I like this week, the week when Spring Training winds down. It's not next week, the week when the season begins and we forget this week, but I always enjoy the Baseball Eve feeling that breezes in right around now. It's the last ten minutes of eighth period before the bell rings, the Sunrise Highway exit off the Belt from my longer-haul driving days.
This is the week of Jose Valentin, the veteran who isn't making the team in 2009. Will he go to Buffalo to player-coach? Get an offer elsewhere? Decide this would be the summer to try living without baseball? We get caught up in these little veterans' last chance stories every February and March. Most times they don't work out, sometimes they work a little, once in a while they blow your mind and work brilliantly. This time Jose Valentin didn't work out. It was nice to see if it would, though.
This is the week of Marlon Anderson, a veteran with a contract but not a spot. Will Marlon get the benefit of the doubt? Be too expensive to release? Seem not worth the trouble? Will we regret whichever decision we make that involves Marlon Anderson? We won't necessarily know next week or for a couple of months. This week it's compelling to dwell on him.
This is the week for Bobby Kielty and Nick Evans, guys who deserve permanent roster space — as permanent as permanent can be down the personnel food chain — based on their spring work (which is to say that every time I look up, one or the other is doing something helpful). Yet they are the fellows most prone to that phrase you'll hear this week a lot and not much after: the numbers game. The numbers say we can only keep this many bench players, and we had to make a decision and as a result…
This is the week for the fifth starter. Liván Hernandez has clinched it, but he won't be the fifth starter after a fashion. He'll be the starter on the date he starts. His designation matters, at most, in terms of keeping an extra bat (Evans?) around for a few days next week. But once you're around a few days, anything can happen. Liván, if he's around more than five days, will be just one of the five guys doing the same job.
This is the week of Rule 5 draftee Darren O'Day and late pickup Fernando Nieve and ancient Elmer Dessens and the reality that they can't all make the staff. One or two might. Three won't. Maybe one dips down to the Bisons and comes back. Maybe one is claimed by another team or offered as required to the club that let him go. Maybe it won't matter within a couple of weeks if Bullpen Roulette — inevitable, even in bullpens that aren't as suicidal as ours was last year — takes hold early.
This is the week, perhaps, of somebody we haven't yet met. Guys do show up late. It was thirty years ago yesterday, a friend reminded me, that the Mets traded Nino Espinosa for Richie Hebner, making us a little surlier and a lot less hairy in the process. Mark Clark moved into the rotation the day before there was a rotation in 1996. I showed up at the Opener in '93, saw Wayne Housie trot out to the Mets' baseline and wondered, despite having paid close attention all spring long, who the hell is that?
In weeks to come, new names will join the team to, in the words of Terry Cashman, start…or augment…another dream. This week is this week. This week is unique. It's not next week, but it'll do for now.
Three reviews came in yesterday for Faith and Fear in Flushing: An Intense Personal History of the New York Mets and each was Amazin', more Amazin' and then even more Amazin'. Great thanks to Mr. Healey, Ms. Rose and Mr. Brand for reading closely, thinking deeply and writing beautifully. For your copy of the book described generously as “written just for you”; “full of heart, and full of heartbreak”; and “a gift, from one of us to all of us,” please visit Amazon, Barnes & Noble or a bookstore near you. To keep up on discussion and events related to FAFIF: AIPHOTNYM, join us at Facebook.
Flashback Friday is going through its dead arm period and is slated to return Friday, April 3. In the meantime, be sure to catch one of the repeat airings of SNY's Mets Weekly between now and then. New host, new look and a lot of Razor Shines.