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Sweep Dreams

Carlos Beltran is wearing black and orange, like he was shorn of blue in a Citi Field makeover. It looks weird. It will for a couple of days, and then it won’t much matter. By then, I presumably won’t be listening to Giants-Phillies games just because Beltran’s a part of them.

The post-Beltran Mets can help by doing their part, as they did yesterday and again today, completing a four-game sweep [1] of the Reds in their Grating American Ballpark. I love the view of the river, and the park looks nice in general, but I can’t get past that tower/restaurant/batter’s eye thing in center field. I get that it’s supposed to remind me of a riverboat, but sitting there marooned behind the center-field fence it reminds me of a riverboat that was dropped out of a cargo plane, and moving it was such a pain in the ass that ballpark engineers just shored it up, propped up the smokestacks vaguely nearby and skedaddled. Plus the out-of-town scoreboard blurbs look like 20-foot Chiclets — I don’t think the out marker needs to be bigger than the left fielder’s head. Now that I’m a little more used to new ballparks, it occurs to me that most of their flaws are a product of trying too hard.

Anyway, the Mets had never swept the Reds in four on the road — nada, zip, zilch, not once. Today wasn’t exactly easy — they escaped with a 10-9 win, and the game seemed a lot closer than that, like the final score was Mets 10, Reds 9.9992. The ball was flying, as evidenced by an excuse-me home run from the very strong Joey Votto and a no-excuses-needed blast fromĀ Popeye Miguel Cairo, as well as repeated drives up the gap and down the lines by a happily long list of Mets, led by Lucas Duda and Jason Bay. The heat helped lift balls — by the middle innings the ballpark was a red sea of empty seats, with the crowd having largely departed to huddle in front of misters in the concourse. For which I blamed them not at all — the sight of a sweat-soaked, armored John Hirschbeck behind the plate was frankly a little scary.

Greg and I were together for this one, in a unique setting — we took it in from the couch of the MLB Fan Cave [2] in lower Manhattan, in the old Tower Records space. (When I realized the connection, I tried to think of a CD I’d bought where I was now sitting, except I remembered it was Tower Records and everything cost $17.98, which is why a] I never bought anything; b] Tower Records doesn’t exist anymore; and c] CDs basically don’t exist anymore.) The Fan Cave is continuously inhabited by two bloggers — Orioles fan Ryan Wagner and Yankees fan Mike O’Hara — who have a bank of 15 HDTVs at their disposal, as well as lots of computers. Besides the occasional dorky Mets blogger, their visitors include rock stars and baseball players (today brought the frontman of the Dropkick Murphys and the guy from Megadeth), there are pool and air-hockey tables, and there’s a club in the basement for events. The Fan Cave is only lacking a secret stairwell to a submarine base to make every part of your Y chromosome (and a few Xs I know) thrum with happiness. I asked Wagner how he kept track of all those games at once (I had whiplash with just Mets-Reds and Nats-Marlins on), and he responded with a pretty great simile: It’s like driving, he said. The three big TVs in the middle are the windshield, the smaller ones above are the rearview mirror, the smaller ones below are the dash, and you’re constantly scanning. (Wagner and O’Hara both seem to have eyes in the back of their head, keeping pretty good track of several games at once while multitasking across the room.)

The principals were pretty busy, so Greg and I took in the Mets from their couch, talking baseball with each other and a pal from MLB and everyone who crossed our paths. Aside from the terror of watching the Mets try to blow a fairly big lead, it was enormous fun — thanks to our hosts for letting us put our feet up in their temple of baseball for a few hours. Plus I got a ball from a dispenser outside for checking in to Showtime’s Giants documentary on Foursquare. Try it [3] — it really does work.

Greg got very quiet as Manny Acosta did what Manny Acosta generally does, but order was restored, and a ninth-inning wild pitch gave the Mets a crucial cushion for Jason Isringhausen. For my part, I was only theoretically worried, which is what happens when your team can do no wrong. Since that never lasts, my philosophy is to not question it and allow yourself momentary smugness.

But back to Izzy. It’ll be strange and faintly worrisome if he’s back next year, but for now I’m thrilled to have him as closer and team mentor. Izzy has become the Mets’ Elvis [4]: Those of us who are old enough remember Skinny Izzy, all aglow with the fires of youth and potential, even as we cheer for Fat Izzy, who has become wide but also wise. (He’s not that wide, actually — just trying to tie in with Elvis. Anyway, it’s not like you’d confuse the 1995 me with the 2011 me.) Perhaps the Mets should have an Izzy postage stamp night, with fans randomly getting the ’95 stamp on which our young badass wears his Mets cap and a strip club’s softball uniform or the ’11 Izzy stamp in which the veteran shrugs and smiles slightly, well aware of the fickleness of fate and pitcher’s body parts, and how enduring everything that happens with them will eventually teach even the most resistant student a lesson or two. Today, those lessons were enough — tomorrow, no one can say. Skinny Izzy would never have understood that; Fat Izzy learned it long ago. Baseball will do that to you.