Something looked wrong with that play from the first tentative step Luis Castillo took back and to his left. Something was awry with his footwork, with the way he was staring into the night sky, with the set of his shoulders … I don't know, but something looked wrong from the start.
Granted, a properly paranoid fan (which is to say every fan) always holds his or her breath on a game-ending pop-up that stays up there long enough for horrible thoughts to creep into the brain. But 999 out of 1,000 times, those horrible thoughts evaporate when the ball is squeezed, the held breath is released and the game is safe. But … I don't know. Something told me this might just be that 1,000th time, and it was.
Did Castillo lose it in the lights? Did he hear Ryan Church's footsteps? Did he … oh, whatever. It hit him right in the pocket of the fucking glove, the one his other hand was nowhere near. That's whatever.
The rest of a messy but fairly entertaining game now goes right down the memory hole, alas. The Mets were patient (and corporeal) when Joba Chamberlain and his annoying straight-billed hat kept throwing pitches around the plate and into Met bodies. Gary Sheffield blasted a from-the-heels home run that was decidedly satisfying; David Wright came back from what looked like a fishing expedition of a failed at-bat against Mariano Rivera to rifle a ball up the gap and score Carlos Beltran. Shawn Green and Pedro Feliciano offered bullpen hope, even if newcomer Jon Switzer made an instantly persuasive case that he is not the answer to the search for that other lefty in the pen. Livan Hernandez pitched ably enough on a night when you knew the two teams involved were going to trade broadsides for the duration and lost leads were the stuff of concern, not disaster.
No, disaster is hit about 200 feet in the air and a lousy 140 feet from home plate.
Well, I do at least have my hatred back. This week I learned a valuable lesson: Don't confess to anything less than a desire to see every Phillie and every Phillies fan left destitute and living in a refrigerator box on an active railway. The line to batter your correspondent was long: Faith and Fear readers, other blogs' readers, my wife, my co-blogger. Duly noted. Settling in for tonight's game, I knew there would be no such issue. Just the sight of Derek Jeter sticking his hand out behind him at the plate was enough to make me grit my teeth. Ditto for the first glimpse of A-Rod's oversized Mickey Mouse batting gloves, Joe Girardi and his annoying, presumptuous uniform number, and the sound of those awful post-Yankee-homer bells. It wasn't until the seventh inning when my jaw unclenched. (A temporary condition. Thanks, Luis.) Sometimes people who don't know me very well try to plumb the depths of my hatred for the Yankees, and I explain that seeing that the Yankees have won a spring-training game pisses me off, at least for a moment. When we're in a zero-sum affair, every pitch to a Yankee that's a ball is a bruise, every Yankee hit is a wound, every Yankee run is a near-death experience.
And every Yankee victory that comes with two outs in the ninth on a dropped pop-up by a fat, overpaid second baseman you've spent the year trying reluctantly to accept? I'm kind of amazed I can type. Shock is a powerful thing, I suppose.
I haven't seen enough of the new Yankee Stadium to form an impression of it, but it's definitely true — as Gary, Keith and Ron noted — that the place was oddly quiet. The score can't be an explanation, so what gives? In April Citi Field seemed oddly quiet itself, but it hasn't felt that way in a while, now that the weather has warmed and people have stopped touring the ballpark. Curious. I have no idea about the interior because I was too annoyed at Kevin Burkhardt being gosh-and-golly about the Museum of Pinstriped Fascism. (Memo to Kevin: This is a bad place for bad people. You should be a somber, reluctant guide, like you're showing us around an exhibit of war crimes.) Beyond that, the right-field stands gobbled their share of Yankee baseballs, but only Jeter's wouldn't have been out last year.
Just heard Howie Rose's call of the fatal play. Excuse me while I projectile-vomit.
Where do we go from here? I don't know, man. Ruinous loss against the Phillies. Another ruinous loss against the Phillies. A jaw-dropper of a disaster against the Legions of the Vertical Swastika.
Baseball, man. It'll fucking kill you sometimes. And now I'm off to stare at the ceiling and replay that one in my head. I'll do that with this play several thousand times in my lifetime. May as well get started.
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 not discuss FUCKING LUIS CASTILLO AND HIS FUCKING APPARENT LACK OF A FUCKING OPPOSABLE THUMB. Details here.
Faith and Fear in Flushing: An Intense Personal History of the New York Mets is available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble or a bookstore near you. Keep in touch and join the discussion on Facebook. NOTE: FACEBOOK IS EASIER TO USE IF YOU HAVE A FUCKING OPPOSABLE THUMB, APPARENTLY UNLIKE LUIS FUCKING CASTILLO.