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No Cheering in the Press Box

Note: I started writing this in the Citi Field press box during the seventh inning, promising myself that if the Mets staged an improbable comeback I would groan and hit delete in honor of suffering beat writers everywhere.

“No cheering in the press box” is one of the oldest rule of sportswriting, and it’s one that I agree with [1], even if they do one day let us dwellers in mothers’ basements into those august precincts.

Which the Mets were kind enough to do tonight.

With Greg unfortunately unable to attend, I represented us at the Mets’ latest blogger event. As always, it was a lot of fun. We started by attending Terry Collins’ pregame press conference (which happens just a few steps from the Hodges entrance on the right-field side), watched batting practice from the margins of the field, then got a visit from R.A. Dickey, up close and personal. Having now stood three feet from the man, I’m reasonably certain that he now actually exists and is not a figment of bloggers’ collective imaginations [2].

Dillon Gee's helmet and batting gloves [3]

Tools of the trade

We asked him about climbing mountains [4] in Africa, being on Twitter [5], writing a book with Wayne Coffey, the clubhouse this year and last year, his record and how he thinks he’s pitched, and a lot more, and he was invariably thoughtful. Where a lot of ballplayers (*cough* Jeter! *cough* Wright!) seem to have trained themselves not to be interesting, Dickey seems incapable of being dull. Above all else, he strikes you as comfortable in his own skin: He gently but firmly knocked aside a question about young players in garbage time not feeling the pressure of expectations, saying that any player in the major leagues arrives with such expectations; parsed what advanced stats say about his 2011 performance but said above all else he wants to win; and charmingly deflected a query about pitching into his 40s with the conclusion that he’ll be pitching Sunday at 1:10 pm. That’s a quick paraphrase of 10 minutes with a man who could hold your attention for 210 minutes at a time even without a baseball in his hand.

(In case you’re curious, I was content to soak it in instead of asking something myself. I figured anything I’d say would come out as GAAH I LOVE YOUR PITCHING AND I LIKE STAR WARS I EVEN WRITE BOOKS ABOUT IT!!! Which is why I stayed quiet. Longer, angstier explanation here [6].)

(Morning Update: Here’s video of the interview [7] from On the Black.)

Then we went upstairs for a quick bite to eat, and the monsoons came. You could hear the thunder crashing outside and watch the red blob of terrible things devour the NYC area on the radar map, and so we sat there, Mets hosts and bloggers, and talked about the club and baseball and how we became fans and Shea and a whole lot else, and it was a pretty great way to spend a rain delay.

Finally, we went up to the press box, which is bigger than I’d noted — I’d half-jokingly asked if the beat writers would see our entry as the end of the world, but the press box is so big that our contingent was barely noticeable. After we’d sat up there a while, the rain finally stopped and one by one the beat writers opened the big windows between them and the stands. Outside, a surprisingly decent chunk of the crowd was still in attendance, perhaps because the 7 train was hors de deluge.

Games that start hours after you’ve given up on them can be a lot of fun, particularly when they have an outfielders-splashing-through-lakes, anything-goes quality. (I should note here that Citi Field seems to drain extremely well. No splashing visible.) Games that Mike Pelfrey pitches, on the other hand, are all too frequently not fun. It was the usual Bad Pelf outing, with lots of stalking around behind the mound and irritable swipes across his brow and walking people and getting lit up. I’ve said it before [8] and will no doubt say it again, but I think it’s time for Big Pelf to become somebody else’s project. It doesn’t seem like a stretch to imagine a 2012 rotation of Niese, Dickey, Gee, Santana and X; there are a lot of Xs that could deliver Pelfrey production at a much smaller price.

There was one good thing about Pelfrey’s thorough awfulness, though: It ensured there was no chance one of us bloggers would violate the prohibition against cheering in the press box. Several nifty David Wright plays aside, there was nothing much to cheer for [9].