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The Rhythm of the Saints

Old habits get put away but a few never fully die. About once a year, usually on a Sunday afternoon, I’ll reflexively tune in Channel 9 looking for the Mets game; the Mets turned to Channel 11 in 1999. When the Giants bump the Mets from the FAN during football’s encroachment on baseball’s final Sundays, I check 1050 on the AM dial, forgetting there’s no longer a WEVD there to accept our spillover business (and hasn’t been since 2001). Only recently did I find myself able to spit out “Citi Field” without first stopping myself from saying “Shea Stadium”. And what’s this I hear about the Mets no longer getting their running in in St. Petersburg?

Next thing you know, you’ll be telling me my beer isn’t Rheingold the dry beer.

Port St. Lucie is still, according to me, the new Spring Training Home of the New York Mets, despite the scoreboard indicating it’s caught up with its predecessor’s depth of experience. The Mets prepared for their first 26 seasons on the west coast of Florida and are now in their 26th spring on the other side of the state. St. Pete is essential to the Met narrative historically — Huggins-Stengel Field is where the franchise went into labor before a bouncing Baby Metsie could be delivered in St. Louis — and quintessential aesthetically. The Mets were introduced as an athletic endeavor in St. Petersburg; their original manager introduced them to the bases one by one, for goodness sake. Casey first declared the Mets Amazin’ there. Gil conceived of them as something more than ridiculous there. Davey decided they were capable of dominating there.

Yet St. Lucie’s got the numbers to match St. Petersburg and has built its own quirky history, even if none of it has led to a world championship or leavened the lousiness between periods of pennant contention. Actually, most of what’s transpired in St. Lucie, at least as it’s filtered north across 26 springs’ worth of selective memory, has seemed more embarrassing than uplifting. Bobby Bo led a media boycott in St. Lucie. Karim Garcia and Shane Spencer showed their talent for relief in a St. Lucie parking lot, even though they weren’t relief pitchers. In the last few springs, the Mets have gone bowling in St. Lucie, which seems to engage some people’s interest, though not mine. As a friend suggested, ballplayers go to strip clubs, too — how come the Mets aren’t breathlessly Tweeting those scores?

Maybe what makes St. Pete feel charming and St. Lucie brazen, besides the sepia-toning in which a person occasionally indulges regarding days he stubbornly deems good and old, is that when we were updated from St. Petersburg, it was daily and thus special. When we’re updated from St. Lucie, it’s constant, thus overwhelming. Perhaps that’s an allegory for society at large in an ever more supercharged technological age, but to paraphrase Prof. Stengel from his expert testimony before the United States Senate’s Anti-Trust and Monopoly Subcommittee, I am not going to speak of any other sport or any other thing. There’s plenty I want to know from Spring Training. Bowling results aren’t among them. How every side session and every swing against live BP went doesn’t thrill me, either, because it’s frigging February and reading into any of what a Met does right now offers few signposts toward the trail at large. The blanket coverage of Jenrry Mejia putting on his pants one leg at a time strikes me as a tad superfluous, too.

What do I want? A little color. A little news. An informative feature. Moderate doses of the rookie everybody’s buzzing about and the veteran who’s oozing wisdom, but not overkill if you can help it. The new arm angles and batting stances in due time, once they’re put into action and produce a sample size worthy of modest examination. I don’t care what anybody had for dinner or what they’re doing afterwards. Terry Collins’s briefings don’t have to be dissected like Jay Carney’s (unless Collins is unleashing unmanned drones on the Nationals and Braves). Lucas Duda should be left to swing in the cage in peace. The families of lieutenants don’t get as hung up on potential promotions to captain as those monitoring David Wright’s provisional status do. As long as David’s uniform is emblazoned with “Mets,” the addition or nonexistence of a “C” doesn’t amount to a hill of anything.

This is all howling into the Florida wind, of course. Spring Training is an exercise in minutiae, and minutiae fits neatly into 140-character bites. (Imagine the kinds of Tweets Casey Stengel would have inspired…for that matter, imagine how many.) If the most minute detail masquerades as information, it is transmitted. If it is transmitted, I’m bound to receive it and sort through it. I’m a total hypocrite that way, trust me. Spring Training, on whatever coast it’s held, is good stuff, and I’m a sucker for the whole if not every facet of its parts. My desire is to savor the appetizer portion of our seasonlong meal, not gorge on early spring’s unlimited breadsticks just because somebody keeps coming by and refilling our basket.