The country thunder of Raul Ibañez didn't seem all that admirable, did it?
Fucking Raul Ibañez (all fucking Phillies will be, until further notice, referred to in this manner — and none of that cutesy-poo “phucking” spelling either) completely unplugged what had been an electric series Thursday night, one a Mets fan could imagine relocating to October and throwing off sparks under the NLCS banner until a most worthy league champion is crowned.
We Mets fans have great imaginations, don't we?
For 29+ innings dating back to Tuesday, it was real enough. This was 51 hours of outstanding baseball and gripping theater. Then came Ken Takahashi and fucking Ibañez and his fucking laser beam of a home run that bolted right through the Flushing fog causing the curtain to fall and the show to close. Exit the Citi Field crowd, stage left.
Yeah, fucking Ibañez was quite the buzzkill, though to be fair this game didn't seem to crackle like the two before. But so what? We were winning 3-1 for a while. Tim Redding was touchable but not overly penetrable. With his seven innings of walkless, gut-check ball, Redding became the latest “who he?” Met starter to move up the ladder. He would have anyway because of John Maine going on the DL (oh, by the way, John Maine is going on the DL), but he earned the promotion from “disturbing uncertainty” to “one thing we don't have to worry about as much as other things,” not unlike Liván Hernandez's 2009 trajectory.
The Mets' strong points include Liván Hernandez and Tim Redding. What a season.
Redding gave the Mets a real chance to win. He outpitched fucking Jamie Moyer, whose only saving grace is that he was born 43 days before I was, thus making him the only obstacle between me and my mortality. As long as there's a baseball player older than you, you still have a chance to grow up to become a baseball player. That's my story and I'm sticking to it. That said, fucking Jamie Moyer was quite touchable and seemed plenty penetrable, but I looked up from my Cascarino's chicken roll and my Nathan's fries — the food remains awfully good at Citi Field — and noticed penetration wasn't much achieved all night.
Fucking Moyer. And their fucking bullpen. Save for a stray open barn door single to Omir Santos to start the superfluous bottom of the tenth, fucking Clay Condrey, fucking Chad Durbin, fucking Scott Eyre and fucking Ryan Madson gave up not a darn thing to the Mets after fucking Moyer departed. The Mets (rather Luis Castillo by way of Carlos Beltran) did all their scoring by the fifth. Then it was time to tuck the bats in for the evening. Sleep tight, Sluggers!
Takahashi? Maybe he had some awesome stranglehold on lefty hitters, lefty pitcher that he is. That was my guess to my friend David who invited me to share in his interesting left field Promenade Box seats (interesting is code for neat perspective if you don't worry too much about tracking every little fly ball to left or center). I recalled Takahashi made his debut against the fucking Phillies in early May after Oliver Perez — name ring a bell? — was knocked out. Ken acquitted himself decently then, so maybe removing Bobby Parnell before fucking Chase Utley could spank our young man again wasn't a bad move.
I didn't know lefties were actually batting about two-thousand off Takahashi. I was out in left field. What was Jerry Manuel's excuse?
Well, there ya go. The Mets had a chance to sweep the fucking Phillies and instead lose the last two in a row. The fucking Phillies lead the Mets by four games. They're without fucking Brett Myers and fucking Brad Lidge but they just stormed through a gauntlet of a road trip. Maybe the injuries will catch up to them in the same way the Mets' mind-blowing lack of depth began to hit them after they acquitted themselves so wonderfully in San Francisco and Boston (when not sucking the chrome off the proverbial trailer hitch in L.A.).
The fucking Phillies aren't admirable. They're just good. If we start admiring good, then let's drop the artifice and become Dodgers (or Lakers) fans at once. It is the depleted Mets who are admirable for keeping up to this point. Even allowing for the performance du jour of a Sheffield, a Santos, a Castillo — and the heady leadership of Alex Cora — this lineup is Beltran and Wright and hide your eyes from the fright. The whole product is being held aloft by two All-Star hitters, one stellar closer and, at the moment, four generally sound to spectacular starting pitchers. The fifth, Maine, is off to the land of Perez and Putz, Delgado and Reyes and whoever else we've disabled (check closer, and I'll bet you find Pedro Astacio rattling around on the 15-day). Johnny got lit up by the notoriously inept Washington Nationals last Saturday which should have been the tipoff right there that something was very, very wrong. Get well, John. And let us know if you run into Ollie.
