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Angel Pagan’s Proper Goodbye

I like hellos. I appreciate goodbyes. Those are the two interpersonal ceremonies I stand on.

Hellos aren’t hard to come by. You’re seeing somebody as planned, you say hello. You’re seeing somebody for the first time in a long time, you say hello. You’re meeting somebody for the first time ever, you say hello. Granted, you can feel swarmed by hellos when introductions are plentiful and you’re reasonably certain that everyone you’re hello-ing is someone you’ll never see again, but that’s part of the social contract. It’s nice.

Goodbyes, however, seem to be seeping away from our common discourse. I’m surprised at how often during the past few years I’ve spent innings or hours or evenings in the company of people who disappear before I can say goodbye. To be fair, sometimes I disappear before they can say goodbye. I don’t think anybody means anything by it. I know I don’t.

Life moves fast and all that — far faster than it did in Ferris Bueller’s analog day off [1]. Who has time to put a period on a sentence when we jump from ellipse to new paragraph to next page, and that’s taking into account that we hardly bother with paper anymore? Maybe there’s a generational shift at work here. Maybe Facebook and Twitter and their perpetual, multiheaded dialogues have warped the concept of boundaries. Maybe finite conversational transactions are simply going the way of men’s fedoras. Maybe people just have trains to catch. I know I do.

I bring this up for two primary reasons:

1) I didn’t get to say a proper goodbye to the people with whom I immensely enjoyed Wednesday night’s game.

2) I immensely enjoyed Wednesday night’s game [2] because Angel Pagan showed us what a proper goodbye consists of.

My agenda first: Thanks to Jeff, Dylan, David, Lyle and, well, the stream of people whose names I’ve already forgotten but seemed pleasant and pro-Met, which is all I ask of anybody, whether I’m at a Mets game or anywhere. Though texts have been exchanged and closure has been obtained, I thought you guys (the ones whose names I know) were following me to the car I had in mind on the Super Express. Why you didn’t read my mind, I’m not sure, but the doors were closing and Woodside was waiting and this seems to happen to me a few times per season. Sorry I didn’t get to shake everybody’s hand — though I surely relished high-fiving them minutes earlier.

As for the Mets, it is to their credit that they held off on their goodbyes as long as they did. This was one of those games, when it was 4-0 in the middle of the third, that you could sense was in danger of slipping into oblivion. So many nights you tell yourself an early 4-0 deficit isn’t insurmountable. So few nights do you actually believe yourself.

Wednesday, it was OK to believe. It was OK to believe R.A. Dickey would straighten himself out from his various jams. It was OK to believe Josh Thole — having just said hello to Camden Thole [3] on Tuesday night — would greet a couple of big pitches with big swings. It was OK to believe Carlos Beltran would know how to milk his not-long-enough goodbye [4] in powerful Pepsi Porch fashion. It was OK to believe Pedro Beato could bid adieu to Albert Pujols in three pitches and that Jason Isringhausen could persevere across 34 pitches. It was even OK to believe Gerald Laird’s safety squeeze that put the Cards up 5-4 in the eighth wasn’t a dagger to the Met heart. Not every St. Louis catcher is necessarily a lethal weapon.

And it was definitely OK to believe in Angel, a Met vouched for by everybody who knows him as the finest of young men, yet when he’s in one of those slumps to which he has a hard time saying “farewell” — or at least “smell ya later” — belief gets strained. Thus, when Angel (to whom I’d like to believe Carlos told, “son, you may have to be the man of the outfield around here soon”) transcends doubt and transforms it into affirmation, and suddenly a long, scary night filled with visions of Pujols, Holliday and Berkman batting again and again and again becomes truncated into Mets 6 Cardinals 5 in 10 innings because Angel Pagan goes yard…

…then, good night for now and I look forward to seeing you again real soon.