- Faith and Fear in Flushing - http://www.faithandfearinflushing.com -

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen

Good job, fellow National Leaguers! Hurrah, everybody but the Marlins (since they didn’t help [1])! And what the hell…competent handling of a starting lineup that outperformed its credentials [2], retired wormlike manager we never need to look at again!

Graciousness doesn’t always come easy when you’re used to rooting against so many of those who constitute “your team” for one night, especially when there’s still a bowl of sour grapes over there by the TV regarding who began the game at third and on the mound, but when the results are favorable [3] and your actual guys got a couple of minutes to shine, it’s all good.

I know it’s not the default Mets fan reaction to judge anything as “all good,” since we tend to thrive on feeling spurned and/or scorned by everybody and everything we perceive as out to get us, but that’s All-Star magic at work. It’s the night we lock arms with the Chooches and the Chippers, the Gios and Strasburgs, the Pandas and the Cains if we must. We’d even link in common cause with Giancarlo Stanton if he’d have been able to make the show. But since he unfortunately couldn’t, and since Heath Bell couldn’t save a coupon less a baseball game, there went our chance to temporarily be friends of the Fish. Oh well.

National League victories really do raise my spirits, regardless of who gets to take advantage of home field in October. All those years of pinstripe-trimmed American League inevitability rigmarole pushed me incrementally toward the grumble, grumble, who cares about the All-Star Game? camp, but now that “we” have won three in a row, I’m back in that good mood where the Midsummer Classic annually left me when I was a kid.

And that, more than four potential games in the National League park in the World Series, is the real win here. The All-Star Game should make every fan recall what it was like to be seven or twelve or seventeen and lean forward for that moment the PA announcer got through introducing the Expo du nuit so he could clear his throat and inform us, from the New York Mets, shortstop Bud Harrelson; or from the New York Mets, pitcher Jon Matlack; or from the New York Mets, catcher John Stearns.

I lived for that moment every July, no matter how the Mets were doing. And I’d pay attention to the delegates from San Diego and Cleveland and everywhere else, too. It was never about seeing the best players play against one another. It’s become fashionable to bemoan the novelty of the All-Star Game as sapped because of saturation coverage and Interleague, but I never got turned on by the matchups. I got turned on by the proximity. For me, it was about the gathering of the statistical and reputational gods, superstar upon superstar convening in one stadium in 24 or 26 different uniforms. At its best, the All-Star Game struck me growing up as an otherworldly baseball summit. All those names I marveled over in Baseball Digest jetting in from all around the standings, like it was the U.N. or something. The ritual was the thing. They were announced, the camera would find them on the foul line, they’d tip a cap, one or two would be Mets, and we were a part of something bigger than ourselves.

I still kind of live for that moment, though the moment zips by faster and faster every year by some accident of age. It’s so easy to harden your cynicism, but I tell you what: when the PA announcer got to from the New York Mets… Tuesday night, and pitcher R.A. Dickey and third baseman David Wright appeared, well, I had my moment. The eight runs and the glimpses of our players (and our manager) in eventual action were gravy, or icing, or whatever it is I consume less of these days.

There are people whose sole purpose in considering the All-Star Game is to tell anybody who will listen that they don’t care about this silly exhibition that means nothing. Do me a favor — save your studied sophistication for when the N.L. winning streak is snapped. I’ll agree with you then.