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Problems I Did Not Know I’d Have

From approximately 4:22 PM until 10:31 PM Eastern Daylight Time, I rooted for a first-place team [1], albeit one whose claim was staked temporarily and by a mere two percentage points. Still, what a wonderful six hours and nine minutes it was…particularly the part before 7:10.

Then the lights went out. The lights went out on the first-place Mets when those strangers from Detroit elbowed them back into second, and then the lights went out on our street about an hour and fifteen minutes later for two hours and fifteen minutes more. As I sat in the hot and the dark, I forgot what place what the Mets had been in from late afternoon to late evening. I was just trying to grope around our place.

The lights returned around 2:15 AM. The power is back, though the magic may have to wait. It would definitely be a more powerful statement to hail the FIRST PLACE METS at the official end of a baseball business day, but we can’t do that. The frustrating loss to the Tigers [2] means a half-game separates us the wrong way from Atlanta once again. A half-game out on June 25, however, isn’t the worst problem one can have as a Mets fan.

It surely wasn’t a problem I was anticipating when this season began. The Mets have a lot of problems I wasn’t anticipating, actually.

I didn’t know theoretically squeezing Angel Pagan out of center field upon Carlos Beltran’s presumed eventual return would present a problem. For that matter, I wouldn’t have guessed not having Angel for a day or two would seem like a problem. Jesus Feliciano’s nice night notwithstanding, it’s not the same team without Angel. I didn’t think I’d ever mean that in a complimentary fashion, but live and learn. And what ever will we do when our latent phenom Pagan has to go stand in a corner when Carlos comes back? Well, I’ll believe it when I see Carlos Beltran come back. And given that we’re Paganless for just one or two days, I’ll wait until I know he’s 100% healthy to consider four outfielders for three slots is a long-term problem. Angel’s current malady is supposed to be a passing thing, but how many “day or two” situations did we witness in 2009 that became permanent disappearances? It’s a new year, but old problems have a habit of lurking in the recesses of one’s closet of Met anxieties.

I didn’t know that R.A. Dickey not getting to complete his shutouts, in deference to keeping the closer sharp, would be a problem. Who knew R.A. Dickey was going to be cruising Goose Egg Highway let alone a big league mound? If R.A. isn’t for some reason able to keep up his blistering pace, he’ll be the second-best Met pitcher of 2010 behind the 6-0 R.A. Dickey we all know and love. R.A. Dickey, where have you been all our lives? You don’t have to answer that, it doesn’t matter. You’re here now. I also notice you’re hanging around with our other best pitcher of 2010, Mike Pelfrey. I find that somewhat amusing in that the camera used to find Pelf in the constant company of John Maine the way it now finds R.A. and M.P. making like BFFs. When Jerry Manuel indelicately suggested Maine could expect a role not starting, not relieving, but pitching on “the off days,” it occurred to me that as much as Maine doesn’t deserve a ton of slack, his buddy Pelfrey might find the jibe a little harsh. Nobody likes to see his best friend cut down by the boss, and why screw with Pelfrey’s delicate psyche? But credit Pelf for finding, apparently, a new best friend — one who’s gonna get a start every fifth day, or until he grows an ulnar nerve. (And if Manuel had grown some nerve, he would have eschewed Frankie’s tuneup inning and let R.A. go the distance.)

I didn’t know David Wright’s status in the All-Star voting would be a problem. They gave us Wright Fingers on Wednesday night. Happy to use mine for its intended purpose, but how about a pair of Reyes Running Shoes so we could race to our ballots and click on the right circle at short? I don’t know which Met or Mets will make the National League team and how many of them will fall between the cracks, but it’s always a little strange when the club begins to promote one player excessively and all the others no more than nominally. I realize that’s a function of Wright being the only Met within conceivable striking distance of winning election, but this never works. They tried to promote Rey OrdoƱez in 1999 (he was momentarily batting .300 and was forever fielding spectacularly) and it didn’t work. They tried to promote Paul Lo Duca in 2007 (mostly because he remained in contention toward the end) and it didn’t work. I’m all for David, but the problem here is we’re not Milwaukee. We don’t institutionally vote like our civic lives depend on it. It’s almost reassuring that we’re New York and we don’t really care. But it would be more reassuring if the unquestionable sparkplug of the hottest team in the league, Jose Reyes of the New York Mets, got as much love from his employers as his left-side teammate.

I didn’t know not having Jerry Seinfeld in the booth Thursday would be a problem. OK, not a real problem, but I missed having him around. I missed his live performance Wednesday but caught the replay of Jerry’s jubilee on SNY and he was brilliant. Yes! to subtly putting down SNY’s penchant for shows that feature idiots yelling at each other. Yes! to telling the affable Kevin Burkhardt to stop trying to be funny. Yes! to not knowing who’s on the Tigers because why the hell should any of us? The Mets made for his best material in years. These Mets are our best material in years, too. And when we’ve got material like that, one frustrating loss notwithstanding, we don’t have too many problems.