Winter Training shifts into high gear with an exhibition of nothingness tonight, one more a week from tonight and then, starting the following Monday, we have nothing for real.
I'm picking the Mets to go 0-0 starting October 5, but I don't want to be overconfident.
Until then, nine games of baseball remain, all of it probably like last night's version, which could easily be mistaken for nothingness. But you go to enough Mets games — and at 33 and counting, nobody can say I haven't done that — you still see some things worth noticing. Provided you're of a mindset to find them worthy.
First, the 1969 World Series trophy. If you're wondering where she spends her days now that there's no Diamond Club or physical Hall of Fame, I couldn't tell ya. But the Mets did mysteriously bring her out to get some fresh air Wednesday night, perhaps in honor of the Mets' first division title turning forty years old today. For whatever reason, when Rich and I walked in through the Bullpen Gate (he parks fearlessly amid the potholes and stray dogs of the Iron Triangle), there she was, one of our two shiny baubles. I'd read they brought her out for '69 Reunion Night, which made sense you don't have to think about. I guess it always makes sense to remind us there have been better days than these.
A couple of security men guarded her, though not as many as those who guarded Pedro Feliciano the night before (we can always get another middle reliever, however). One of those Fan Photos guys stood by to snap you and the trophy. Or you could take your own from the side. We didn't photograph with her. We just wanted to bask in her aura. I took particular pleasure in eyeballing her Seattle Pilots flag. Earlier this year it was pointed out that only the '69 trophy has a Seattle Pilots flag, which is one of those facts that is both obvious and astounding when you think about it.
Second worthy thing: The return of the Las Entradas Angels of Flushing, our area's answer to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Those Angels earn their wings by hopefully halting American League playoff madness if so called upon. Ours wear a halo based on their creating new and exciting accommodations for diehard fans like myself. These Angels see you night after night, know you somehow deserve better than a deserted left field Promenade and magically reseat you in the Field Level. I don't know how they do it, but isn't that what makes magic magical? Thanks to the Las Entradas Angels of Flushing, Rich and I were a lot closer to the action than we'd planned.
Rich and I, Giants nostalgists that we are, make a point of going to see the Mets every September 23 to commemorate the committing of Merkle's Boner. Watching a lineup that features Castillo, Pagan and Murphy, it seemed a particularly appropriate setting for our observance.
Not that the action was worthy of the ire of a John McGraw or the stylings of a Cait Murphy, but it was active. From the lower precincts of right field we could see clearly all those balls find all those holes between first and second, and all those baserunners get acquainted with their bases (so much so that most on the Mets' side never wanted to leave them). We could also see that the new age Field Boxes are actually one of those segments of Citi Field that works as well as promised. That ballyhooed tilting of seats toward the infield, a negligible factor when you're upstairs wondering where the ball went, really helps you watch a baseball game. It's a big improvement over the Shea equivalent (where one person would get up, a thousand people would get up, you would get up, and nobody would see anything anyway), one of the few Citi sightlines that, save for balls heading toward the corner, rocks. Nobody ever said Citi Field wasn't adorable to stare at, but from most angles, it's an abomination for baseball. Not in those very good seats that normally go for a very good price, but instead came to us from those spirits looking out for our best interests. As Charles Townsend used to tell Sabrina, Kelly and Jill, “Good work, Angels.”
You also notice how bright the lights are when you're planted in right field. Too bright for comfort. I've just given Jeff Francoeur a worthy alibi, darn it.
For modestly worthy entertainment, we had fidgety Mike Pelfrey as Peter Tork. He pitches as if taking part in a Monkees video: comic anxieties, buckets of flop sweat, pratfalls and a little of everything but professional calm. Plus the whole thing's often sped up for hilarious effect. Sometimes Pelf/Pete gets out his mess, but this season the Mets have been short on daydream believers. Last night, no one came to Mike Pelfrey's rescue, not even Mike Nesmith. Oh well, you tell your Pelf: tomorrow's gonna be another day.
You know who was poised last night? Chad. Chad's the ball boy stationed down the right field line. I wouldn't know that without having sat there. Chad's got a following. He's got three teen boys who have decided Chad is that twelfth man on the basketball team you call for when your team is up (or down) by 30 with three minutes to go. They do “CHAD!” for “CHARGE!” and wear “CHAD!” t-shirts. The section seemed familiar with the call. And Chad took it in stride (of course he did — he's no Mike Pelfrey).
How much do you notice when you go to 33 games? You notice a hair out of place. You notice the Mets Foundation billboards down the lines have become ads for Victorinox Swiss Army watches, whatever those are. You notice the blank space to the left of the out-of-town scoreboard that became an MLB Network ad in July became revolving divisional standings over the weekend, but that by last night they featured only the National League East. Was there really a need to emphasize for nine hard innings that the Mets were 23 going on 24 games out of first?
Brian Schneider batted .158 in July and .149 in August. I looked at up the scoreboard and he was suddenly scraping .220. Brian Schneider's hitting .474 in September. Somebody sure heard that salary drive horn sound.
Being that it's Citi Field, you notice the food. I notice the food far too much for my own good. Gone from the World's Fare is the stand that sold quesadillas and specialty sandwiches themed to a given homestand's opponent (R.I.P. the incredible Cuban and more lightly mourned D.C. Wreck) and in its place is a selection of Korean and Chinese delicacies. How delicate I'm not sure; I went with the lo mein since I could identify it on sight. Not a bad idea implementing the Asian theme at Mets games since word is Flushing is sort of known for that kind of cuisine.
This has been a disjointed post. But I root for a disjointed team.
I feel I've seen this guy…perhaps in the mirror.
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