It’s not a lot of fun listening to Brandon Morrow and a bunch of Blue Jays you mostly know from fantasy teams throttle an undermanned Mets squad in another country. The final score was only 2-0, but given a punchless Mets lineup with too many dudes looking up at the Mendoza Line and David Wright sitting woozily on the bench, it felt a lot like yesterday’s shellacking. Plus it came with a side of injustice — Mike Baxter was safe at second in the ninth, nailed by a combination of Jose Bautista’s good defense, Yunel Escobar’s good acting and Brian Knight’s bad positioning. One of the biggest stories of this baseball era will be how routinely bad umpiring became, and how it took the ubiquity of overhead TVs and fans’ smartphones for Major League Baseball to take action and decide that serial incompetence on the part of its employees should no longer pervert the outcome of games. (Tigers fans aren’t big Knight supporters either — see the video here for some prime douchebaggery.)
But umpiring is a subject for another time. (And the way things went today, I bet you Baxter gets doubled off on Daniel Murphy’s liner anyway.) The game wasn’t much fun, but it was still a little fun. Which time and again is baseball’s saving grace.
I was out and about on errands, with Howie Rose and Jose Lewin in my ears, and I was struck — as I often am — by how listening to baseball seems to knit everything together, whether you’re talking about the baseball world or the slightly larger one that occasionally contains other things. The game on a headset while you’re doing stuff is the grown-up equivalent of smuggling a transistor set under your covers — sure, I’m at the bank/the Gap/Target/the farmer’s market, but I’m also getting to play hooky from all that mundanity, because I’m really at the Rogers Centre, living and dying on each pitch and imagining gray-clad Mets down there on gray-green artificial turf, now happily a rare sight.
And it wasn’t just the game — which was best, since the game itself wasn’t anything to cherish. It was everything around the game, getting shaped by it and shaping it in turn.
* It was hearing Howie Rose sounding happy and loose in a way he never was with the unlamented Wayne Hagin. In discussing the suspension of Toronto’s Brett Lawrie, Howie noted that umpire Bill Miller had been grazed at worst by Lawrie’s bounced helmet, but reacted like he’d been shot. In jumped Josh Lewin with a good line about Miller overacting like a gunfighter in a spaghetti western. Or there was Murphy’s mysterious relay throw for an unnecessary fourth out, which prompted Lewin to crack that Murph was being mindful of the exchange rate and Howie chiming in that Murphy’s Law is that the play’s not over until Daniel Murphy says it is. Lewin’s genuinely funny, without overdoing it, and he makes Howie far better.
* It was the air of intrigue settling over the Mets, who right now are caught between anxiety that their roster has been rendered dangerously thin by injuries and incompetence and hope that reinforcements are coming. The reinforcements are pretty good — but they’re not getting here as quickly as they’re needed. That’s made the ears hypersensitive, scanning eagerly for each and every personnel update: Why was Jenrry Mejia pulled after three innings in Binghamton? Will Manny Acosta be the next to catch a thunderbolt from Mount Alderson? Is Josh Thole riding a bike yet? Is Ruben Tejada running? Is Jason Bay swinging the bat? Is Wright feeling any better? How’s Chris Young’s shoulder? And what about Matt Harvey? Jeurys Familia? Are they closer to the Show? How about now?
* It was knowing my phone was the gateway to so much other baseball. The audio of any other game was a few clicks away if I wanted it. (Same with video, if I give in and pay $25 a month for MLB.TV Premium, which increasingly seems less like an indulgence than it does like common sense.) Or there were the Foursquare alerts popping up: A mutual friend with whom I took a Citi Field tour once upon a time was at the game in Toronto (sorry Mike!) while another guy I know was at the Hall of Fame.
* It was baseball’s ability to make yesterday seem like today and vice versa. Howie and Josh noted that Jeremy Hefner’s last start was for Buffalo against Gwinnett. Now, I know those are Triple-A clubs, part of the structure of organized baseball. And I know traveling between Buffalo and Gwinnett means airplanes and security checks and all that boring familiar stuff. But darned if it doesn’t sound like barnstorming, whistle-stop baseball from 50 years ago, with Hefner some busher who just signed for $25 and a train ticket to a Class-D town.
Would all of the above had been more enjoyable with the Mets leading 16-2 and the Jays trying to figure out who could be their Rob Johnson? Of course it would have been. But that’s not for us to decide. You get the baseball you get, and you take whatever pleasures it gives. Happily for all of us, even on the bad days that’s quite a bit.