Listening to Terry Collins in his postgame media sessions makes me think he is the model for a dozen “manager” characters from a dozen underwhelming baseball movies: focused, straightforward, likes fine what he does for a living, only dabbles in nuance if so compelled by reporter’s interrogation. But watching Terry Collins’s team play to its fullest capabilities under his direction makes me think of the best manager character in any baseball movie, Coach Morris Buttermaker from The Bad News Bears. I’m just sorry Collins doesn’t sound very much like Walter Matthau, because I can just hear it now…
“Nieuwenhuis, you’re playing left.
“Torres, you’re in center, don’t gimme any guff about it.
“Nickeas, go get the big mitt, you’re catching Dickey — and everybody quit smirking about R.A.’s last name. He can’t do anything about where his parents came from.
“Murphy, go stand near second base and for crissake don’t get yourself hurt, you’re batting this inning.
“Davis…don’t tell me Davis is hiding in the tree again. Goddammit, somebody go get Davis down from the tree.
“Baxter — sit tight, Baxter, we might need you later.
“And Turner, quit fooling around with the sunflower seeds! Those are for the ballplayers.”
The Bears were only grudgingly admitted to the North Valley League, while the Mets’ inclusion in the National League East this year was supposed to be no more than a technicality. Four other, stronger teams were going to need somebody else to practice against when not beating up on one another.
Script’s changed from the initial treatment, hasn’t it?
David Wright, the temperamental opposite of Kelly Leak, collected four hits, R.A. Dickey pitched through as much pain as Amanda Whurlizer could handle and the Miami Marlins were once again reminded that two-four-six-eight, the Mets are not a team you should underestimate.
A sunny Saturday afternoon inside the Marlins’ green-screen sound stage was the perfect antidote for the production that went awry Friday night (and so many nights nearby), especially when viewed through the prism of the third baseman’s performance. David was starry, starry Wright — surpassing the Four-Hundred mark as late into a Mets season as I can recall any Mets hitter doing (Cleon Jones dipped below the Williams Line after 31 games in 1969), plus showing enough range to throw out Austin Kearns from Big Never Mind Little Havana. Fox’s emergency fill-in announcer made a huge deal over Wright’s general torture of Ricky Nolasco, but David didn’t play favorites. Three hits came off the starter and then he shelled Cishek by the seashore for another.
Did I mention .402? That’s not a batting average. That’s Marlins Park’s short porch.
Here’s where a Mets fan predictably jumps in and bashes Magic City’s latest landmark because it belongs to the legitimately hateful Loria Marlins, but honestly, I like it on TV thus far. I see its absurdities — is Bud Light With Lime subliminally sponsoring the fences? — and it probably tries too hard to overwhelm, but I say go for it. Baseball didn’t need an eighteenth knockoff of Camden Yards (that’s probably more accurate count than hyperbole) and anything that isn’t Your Name Here Stadium from up the Florida Turnpike should be given a wide berth to repel as well as impress.
Besides, I like the fishies swimming around behind home plate, especially when a school of Mets is crossing in front of them.
Anyway, David is scalding, R.A. and his wrist are built Ford tough, Kirk Nieuwenhuis would have fared better in a Bad News Bears remake than Greg Kinnear did, Mike Baxter is ready for anything (he pinch-hits a double that’s called foul and then pinch-hits another one that’s undeniably fair) and, well, this is fun. These Mets are fun. They’re fun until they’re not. The Mets rolled out a stretch of 39-24 baseball in 2010 and one measuring 50-38 in 2011. Both editions were quite a bit of fun for quite a while. Then, like the Clevelander at last call, the music stopped. I guess what I’m saying is I haven’t read the entire 2012 script yet, mostly because it hasn’t been fully written, but there’s a decent chance David Wright won’t hit .402, and the 19-14 Mets might…might…not maintain their death grip on the second Wild Card spot from here through October 3.
But they have it in hand on May 12. Fun, I tell you. Fun.
And now for a few links…
• I was a guest on The 5 Tool Show the other night, hosted by Kerel Cooper of On The Black and Tanya Mercado of Citi Field of Dreams. Had fun there, too, talking Mets history and so forth. Have a listen here.
• Taryn “Coop” Cooper of A Gal For All Seasons (and other worthy precincts) is off and running toward the New York Marathon in the footsteps of Team McGraw’s Sharon Chapman, raising funds for the Tug McGraw Foundation in memory of Gary Carter. Look into helping a terrific blogger, Mets fan and humanitarian here.
• Heading to Savannah for a Sand Gnats game? If you are, Stadium Journey has the scoop on historic Grayson Stadium, home of the Mets’ South Atlantic League affiliate. Check it out here.