- Faith and Fear in Flushing - http://www.faithandfearinflushing.com -

Flags and Cats and Jets and Balks

We sure know how to stage a circus, don’t we?

Everything was right about the inaugural game of Citi Field except whatever it was exactly that happened down there on the field. The Mets have done a bang-up job with the food and get higher-than-expected marks for the architecture, but now they need to do something about the scriptwriter.

It’s not just that the bad guys didn’t win [1], though obviously that’s the primary objection in these parts. It’s the head-scratching way they lost it. The big flag was cool and the return of Piazza and Seaver made for a fairly obvious but nonetheless satisfying bookend to the end of Shea (Tom Terrific threw a strike this time), but once the current players took the field this one was a farce. Sitting next to Joshua on our couch (Emily was representing us at the main event, up below the BOS-OAK section of the out-of-town scoreboard), I told him that Mike Pelfrey should throw a strike for the first pitch because there was no way Jody Gerut would swing at it amid the camera flashes and the sense of the moment. He didn’t, and the ball was carted off for posterity — but Gerut did club the third pitch in the history of Citi Field into the right-field stands. Joshua didn’t quite understand my astonishment — you can’t explain to a six-year-old that there’s no way the first home run is also the first hit and proceeds the first out, because he has no idea that violates all the generally agreed-upon rules of drama. (Jody Gerut ought to know better, damn him.) But that’s what happened nonetheless.

The Mets certainly didn’t look comfortable in their new home, not with Carlos Beltran skidding around on the grass and Ryan Church letting a fly ball clank off his normally sound glove and Mike Pelfrey, well, falling off the mound — though once he was OK the sight of the infielders sputtering with laughter behind their gloves was pretty funny. (As was the fans’ sarcastic applause for Daniel Murphy’s first put-out, a good-natured jab Murphy accepted with a grin. He’s going to do just fine in New York.)

Walter Silva didn’t like the script either — not after David Wright proved the new apple does indeed also rise, and road-tested how Citi Field does delirium. Sitting at home, I found myself fretting like a worried mother hen, wondering if the VIP crowd and smaller house and new configuration and obstructed views would combine to mute Citi’s first big moment. When Wright’s drive settled safely into the outstretched arms above Casey’s number, the place seemed properly loud and joyous — but I had to fire off a quick SMS to Emily for reassurance.

J: Seemed loud. Was it loud?

E: O yes

But let’s get back to screenwriting and how to properly build drama and weave a plot. How sadistic a writer do you have to be to follow Wright’s blast with a leadoff three-base error from the Heroic Right Fielder Who Should Never Be Replaced On Defense by Gary Sheffield? How much of a tease do you have to be to then follow that up with not one but two infield grounders that pin the runner on third and leave the Mets with their collective head all but out of the lion’s mouth? And then, after all that, for it all to come to naught on a balk? Where’s the drama? Where’s the justice? Where’s the Valium?

The West Kamchatka roster seems to consist entirely of players you never heard of, guys you thought had maybe retired, and disgruntled ex-Mets. Can we say for certain that Edward Mujica and Edwin Moreno aren’t the same person? David Eckstein and Brian Giles are still around? Someone’s really named Chase Headley? There’s a Nick Hundley? (I know — they’ve never heard of me either.) And then Duaner Sanchez, whom Carlos Beltran let off the hook by being too aggressive on 3-1, and Heath Bell, still just as funny-looking but a lot more effective. (By the way, I can’t say as I really blame Heath for being bitter, seeing how the Mets’ genius doctors once failed to discover that he had a broken bone in his forearm [2].)

Very well, vengeance is Heath’s. The park’s open. The mayor got a ball. One poor fan got to wear a Padre catcher for an unwanted hat. The feral cats have decamped from Shea’s ruins and snuck Felix Heredia [3] into their new, more spacious catacombs. The Padres are 6-2 and we’re 3-4, and with Oliver Perez and Jake Peavy slotted in 8-2 and 3-6 doesn’t seem impossible.

It was the first night. We have to get comfortable with the new place. Even more importantly, so do the Mets.

Faith and Fear in Flushing: An Intense Personal History of the New York Mets is available from Amazon [4], Barnes & Noble [5] or a bookstore near you. Keep in touch and join the discussion on Facebook [6].