You can’t take the numbers you see after five games terribly seriously. Do we really think Jeff Francoeur will hold to an on-base percentage of .500? That Ollie Perez will be hitting .500 all year? That Jose Reyes will be fielding .875 when all is said and done?
On the other hand, it would be hard, based on recent precedent, to bet against Ollie’s 6.35 ERA being the norm. From the looks of him, I can’t imagine Frank Catalanotto raising his batting average from .000 to any higher than .001. And then there’s the performance that doesn’t show up in the boxscore, that of the Mets fans.
Are we going to be a bunch of bumps on logs from now to October 3? I sure hope not. I’d like to think not. But honestly, I don’t know.
I was hoping to come home Saturday afternoon not just celebrating a Mets win (thwarted on that count) but also elevated by being At The Mets Game on a big day, when Jose Reyes returned. This was no mere undisabling. It was a month ago tomorrow that we received the news of the thyroid setback. Jose, it was said, would be restrained from “baseball activity” for two to eight weeks. Turned out to be not quite two, and it took only eighteen days between that all-clear coming down and Jose Reyes, once again, batting leadoff and playing shortstop for the New York Mets.
His first appearances were greeted warmly. I had hoped they’d be greeted hotly. It shouldn’t have been chilly at Citi Field this afternoon. It should have been downright Dominican out there. But Jose brings enough heat on his own. Nevertheless, we met him in lukewarm fashion: a nice hand when the lineups were read, a semi-standing O when he came to bat the first time. Jose drained the drama a bit by swinging overanxiously and not getting hits.
But then, in the ninth, it was perfect. Jose’s the leadoff hitter. There’s nobody you’d rather have up when you’re down by one and you wanna be starting something. Sure enough, the prodigal sparkplug singles.
Jose’s on first and we…what? At first, nothing much. A few of us Jose!‘d, but not en masse. Perhaps everybody was spent from that wave they were doing in the top of the ninth when their 20-year-old phenom reliever Jenrry Mejia was mowing down the opposition on nine pitches, keeping us viable for the bottom of the inning. Or perhaps they were tired from taking pictures of each other against the appealing backdrop of a major league baseball game in progress. Or it could be that nothing any Met was doing could be as interesting as comparing scores from the Masters, as the fellas in front of me in Section 508 were doing when not drinking beer.
Then DiamondVision interrupted and ran a graphic in which the screen was filled with Jose!s. That cue, along with the traditional Jose! music, got the crowd going briefly. Then the music stopped and the DiamondVision showed Alex Cora’s face and it was back to nothing.
What, we can’t cheer unless we are electronically cajoled? Really? We, Mets fans, need that?
The rest of the ninth-inning rally progressed the same way. If DiamondVision suggested a LET’S GO METS! then the suggestion would be followed. When the suggestion was over, so was the enthusiasm, as if most Mets fans have no idea that it’s OK to keep yelling without specific provocation. Despite Reyes being moved to second on Cora’s sac bunt; despite David Wright walking; despite Jeff Francoeur walking; and despite this being a one-run game against a closer with no known well of ice water in his veins, most of the crowd could not bring itself to sustain a cheer for more than a few choreographed seconds.
Oh, and it was Scarf Day. The scarves were nice. They came in handy against the cold and the wind, but it was warm enough by the ninth to take them off and twirl them. Imagine a sea of blue and orange stripes getting Matt Capps’ attention, or maybe even Willie Harris’s.
You must imagine Mets fans making noise and distracting opponents because if DiamondVision didn’t actively tell them to do it, they didn’t. It’s probably absurd to believe that was the difference between winning and losing, but it was the difference between feeling people who go to Mets game have a stake in what happens down on the field and noticing how distant everybody seems from the action in this intimate ballpark. In a season when we’ve been accommodated with a fantastic museum and all kinds of extraordinary nods to team history (the P.A. played two Jane Jarvis recordings before the game!), the oldest tradition in the Met books, that of proactively urging the players on, seems to be dangerously close to extinct.
It’s sad. It really is.
Don’t mistake this for Mets fans being polite. We’re not polite, as Ollie Perez could tell you every time he went to ball two, but we’re not properly engaged either. We’re not being the Mets fans we’ve always been. We’re not generating Let’s Go Mets! without a video nudge; we’re not seeking soft spots in the other team’s psyche; we’re not exuding anxiousness over the outcome like nothing else matters for those few minutes when the final score is definitively in doubt. The acoustics at Citi Field are such that I pick up on far more conversations than I care to, and I hear everything being talked about except baseball. It’s a free country, but it’s not a free ticket, so why would you come to a baseball game to be immersed in anything but? The only guy I heard who seemed into what the Mets were doing was a coot a few rows back whose gems included:
• A singsong chant for “ROO BIN TEH HADA!” when Reyes batted because, well, Reyes wasn’t perfect and Tejada wasn’t there.
• A cursing out of Reyes for making a poor play on an Adam Dunn grounder, oblivious to the fact that it was Wright who didn’t handle the ball per the overshift employed against Dunn.
• A loud declaration that “HE’S ANOTHER ROBERTO ALOMAR!” after Jason Bay struck out in the ninth.
Citi Field has never been a better place to visit, yet those who visit it aren’t living up to the ballpark’s early-season standard-setting. Get up and walk around and chat and do whatever the hell you want, but if you’re in your seats in the ninth inning and your team (as indicated by your garb) is loading the bases and attempting to tie, then how can you not be heart and soul into what’s going on?
I really don’t understand it. This isn’t an entirely new revelation for me; it’s been coming for a few years, dating back to Shea’s overreliance on its automated cheerleading, but not in the ninth, not when the tying run’s on third and the winning run’s on second. Maybe there’s an element of “Won’t Get Fooled Again” to the mass reticence after the disappointments of recent seasons, but you’re already in the ballpark and the Mets are alive and kicking. They’ve survived the bare adequacy of Oliver Perez, they’ve persevered through Willy Taveras and Tyler Clippard (which, FYI, was a great ventriloquism act in the ’70s) and they don’t know yet — all previously compiled evidence notwithstanding — what Willie Harris’s glove is going to do to Rod Barajas’s sinking two-out liner.
So how come these people can’t roar for their team without a gigantic television screen telling them to?