind of ace Felix Hernandez was pitching like. (Funny, but wasn't Santana that ace before he was a Met?) King Felix crowned Johan in the second by closing his eyes — Johan's description — and swinging with the bases loaded and two out and driving in four runs, including himself.
Lima Time, apparently, lives.
Maybe it was too weird a night to read anything into. You don't see an American League pitcher slam too often. If form holds, it won't happen again until 2045. You also don't see that same pitcher, already throwing and hitting beyond reproach, field like a novice and get himself rolled right out of the game one out from qualifying for a win (which, trust me, he was en route to). Carlos Beltran showed admirable hustle from third on Hernandez's fifth-inning wild pitch which didn't trickle very far from home. Hernandez, I suppose, showed admirable hustle in trying to cover the plate. He should have covered his ass instead, because Beltran got him inadvertently, right in the ankle. Ouch!
Mets fans are so screwed up right now that they cheered when Felix was writhing in pain (a cosmic no-no, of course). I don't think they were cheering the pain, rather merely approving the idea that Hernandez's invincibility had been pierced, with a run no less. When his limping evinced genuine injury, the cheering didn't stop but at least it lessened. Our karma was in the crapper from there on out.
Santana persevered for seven and saved the bullpen some miles (is that why we got him?). Wright…well, Wright's getting a day off, which is good. David Wright was actually booed, not immediately after the error that extended the second long enough for King Felix to reign around the basis, but upon striking out in the sixth. It wasn't the DP. It was the error still simmering in the mind's eye. Misplaced anger, if you ask me. Does David need a blow? Absolutely. Is David a fielding liability? For one Willie Bloomquist grounder he was, but he's been remarkably improved defensively this season. To blame him for Santana's four runs, even if three were unearned — that's fertilizer thinking.
Hernandez exiting in the fifth didn't make things easier on the lineup, which garnered all of three hits off his Seattle successors, only one before the ninth when it fell to ancient Arthur Rhodes to finish off what little sapling of a rally the Mets fleetingly contemplated nurturing. The sole moment of encouragement was the organic chant of LET'S GO METS! that went up as the home team suddenly decided to attempt to make a bit of a game of it. Understand, this wasn't any LET'S GO METS! This arose from the throats of fans who were not encouraged by public address overkill or DiamondVision cue. It was as if, despite the cheering of Hernandez's physical misfortune and the castigation of favorite son Wright's humanity, somebody somewhere was giving us credit for being intelligent.
I got to my seat as the top of the first was ending and detected a certain flatness in the park. Maybe it was the moisture that literally filled the air. Maybe it was the specter of King Felix figuratively suffocating the offense. But I wasn't hearing the hum I was used to. Eventually it hit me: none was being manufactured. Nobody's urging us every three seconds to clap our hands, nobody's suggesting we make some noise and nobody's accompanying our batters to the plate with a stentorian soundtrack. All my fondest wishes for Shut The Fudge Up Night were actually coming true. Not completely — the sponsored stuff was still carried out, and late in the game, the A/V crew couldn't help itself and just had to dump Kevin James' atonal mangling of our credo in our laps, but mostly they shut the fudge up. It took a bit of acclimation to appreciate 21st century baseball without blare, but it's something to which I could grow accustomed.
The game was a donut, no question, but the occasion, it should be remarked, was an absolute cupcake: a treat. I was at Shea Monday night at the invitation of Metstradamus and his brother Fredstradamus (it's true, those are their real names). Fred lives elsewhere and was in town only for a bit, so the 'Damii made the most of a fertile opportunity and convened a Monday night group big enough to rate a scoreboard mention. We were listed as Cincinnati Fred & Mets Bloggers, and that's as fine a Metsopotamian assemblage as I've been in in quite a while. Kindred blog spirits My Summer Family, Pick Me Up Some Mets, Toasty Joe and Riding With Rickey, loyal opposition gadfly Darth Marc (who came in peace), peripatetic blog reader Dykstraw and FAFIF commenter emeritus/transcendent Shea denizen Laurie were all on hand. A couple in our gang even scooped up Bubba Burger boxes (they contain t-shirts and coupons, no meat). Thanks to all of them, along with the 'Damus brothers, for the superb company, the kind words and the questions about my cats.