For several hours Thursday I grappled with a modest identity crisis. My lifelong affiliation with the Capricorn party was cast into doubt by an astrological development that claimed I was actually a Sagittarius. I haven’t eyeballed my horoscope in decades, yet being a Capricorn — goat horns and all — has always been as much a part of who I am as being a Mets fan — goat horns and all. This realignment of stars was reportedly the result of the earth’s rotation wobbling, just like the Mets’ last May when their rotation spun on a shaky axis of Maine and Perez. Whatever the cause, the zodiac’s reset button had been pushed. It was all disturbingly different from when my sign was initially communicated to me…which was when I was six, right around the time I learned I was a Mets fan.
Now what I knew wasn’t true? I wasn’t a Capricorn? I was a Sagittarius? Or Sagittarian? What exactly was I now called? And what in hell was going on in the heavens? For all I truly knew, the standings I read when I was six years old were as retroactively inaccurate as the horoscope page.
For all I knew, I was really an Expos fan.
Somewhere across the Thursday evening sky, I changed my mind. If the cosmos had traded me from the Caps to the Saggies, who was I to not report? The hell with the goats. I was — once I looked it up — an archer, and damn proud of it.
Then I read another story that said, essentially, never mind. The realigned zodiac was for real, or as real as the zodiac gets, but because we live in the hemisphere where we live, we could all return safely to our previously assigned constellations.
Hence, just as I was deeply mulling my new identity as a Sagittarian (“mainly concerned with philosophy, higher education and global thinking”), I shifted right back to my familiar role on Team Capricorn (“introvert” — and I’d rather not say a word more than I have to).
Reassuringly, I never stopped being a Mets fan. They could shuffle the Libras, the Virgos and the Gemini from one calendar page to the next; they could shorten Scorpio to six days; and they could even roll out the new sign of Ophiuchus (which, if I recall correctly, is the sound I made when Luis Castillo dropped that pop fly), and that part of me wouldn’t change. Fans don’t get traded.
Players, however, do. They get waived, released, non-tendered, designated for assignment and sometimes they play out their options and leave as free agents. When I was granted the opportunity to exchange a few words with one Met some three months ago, I came away with the impression that the only option he wanted was to stay a Met.
The option, however, was not in Chris Carter’s hands.
A new regime swept in, and one of its first tangible moves was sweeping out Carter, a skilled specialist on a team badly in need of talented generalists. He gave the Mets what Frank Cashen would have called “character in their left-handed pinch-hitting,” 19 times in 58 at-bats (.328) to be exact. It was the stuff of Staub, but on Sandy Alderson’s Mets, good old latter-day, one-dimensional Rusty might not stick, either (1985 OBP of .400 notwithstanding).
Chris Carter couldn’t have seemed less animalistic — save for all humans technically being animals — when I met him, no matter how we all delighted in calling him the Animal for how ferociously he prepared in advance of his infrequent playing assignments. Chris, however, held a different identity dear as the 2010 season ended. As our brief early October conversation wound down, I asked him what I considered a benign enough question: who did he like in the upcoming National League playoffs? The look in his eyes indicated sheer animalism had taken hold. Chris Carter clearly had no interest in choosing among Phillies, Braves, Reds or Giants, not even for small talk’s sake.
“I just think Mets,” he said.
Nowadays, presumably, Chris Carter contemplates Rays, Rays and nothing but Rays. Last week he signed a minor league deal with the reigning American League East champs, an outfit suddenly beset by a Metsload of openings given their own Aldersonian budget issues. I sincerely hope the minor league tag is strictly bookkeeping and that he makes the Tampa Bay club this spring. Though I spoke to Carter in a quasi-professional capacity that particular Blogger Night, I was just thinking Mets fan. That’s my identity, that’s my star sign. When a Mets player turned so darn serious on the subject of being a Mets player, it was fair to say I didn’t need to read my horoscope to tell me I was about to experience much joy.
Three months later, that Mets player who thought just Mets isn’t a Met anymore. It may be a reasonable and ultimately helpful baseball decision, and there may be a net Met gain where 2011 roster composition is concerned. But gosh, to meet a Met who had his mind set on “Met” — even if Carter wasn’t a Met a whole lot longer than I was a Sagittarian — and then to realize his setting, like that of almost every Met, was merely temporary…
Sometimes the fault lies not in our stars, but in our attachments.