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My Country ‘Tis of The Mets

“South Carolina,” declared John Rutledge, the fair colony’s delegate to the second Continental Congress on the occasion of that body’s 380th meeting, 7 June, 1776, “that is our country.” At least he said so in 1776 [1], the restored director’s cut. As Rutledge was portrayed as a foe of American independence (and not big on the proposition that all men are created equal), I’m not in the habit of quoting him/his character to make my points for me. Yet on the occasion of this body’s deliberations as they concern the second World Baseball Classic, color me a little South Carolinian.

Elsewhere in the most important movie musical of all time, Judge John Wilson had to be continually reminded he couldn’t second Pennsylvania’s motion being that he was from Pennsylvania — but we don’t have that rule at Faith and Fear, so I will second the motion of my fellow delegate from FAFIF [2]: phooey on the WBC. Ditto, ditto, I hate it.

Now please rise and repeat after me:

I pledge allegiance to the flag of the Metropolitans of New York, and to the baseball season for which they stand: one Team, under Jerry Manuel, noncollapsible, with Johan [3] and K-Rod for all.

You may now take your seats. And the WBC can take a back seat to the M-E-T-S, because to paraphrase from Donald Hall’s biography of the late Dock Ellis [4], the Mets are a country all to themselves.

Nevertheless, I wouldn’t want to disappoint or deprive the honorable baseball fan from England who shared his eloquent defense [5] of the WBC with us in response to Jason’s enumerated objections. And as long as I’m quoting John Rutledge and praising the British, let me go for the triple play of 1776 heresy and echo John Dickinson when he says that in his own way he regards America no less than does Mr. Adams. In my own way I regard world baseball no less than those who favor the WBC. But I’m not joining its army and I’m not fighting in its defense. It’s not so much that I believe that fight to be hopeless. I believe the WBC to be a waste of my and our time.

It may not be a waste of time to those who want to see baseball take hold on all seven continents (I hear there’s a southpaw in the Antarctica League who throws a pretty mean snowball). It may not be a waste of time to the players we’ve never heard of from places we rarely think of, the way we once rarely thought about Venezuela or Venezuelans like Johan Santana and Francisco Rodriguez. It may not be a waste of time to fans whose attention will be focused on this once-in-a-triennium opportunity to see some if not all of the best players in the game on one stage.

Yet at the risk of forfeiting my station among those cool, cool considerate men who are willing to see the upside in all this, I’m saying it’s a waste of time to me, the medium-sighted Mets fan whose interest lies in the 2009 Mets mutually pledging to each other — and us — their Lives, their Fortunes and their sacred Honor in the 2009 baseball season. I’m saying it’s a waste of time to the 2009 Mets and their pursuit of championship happiness during the 2009 baseball season. As long as it’s a waste of time to the other 29 Major League Baseball teams, I suppose it’s a wash. But I don’t worry about them. I worry about us. And I see no good in this.

Except for what Jerry Manuel chooses to see. In the first Snighcast of the spring last week, Gary Cohen explained Manuel, while not crazy about the WBC concept, hopes the idea his tournament-bound players have expressed about playing for a cause greater than themselves stays with them when they come marching home to Port St. Lucie. For when the WBC ends, Cohen said of Manuel’s thinking, the Mets are their country. Just like it’s our country.

Jerry elaborated [6] in the Post on Monday:

“I hope it has an impact on them as individuals to enjoy that camaraderie and bring that same feeling back here. I think it’s going to be a great experience for them to play for what’s on the front of their jersey and not what’s on the back.”

I’d like to think this isn’t a new sensation to the individual Mets, that whether they’re wearing the uniform of the USA or Puerto Rico or Venezuela these next couple of weeks that they’ve always gotten the idea of the team coming first in what is, for all the individual stats and glory, a team game. They’ve had some pretty piss-poor coaching and guidance their entire lives if it takes the World Baseball Classic to frame that they should be playing each game for the betterment of their team. But maybe that’s just Jerry being Jerry, finding a useful spin to put on any potentially detrimental situation. One assumes the reason the Mets didn’t capture what was right in front of them these past two Septembers wasn’t misdirected individuality deployed at the expense of the unit. One assumes they just kind of sucked at the very worst possible juncture in the schedule.

On the other hand, the last time the Mets made the playoffs was in the last season whose Spring Training was interrupted by a World Baseball Classic. I viewed the WBC in 2006 as something akin to a second flood, a simple famine, plagues of locusts everywhere [7] as much as I do now, but despite the unwelcome break afforded for the piddling, twiddling and resolution of the WBC, those Mets raced out to their best start ever [8]. By the end of that year, we saw fireworks; we saw the pageant and pomp and almost a parade.

At Tradition Field, how quiet…how quiet the chamber is. But when they turn ’round and the battle begins, hey Mets — look sharp. Get whatever you get from this foul, fetid, fuming, foggy, filthy World Baseball Classic and take it to those obnoxious and disliked grenadiers of Philadelphia.

Let winning ring.

This Spring Training lull does present a great opportunity to pre-order Faith and Fear in Flushing: An Intense Personal History of the New York Mets [9] from Amazon [10], Barnes & Noble [11] or other [12] fine retailers.