Reason 53,691 why I berate myself for listening to sports talk radio: the wet blanket hosts (you know who they are) who slap down every excited Mets caller with “don't go crazy now,” which is shorthand for you know your first-place team on the 15-4 roll isn't very good because I say it isn't very good.
To which I borrow from the advice of late Cardinal announcer Jack Buck: go crazy folks, go crazy.
If you're not enjoying your first-place Mets on their 15-4 roll, you are a little deranged. You're entitled to fret that it won't last and that they need more for the long haul and that, well, they're the Mets. I understand the impulse and I'm down with it, but honestly, to heck with that, amigos. ¡Van locas, personas! ¡Van locas!
I was going a little crazy myself at Shea this afternoon. Perhaps it was from the sleep-deprivation method of rooting that has become so familiar to me. Saturday night became Sunday morning and encompassed a long and winding road home, followed by the need to blurt out the great and terrible details, then a dozen winks, a quick shower, a peck on the cheek for the wife, a pat on the head for the cats (or did I peck the cats and pat the wife?) and back on the LIRR for more Mets. Thus, my baseball senses have been heightened and my reactions have been enhanced.
But why shouldn't they have been? Johan was pitching and for the first time in his Mets career, that meant something beyond accomplished starter keeps team in game. Johan Santana has been mostly a pleasing concept for four months. We loved the idea of getting him, we loved getting him, we looked forward to him. Then, for more than half a season, the Santana we got was akin to Tug McGraw's Peggy Lee fastball: Is that all there is? I couldn't tell whether the Mets' every-fifth-day inertia and our sour energies were letting him down or whether his ability to give up a given hit at the most suboptimal juncture was maybe, just maybe, letting us down. Either way, it was all good but not great. Where was this Johan Santana ace for the ages we kept hearing about?
Oh there he was: on the mound in the ninth, completing the first authentic complete game the Mets have banked since late '06. There he was again, belting two hits to right, even if one's fairness surprised him into a standstill. There he was before, taking a no-hitter into the fifth, efficient as IBM in its heyday.
The chants in the ninth that challenged my throat after a weekend of vocal pro-Mets, anti-Cardinal engagement were simple yet exhilarating: JO-HAN! JO-HAN! You could do it for any pitcher with two syllables, but for JO-HAN! it felt like deliverance. It's not so much the CG alone as it was the timing, a day after the night that wouldn't end, a day after the night when every reliever pitched and all could use a blow. Santana gave the Mets that. It would have been only a slightly big deal twenty years ago to throw nine. It was a huge transaction today.
Elsewhere in the Metstone galaxy of stars, Carlos Beltran began to twinkle again. I've held an article of faith about this club since 2006: if Beltran's hot, we're all on fire. Beltran was the one main Met not really joining in the parade of hits and homers since the Manuel era gained traction. But now he's hitting. And he's really, really fielding. The catch he made on Ryan Ludwick in the seventh — the one Steve Finley didn't make on Pratt in '99, the one Rick Ankiel didn't make on Tatis in the ninth Saturday night — I'm pretty certain was the best I've ever witnessed at Shea. DiamondVision chimed in with about a thousand angles immediately thereafter. They revealed Carlos made his catch with a bird floating by. A bird! And not a red one either.
Everybody hit, everybody fielded, everybody won. So when the standings were posted on the scoreboard after the final out (I don't know that I'd stuck around previously this season to watch postgame highlights), and I saw the GB column…
New York —
…I went crazy folks, I went crazy. Not as crazy as the Yankees fan who (according to the sign his buddy waved) “lost a bet to a Mets fan” and paraded around in a summery gown, nor as crazy as the Missouri turnip farmer who wielded a PENDLETON 1987 placard all about before the five-run sixth exploded in his face (“WHERE'S YOUR PENDLETON NOW?” I shouted in sync with my borderline obnoxious behavior all weekend; “DIE ALREADY MOLINA!” was in heavy rotation, too), but good crazy. Just clapping and yelling and generally exuding over-the-top joy that first you wish your team would take up summertime residence in first place and then, hey, they've done it, with one of the best pitchers in the game shutting down a tough opponent, with three more batters busting fences, with every reason to laugh in the faces of those who would tell us our giddiness is unwarranted, that our enthusiasm is premature, that our craziness is crazy. (Plus I scooped up an abandoned giveaway lunchbox; whatever kid left it behind hasn't been a Mets fan as long as me and he surely hasn't been eating lunch as long as me.)
You're not going crazy over how well these Mets are playing? You're the lunatic, buddy.