After we lost that mildly disgusting 2-1 game to the Marlins, a friend offered sympathies. My response: “I don't know if you do this, but for me early April is Baseball Honeymoon — I'm so happy that my nights and days have normal structure again that losses don't particularly rattle me. And then it's April 26th and I'm like, 'Goddamnit, how the hell are we 5-13? This sucks!' But until then, I'm good.”
The 6-6 Mets are mathematically safe from a 5-13 record, and I'm still in my Baseball Honeymoon. But it's the equivalent of the day on your honeymoon during which you catch yourself thinking not about the beach or wedded bliss, but about packing and the long flight and unpacking and the stack of annoying mail and the bills that will need to get paid and going back to work. The real world is about to come crashing through the bubble.
Today's 4-2 loss to the Brewers didn't leave a particularly visible mark: I lucked into superb seats for my Citi Field regular-season debut, basked in sunshine instead of huddling in the expected rain, spent my time in the amiable company of a friend I don't get to see enough of, crammed myself deplorably full of Shackburgers and tacos and beer, and snagged a Super Express 7 for an easy trip home. What's not to like about a day at the ballpark, particularly after the months of slush and football?
Well, that 4-2 score. The Mets wore their classic pinstripes! Great, they lost. Jose Jose Jose Jose treated us to the first of many Citi Field triples! Great, they lost. Nelson Figueroa pitched scrappily and cannily in an emergency start! Great, they lost. (And poor Figgy got DFA'd by way of reward.) A right fielder got mugged by the sun — and it wasn't Gary Sheffield! Great, they lost. Omir Santos looks like a cult hero! Great, they lost. You can make yourself hoarse talking up character-building losses; better to grope for something to say about mundane wins.
(Citi Field Observation of the Day: At his superb blog, Dana Brand has been wrestling with Citi Field and his reactions to it in a series of heartfelt posts that are by turns hopeful and agonized. The one that really struck me was his thoughts on the crowd and the noise, which so far he doesn't find equal to the Shea experience. Part of this, as Dana notes, is undoubtedly because people are spending time exploring the stadium instead of watching the game. But Dana also notes that people don't seem to stand up a lot at Citi Field, and that the parade of passers-by — nicely described as “the constant and familiar racket” — is missing, because now those people circulate behind the seats. Particularly poignant is his description of Cow-Bell Man being heard but not seen except when he'd pop up at the top of a stairwell before working his way back down and up to a new section. Dana's right — so far the fans do get to their feet less, and the constant circling of people and crowd reactions to them is basically gone. I'd noticed the lack without quite grasping what was missing. The question, though, is whether it's truly a lack, or just something to get used to that we might even come to appreciate. Cow-Bell Man and the grass-roots Let's Go Met agitators are now back in the concourse, to less effect, but so are the mooks displaying their Yankee gear, the people on cellphones trying to locate their friends 33 sections away so they can say “Yeah, I see you waving!” and the legions of dimwitted, drunk and potentially homicidal who would emerge from a tunnel and stop in front of you to stare like stunned cattle at the field. When I mentioned the lack of fans getting to their feet to my seatmate, she cocked an eyebrow and said, “Well, now they can see.” I'm not sure what side of this one I come down on — ask me around Independence Day. But it's definitely one to think about as we get used to the new place.)
Anyway, the Mets had good at-bats and hit balls hard though often in evil luck. They're 6-6, and those six losses have seen a total margin of defeat of just eight runs, which is what your average pinstriped middle reliever surrenders during a bathroom break up at Leni Riefenstahl Stadium. A bit of regression to a friendlier mean and the Mets look just fine, particularly since I'll go out on a statistical limb and bet against the Marlins playing .917 ball the rest of the way. But stripped of the novelty of new parks and new seasons, losses like this eat at you. What's acceptable and almost forgivable in April is distressing and dispiriting in June, and calamitous in September.
It will repair your losses and be a blessing to you. No, not The Collected Works of Whitman or a DVD of Bull Durham with deleted scenes. (Don't bother looking, it doesn't exist.) I'm talking about Faith and Fear in Flushing: An Intense Personal History of the New York Mets. Get yours from Amazon, Barnes & Noble or a bookstore near you. Keep in touch and join the discussion on Facebook.