Saturday's starter in Maine's place will be…determined at a later date. I listened on the LIRR home as Steve Somers guessed Nelson Figueroa, which directed me to root around my schlep bag in search of expired medications that could dull the pain. Before I could swallow any out-of-code Ibuprofen, Ed Coleman came on to speculate it will probably be Jon Niese (a Saturday morning in 2011: “You know, Richard, Jon Niese never really recovered from being called up to make that start in place of Maine in the Subway Series before he was really ready a couple of years ago. It's a real shame what happened to the kid.”) or maybe Fernando Nieve, a starter only masquerading as a reliever…which would describe Ken Takahashi as well. I don't know who will start for us between Liván and Johan. I do know the Mets should don Red Sox uniforms for the next three days because they seem to work wonders against the Yankees…though it probably helps to fill them with Red Sox.
Lest this resemble the Thursday night fog in its gloom and doom, it wasn't a bad night at Red Brick, not with David one seat over for the first time since we swept the Rockies last July; not with visiting New York expatriate Andee dropping by from Portland, Oregon for the denouement; not with the aforementioned chicken roll; not even with the unwanted conclusion of the all-time Either Log record winning streak of seven games (which was mostly a mélange of triumphs at the hands of the Bucs, Nats and Fish, but ya play who ya play). The Citi Field novelty has, unlike that dense fog, officially burned off for me, and that's fine. I don't want it to be novel. I want it to be where I go to see Mets games (Mets wins ideally). Perhaps it's because I was showing David around on his maiden voyage that I no longer felt remotely like an alien in my ostensible home park (not when there are others who by dint of their personal schedules still do). Listen, there remain things I don't like about this ballpark, things I don't love about this ballpark, things I would change about this ballpark, but 36 seasons at Shea went by and those types of things existed there, too.
Congratulations, Citi Field. In your way, you're becoming Shea Stadium to me.
Three things have helped me permanently accept this ballpark besides the reality that it's not a weekend carnival that will fold up its tents Sunday and realight in Woodhaven next weekend:
1) Familiarity, familiarity, familiarity. It's not the back of my hand, but after fourteen games, it's creeping down my arm.
2) It's where they keep the Mets, and as down on them as I tend to plummet, I still like to join them as often as possible.
3) My coming and going rituals.
My coming ritual is simply stopping by my brick, no matter which way I'm headed. I can go Left Field, Right Field or Rotunda, but I gotta at the every least nod to my brick, maybe tap it with a toe. Last loss before last night? The last time I didn't acknowledge my brick.
My going ritual is exiting through the Rotunda. I don't particularly care if I come in that way, but I just about have to go out that way. Early in the season, I was scuttling out any ol' rathole. I didn't like it, particularly in tandem with trudging down those awful schoolhouse staircases. It was like ending a day at the ballpark with a tedious fire drill. Though they're slower than what I was used to at Shea — nice technological breakthrough 45 years later — I've come to enjoy the stroll down the left field ramps. In the right light, I feel enveloped by those enormous banners of great Mets moments, the ones that face out so people who are not at the Mets game can enjoy scenes of Mets history while people at the Mets games don't have to be bothered by any of that silly team-intensive imagery. While everybody else is spilling right toward the William A. Shea Memorial Parking Lot when we approach the final ramp sequence, I veer left and walk through Field Level, which isn't all that crowded by the time I'm downstairs. That allows me to exit grandly down one of the winding Rotunda staircases. Whatever time I'm taking by not hustling down those soulless back stairs is more than made up for by landing steps from the subway entrance. I find I leave in a much better mood, win or lose, than I did when I was first getting the hang of this place. Heading out the front door assures me I just spent a few hours belonging in that place. It makes me want to come back to see how it's doing, like I have a proprietary interest in its well-being, even as there are things there I don't like, don't love and would change.
I rather enjoyed the temporary ritual in between the coming and going, the one I established in May watching the Mets reel off seven consecutive wins. Perhaps that will be revived in the near future.
Until then, fuck the fucking Phillies. Imaginary NLCS previews are on hold. What we have to do right now is go beat the Yankees. I'd say “fucking Yankees,” but that seems redundant.
METSTOCK: 3 Hours of Pizza and Baseball is coming to Manhattan on Thursday, June 18, 7:00 PM. Meet the authors of A Magic Summer, Mets By The Numbers and Faith and Fear in Flushing: An Intense Personal History of the New York Mets, talk baseball with us, watch the Mets beat the Orioles just as they did in '69 with us and have a generally great time. Details here.