For the Mets, whatever happens between first pitch and final out has become secondary. There are injury woes, draft-pick signings, waiver claims, contract disputes and front-office assessments that are more important and usually more interesting than the outcome of the actual games. At this point, the Mets' 2009 W-L record is a measure of how much lipstick winds up on the pig.
And yet there's still baseball under all this mess, and last night the baseball was marvelous, full of tension and bad feeling and injustice and unlikely heroes (the Mets being stripped of all likely ones) and, at last, victory. It's a shame that last night's game will be (and in fact mostly has been) already forgotten, lost amid the musings of charming old huckster Pedro Martinez, the possibility of Billy Wagner departing (I'm not sure he isn't more valuable as an arbitration case and a compensatory draft pick) and Omar and Sheffield trying to get their stories straight. Because it was a classic — the Phillies against Cora's Irregulars, now minus Cora.
Yes, even the sarge is gone — he was last seen somewhere amid the hedgerows with two busted thumbs, trying to figure out how to fire his sidearm with his teeth as the Germans closed in. Now it's down to Murph, Frenchy, Big Pelf, Fat Little Luis, Angry Gary, Kid Santos and the rest of the grown-up-too-fast platoon, lost in occupied territory, bereft of training, low on ammunition and surrounded by enemies.
But last night they made it.
There was Fernando Tatis hustling out a triple and later scoring on a sacrifice fly to the first baseman. (Yes really. Remember you saw that.) There was Mike Pelfrey — even crankier and weirder than usual — looking like he'd take a piece out of Cole Hamels if not for the fact that it was way too hot to fight. There was the injustice of an amazingly terrible call on Jimmy Rollins' neighborhood tag on Jeff Francoeur at second. (Whatever doesn't kill you makes for a spicier storyline.) There was Pelfrey watching his defense self-destruct behind him in the sixth, with Anderson Hernandez seemingly mistiming his stab at a potential inning-ending double-play grounder and Luis Castillo leaving first uncovered, giving the Phillies the bases loaded with one out and an invitation to turn the game into another farce. There was Pelfrey responding to that by then popping up Ben Francisco and Rollins, a good sign for him in a season that's been light on good signs. There was Pedro Feliciano defanging the Phils' deadly lefties yet again, the instant first-guess of Sandy Alomar opting for Brian Stokes to get Jayson Werth as the tying run, and Stokes striking out Werth on a high inside fastball. (Wanna run your mouth about that, Mr. Wagner?) And then Frankie Rodriguez stumbling through another potential disaster, only to find redemption by striking out Chase Utley and Ryan Howard.
In a better season that would have been one for the season-in-review DVD — a terrific opener to a crucial weekend showdown. In this season there's no such thing — I believe the 2009 DVD will opt for a gauzy fade-out shortly after Omir's homer off Papelbon. But last night's game was still a wildly entertaining, thoroughly satisfying way to spend three hours. Think of it as a reminder of what was, and a down payment on what will be again.
AMAZIN' TUESDAY returns to Two Boots Tavern August 25 at 7:00 PM. Join Greg Prince, Dana Brand, Caryn Rose and me for a fun night of reading, eating, drinking and all things Mets baseball (Mets baseball optional). Full details here.