Baseball is full of hoary cliches that have become overused because they contain a fair bit of wisdom. Among them is the caution that no team is actually as bad as it looks when it's on the skids or as good as it looks when it's on a winning streak.
It will come as a shocking surprise, tomorrow or the day after or later this week or sometime fairly soon, to watch the New York Mets lose a game. They will pitch badly or make errors or fail to show patience at the plate or pop the ball up or just get beat, and we will fret and grumble and moan and they will lose some more games and we will view them with suspicion or derision or despair. In other words, we'll take a series of baseball games and contort them as required until we've fulfilled the basic human need to impose a storyline on potentially unrelated events.
It's utterly irrational, and you know what? That's fine. Shrugging away the season's ebb and flow as statistical noise is undoubtedly a more accurate way of viewing the world, but it sure makes things dull in the telling. It's important to be able to remind yourself that no, David Wright will not strike out every time from now until the sun goes dark, just as Carlos Beltran will not finish the season at .374 and play with a blank back to his jersey for the rest of his Met career because we'll retire his number posthaste. But once you do that, let go again — whether it's to exult or suffer.
Right now would be to exult. Right now it rains overnight and just enough so you don't have to water after work, the cops are handing out warnings instead of tickets, the bank errors are in our favor, the chef sends out an amuse-bouche with each course, and the toast always lands butter side up. It won't be like this often, so soak it up.
Certainly the Mets can do no wrong — being down 2-0 with Livan Hernandez missing his spots and Ian Snell crackling fastballs and arcing sliders to all sides of the plate felt like a momentary inconvenience, and indeed it proved so. Livan found himself, Snell lost himself, Livan and Jose and David played sparkling defense and the hapless Pirates played their trademark lousy kind. (I cannot figure out why Brian Bixler is on a major-league roster.) Reyes and Luis Castillo pulled off a double steal, Daniel Murphy caught everything hit his way even when it looked like Jerry Manuel had waited too long to bring in Jeremy Reed, and Castillo even hit his 20th career sacrifice fly.
It was all kinds of wonderful, and we got to see it firsthand — as you know from Greg's kind birthday wishes, I turned 40 on Friday, which went into the mix with Emily enjoying her seventh Mother's Day and Joshua enjoying just being a kid at a ballgame on a spring day. Emily decided a while back that going all out at our new ballpark was just the thing for these intersecting celebrations, so we went to Citi Field in grandly over-our-heads style: brunch at the heretofore-unglimpsed Acela Club and seats in the Excelsior deck, behind home plate and a couple of rows below the SNY booth. (My goodness do I love my wife — while thanking God every day that she has such pitifully bad taste in men.) In case you're wondering, the Acela Club's food is very good — Emily had crab cakes and gave them high marks — though given Citi Field's other food options I think brunch makes more sense than dinner. Oh, and be aware that those window views you see on TV come with a surcharge, the exact amount of which we didn't quite nail down in friendly discussions with Mets folks. I think the extra would be worth it to eat good brunch and watch BP, but your mileage may vary.
Our seats were reached from the Caesar's Club, which is a comfortable, elegant space full of cushy chairs and generous couches and big windows that actually give the vista a bit of grandeur that makes you do a double-take when you remember you're looking at Flushing. To that, I must add that the Caesar's Club feels like it has nothing to do with the baseball game taking place not so far away. It would be heaven during a long rain delay or as a retreat for someone who doesn't care about baseball, but happily neither of those conditions applied today, so regarding things that were Caesar's we had rendered unto us nothing except a couple of bathroom trips and a glass of wine.
Emily and Joshua got to go on the field for the National Anthem, courtesy of Joshua being a member of the Kids' Club and Emily being a member of the Moms' Club. (I could pick them out with perfect ease from 500 feet away — like most fathers and husbands, by now I'm very familiar with the posture of my son when he's not really trying and failing to hold still and listen and that of my wife when she's offering well-deserved remonstrances. They arrived just in time for first pitch thanks to some speedy navigation of Citi Field's concrete bowels and still vaguely mysterious elevators, and we were off.
Our vantage point was perfect for continuing Joshua's baseball education, whether it was Ryan Church pantomiming making a catch of Ramon Vazquez's single with Robinzon Diaz on first or the Pirates playing in against Reyes and then retreating to halfway with two strikes. We also inadvertently furthered his education in other ways.
It was fun being 20 feet from Ron Darling and Gary Cohen, and I was inordinately proud of myself for (barely) managing not to loudly profess my admiration of them. To their left and directly behind us was Omar Minaya's suite, where our GM was entertaining folks with the windows open. (I also managed not to yell a grateful “Wilbur Huckle!” at Keith Olbermann.) As I noted to Emily, Omar's proximity led to the amusing spectacle of heads in our section swiveling to give Omar a direct dose of the gimlet eye whenever one of his acquisitions did something questionable.
This became relevant during Sean Green's rather unsuccessful working out of various kinks. Emily was tired and impatient by then, and our son was immensely more so on both counts, plus full of a dangerous amount of sugar. Anyway, Emily started barking at Green, which sent Joshua off, screeching (with a scary amount of both volume and venom) at our distant, hapless reliever that the idea was that he pitch well, not badly, and so stop annoying six-year-old Mets fans and their mothers.
This was amusing, except right about then Nate McLouth (why do the Pirates employ 75% of blond, mulleted ballplayers, anyway?) hammered a ball into the seats and one of us made the mistake of noting that Omar the GM of the Mets, who'd acquired Sean Green, was nearby. If you ever idly noted at a fraternity party that, hey, cups full of beer can be thrown as well as drunk, it was pretty much like that. Joshua yelled something out at the field at “Omir” and we, focusing on accuracy of charges rather than advisability of behavior, compounded the error by noting that Omir was blameless and Omar was behind us.
So up goes Joshua on his seat, turning around to stare like a gunfighter into the GM's suite and loudly give Omar advice about bad middle relievers and what ought to be done with them while everyone around us laughed and we tried to hide. If any of you attend tomorrow night's game and find that the cordon in front of the SNY booth has suddenly quadrupled in size, you'll know whom to blame.
Faith and Fear in Flushing: An Intense Personal History of the New York Mets will further your baseball education without the whole yelling at the GM problem. Check it out at Amazon, Barnes & Noble or a bookstore near you. Keep in touch and join the discussion on Facebook.