It used to be a March ritual around here, or in our email exchanges: I’d ask Greg about some non-roster player or prospect in camp, his reply would be oddly noncommittal, I’d ask what was up, and he’d admit — with ill-disguised anguish — that this year he just wasn’t feeling it, that he wasn’t getting excited the way he usually was, and maybe this was the year his attachment to all things Mets withered or even broke.
It never happened, and eventually I came to treat Greg’s annual moment of doubt as part of the spring-training calendar, typically coming about at the midpoint between dopey stories about all the guys In The Best Shape of Their Lives and dopey stories hashing out roster spots 24 and 25, as if there isn’t going to be a last-minute waiver-wire transaction or dog-and-cat trade that turns the whole thing into an academic exercise. It’s as much part of the run-up to Opening Day as the first daffodils.
This year has been weird, though. It’s like our positions have been reversed. I haven’t heard a peep from my blog brother about not feeling it, but I’ve been busy or traveling, and have found myself popping my head up to note with shock that spring training is hurling by and the season is somehow nearly upon us. I’m the one who feels out of sorts and ill-prepared.
Throw in the oddity of the weather — tonight you’d think it was June in New York City — and I’ve really been thrown for a loop. Sure, unseasonable warm periods happen — 14 years ago, Greg and I spent 14 innings sprawled in our seats at Shea on a 88-degree Opening Day, exchanging disbelieving personal weather reports until Bambi Castillo beat the Phillies — but this year fall went out for a smoke break and spring came back. I’m not complaining: It was damn nice walking across Brooklyn today listening to R.A. Dickey throttle the Astros (whose 50th anniversary season doesn’t sound full of promise either) with the sun shining down and people beaming at each other from behind their shades. The flowers are up, the grass is turning green, the trees are budding — so what if the calendar seems to be a month off?
When I joined the broadcast (it was the Astros team, and they ain’t world-beaters) Dickey hadn’t given up a hit. That held true as I strolled from Flatbush to Downtown Brooklyn to Brooklyn Heights. The weather suggested T@m Gl@v!n# should be laboring to make Mets history with Kit Pellow waiting in ambush; out in the bright sunshine it was easy to think for a moment that what Dickey was doing really, really mattered, that if he got through that 27th out you’d see people paused with a hand to an earbud, stopping those in blue and orange hats, and that you’d be part of the slow spread of the amazin’ amazin’ amazin’ news. But no, Dickey couldn’t make history and didn’t make Grapefruit League history either. Which was good — jerks would have just made fun of us for it anyway.
(By the way, I love that the Mets PR department said there had been two Grapefruit League no-hitters by the Mets and Adam Rubin could only find one — a position apparently backed up by Howie Rose. It’s nice that there’s some part of baseball where stats and record-keeping is of the shrug-your-shoulders and what-the-hell persuasion.)
I’m not particularly worried about my out-of-body experiences, though they do seem to be adding up — for instance, I was in New Orleans when word of the Madoff settlement came, and so extracted analysis from my cellphone between gorging myself. The season will come and I’ll snap into focus, recording new Mets for The Holy Books and overanalyzing every move by David Wright and Jason Bay to divine if they’re rejuvenated and appraising the new walls and cheering for the resurrected Johan Santana and Ike Davis and hoping for the continuing development of Jon Niese and Dillon Gee and Ruben Tejada and Daniel Murphy and Lucas Duda and of course spinning goofy scenarios in which everything goes right and we pull a Norfolk State on the powers that be.
Or at least that’s what I assume will happen — my internal clock has been Mets-based for so long that the rhythms of being orange and blue have got to be encoded in my DNA by now. (Yeah, I know it doesn’t work that way. Hush.) Still, it’s funny — you spend the winter staring out the window waiting for it to be (officially) spring, and then March surprises you by hurrying along, at neck-snapping speed, to where you were waiting to be.