It’s not yet the Baseball Equinox — though I’m eagerly awaiting word from Greg that we’re finally closer to new baseball than we are to old. But nonetheless, in the last couple of days I’ve felt a quickening somewhere in my blue-and-orange soul.
And it has nothing to do with our front office. Just having Sandy Alderson on the payroll is grounds for celebration, as is having him make smart hires and calmly explain to everybody from Mike Francesa to panicky Mets fans what is and isn’t happening, and that there’s a plan that’s being stuck to. (And hey, getting to talk to the man himself is certainly a welcome new experience.) Still, even the wisest doings of men in jackets and ties can only do so much.
This was different.
And welcome, as I was beginning to worry a bit.
After the 2010 season mercifully expired with Oliver Perez and a bunch of Jerry Manuel Veteran Leaders (TM) taking up space at Citi Field, I didn’t particularly want to think about my misbegotten baseball team for a while. The Giants and Rangers offered a welcome diversion, but then — as always happens — baseball was over and it was winter.
For a while filling my days wasn’t a problem: I was insanely, frighteningly busy in a medium-term freelance gig I’d taken, and I was trying to finish a book that had been squeezed into night-owl hours but whose deadline hadn’t moved. It was about the most tired I’d ever been — I registered the departures of Omar and Jerry and the arrivals of Sandy and J.P. and DePo with what approval I could muster, but mostly I just stayed tired.
And then when I got my breath back a bit, it was clear that the Mets weren’t going to be making big headlines. No Cliff Lees or Zack Greinkes or even Orlando Hudsons were going to be showing up to awkwardly button a jersey over a shirt and tie (seriously, this looks ridiculous) and say can-do things. No, it was Paulino and Carrasco time. I’ve watched the Knicks a bit, with what started as a professional duty turning into a genuine rooting interest. (Perhaps sensing the arrival of a Mets fan, they’ve now stopped winning.) Today I checked in on the Giants, decided to watch them finish off the Eagles, and found myself profoundly grateful that I didn’t really care as Tom Coughlin’s bunch gagged horribly. No offense meant to the Knicks and Giants (or the Jets, Nets, Rangers, Isles, Devils and anybody else), but the more I reallocate my portfolio of Sports Caring, the more I realize that for me there’s baseball and there’s everything else.
So what lifted my spirits? Baseball cards. Yes, in December.
Topps just released 2010 Bowman Draft Picks, news that I greeted with the kind of enthusiasm appropriate for a minor card set purporting to belong to a year that’s over. But then I noticed that Justin Turner had a card — Justin Turner who’d gone into The Holy Books with an evocative but inappropriate Norfolk Tides card from his time as an Oriole. Cool, I thought (becoming one of at least five or six people on the planet to do so), now I have a Justin Turner Mets card.
And hey, Topps made a Matt Harvey card — better get two of those, in case Harvey makes the big club. And ditto for potential future catcher/backup/trade bait/minor-league washout/who? Blake Forsythe. Thinking of Harvey made me think of Alderson’s announcement that the Mets would no longer abide by Bud Selig’s ridiculous slot criteria in the draft. Thinking about Turner made me think about Daniel Murphy and Ruben Tejada and Luis Castillo and Brad Emaus and a second-base competition in Port St. Lucie.
And that was a pure baseball thought — it wasn’t about the front office or cards or payrolls or draft picks. It wasn’t about being mad at Omar Minaya, or wondering about 2012. It was a brief vision of dirt and grass and sunshine, the pops of balls in gloves and the thunk of spring-training contact before little crowds.
Not so far away, I thought. And then, finally: That will be nice.