When Jenrry Mejia clutched some indeterminate part of his upper body and walked unhappily off the mound, I just stared at the TV.
It could be nothing — when a young pitcher whose arm is potentially worth millions does anything odd on the mound, the catcher rears up, the trainer double-times it to the mound, the manager frowns and takes him out, and five minutes later the young pitcher is in the clubhouse wondering how he can train himself not to ever sleep funny on a body part again, given how paranoid everybody is around here.
On the other hand, it’s the Mets. Johan Santana had a pectoral strain and is now expected to pick up a baseball again in the 33rd century, or some other depressingly far-off epoch during which we’ll still be paying Bobby Bonilla to eat things. If Mejia had taken five steps and turned into a pile of ash, I would have been horrified but not particularly surprised.
My next thought was ridiculous, but equally Metsian: Mejia had given up a run, but not a hit. The Pirates led 1-0, and Raul Valdes — who always looks like he’s heading into his boss’s office for a bad quarterly review — was jogging in from the bullpen. Wouldn’t it just be like the Mets, I thought, to finally get a no-hitter and have it be not only one of those sad combined efforts BUT ALSO A LOSS? What would we do if our long quest ended that way — with Mejia, Valdes, Manny Acosta and Sean Green pitching a no-hitter and losing 1-0 to give the Pirates their 16th road win of the season?
I think we’d insist that the scorer turn Ruben Tejada’s error into a hit, that’s what.
What Valdes authored, though, was more of a yes-hitter: He allowed four runs in 1.2 innings. In the blink of an eye it was 5-0, Pirates. And then, somehow, it wasn’t: Before you could say single single double walk single error error groundout single, the Mets were up 7-5 and everything was completely and utterly nuts. As proof, meet your winning pitcher: Raul Valdes. Honestly, the Mets and Pirates should just play each other 162 times a year, with batters swinging blindfolded and baserunners forced to utilize giant hamster balls. It couldn’t be more ridiculous than tonight’s game.
Which, come to think of it, was pretty fun.
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Last night’s news from Coney Island, on the other hand, was no fun at all: Wally Backman’s mighty Brooklyn Cyclones suffered a power outage in the New York-Penn League Championship Series and were defeated. In the ninth the Cyclones were down four runs, but got two men on with one out, the crowd was roaring for them, and I briefly and blissfully let myself believe a miracle might be in the offing. But the next batter rapped cruelly and instantly into a double play, and winter had come to MCU Park. I turned off the radio and was surprised at how upset I was. I enjoy Cyclones games, but they’re a short-season A team, meaning you really are rooting for laundry: The good players move on, the not-so-good ones go home, and every year brings an essentially new team. This makes the Cyclones easy to like, but difficult — through no fault of their own — to truly love.
Yet I was crushed. I think part of that is that Emily and I were big Cyclones fans in their inaugural summer of 2001, when they were a phenomenon and Angel Pagan was their first heartthrob. The original Cyclones (let’s ignore their previous incarnation as the St. Catharines Blue Jays, let alone the misgotten year in which they were the Queens Kings) had an almost-identical overall record as the 2010 team, and were also almost unbeatable at home. They won the first game of the New York-Penn League Championship Series, leaving them just one more victory from a title. But that first win was on Sept. 10, 2001. The series never resumed, and the Cyclones had to settle for being co-champions. Which is understandable, perspective and all, but still a wrong I’ve hoped another Cyclones team would put right. I really thought this was going to be that team, right up until the moment that became impossible.
If you’re game for more thoughts on the Cyclones, I’d love it if you’d check out this piece I wrote for MSG.com.