If the 2010 Mets get off to a bad start on the field or once again demonstrate that they’re incompetent and/or tone-deaf about treating injuries, building ballclubs or relating to fans, we’re going to get typecast. We’ll be fans of the Big Team That Can’t, the grizzled, paranoid saps who trudge around accompanied by our own personal blue-and-orange storm clouds, anvils suspended by frayed strings above our much-abused noggins. And there will be some truth to it.
This thought crept into unhappy view yesterday, at the beginning of what should have been a gleeful couple of hours. At 1 p.m. sharp I made my way from the office to the bedroom (I’m not sure but I may have even skipped), turned on the TV, and told the Cartoon Network its winter of animated hegemony was now over. There was SNY, and Gary, Keith and Ron, and green grass and baseball and Mets.
All good. All wonderful, in fact. But then came that moment.
Nelson Figueroa is on the mound, backed by scrubs and kids and retreads. There have been a bunch of scratches from the regular lineup. There is nothing to play for.
We were, I realized, pretty much exactly where I last saw the New York Mets getting statistics recorded for playing baseball. Was there any way this immediate reminder of 2009 could that possibly be good luck?
And then the moment passed, and I was able to sink gratefully into the old routine, by now so familiar that it’s practically muscle memory. There were some old Mets and some new Mets and some ex-Mets and some impossibly young Mets. There was a sideline interview with Jose Reyes, who looked cheerful enough giving Kevin Burkhardt vaguely considered answers beneath various objects perched on his head, like the tops of out-of-order Russian dolls. There was big Ike Davis, who got two hits and muffed a somewhat-tricky pop fly, providing us with three opportunities to overreact in various ways to March doings. There was the inevitable terrifying new Braves prospect, one Jason Heyward, to admire and then worry about. There were lousy calls and a minor injury to a not terribly important player and Keith talking about his dog and finally a Mets win, which I had long since stopped paying very much attention to.
During the winter it always seems faintly crazy that this could happen. Are you there, God? It’s me, Jason. If You’d only give me a spring-training game, I’d spend three hours watching it with laser-beam intensity and then be a better person. Thanks. Oh yeah, and amen. But it is always like this: By the 20th minute of the first Grapefruit League game I’ve got half an eye on the game and half an eye on something else, and am thoroughly used to having baseball back.
We talk about baseball fever a lot. But maybe we’ve been misdiagnosing it all these years. Because, honestly, doesn’t baseball fever come in the winter? That’s when I’m irritable (OK, more irritable than usual) and fidgety and can’t shake the feeling that the world is deplorably out of kilter. When baseball does return, within 20 minutes I relax and feel well again. Baseball fever — endure it.
* * *
I’m with Greg in giving the Mets kudos of a minor sort for finally admitting what we’ve all been complaining about for nearly a year: There are outfield seats in Citi Field from which you can’t see one and sometimes two outfielders, and now you’ll at least know it when you go to buy a ticket. If the Mets want me to shut up about this they should also discount those tickets — perhaps they should cost 7.5/9 of a ticket with full views? — but yes, it’s progress. I’ll also join my partner with a tip of the cap to the ever-vigilant Mets Police for walking this beat on behalf of fans.