Nine innings took three hours and fifty-five minutes to complete. It only felt longer.
There was nothing good about Tuesday night’s Mets-Giants game except that it was played. And that was a good enough reason to rouse me from what otherwise would have been four-plus hours on my couch — because what’s an endless game without a heaping helping of preview and review? — and get me into the ballpark once again in 2013.
I plan to be back at least a couple more times between now and Home Game 81, so it wasn’t as if it was Tuesday night or never. But a thorough examination of calendars and schedules led me to realize just how quickly (relatively speaking) time seemed to be running out on this season. As well it should. If you found this season in the back of your fridge, you’d take one whiff and toss it into a Hefty Bag. Nevertheless, who wants to live in a world where there isn’t a Mets game to go to on a Tuesday night?
Soon we will live in that world. That world can’t be stopped. It’s a deadly asteroid aimed straight at our heart. It’s called the offseason and it’s a far colder place than even fourth place.
I wasn’t ready to move to that world as this particular Tuesday night approached.
So I went. Plucked a very reasonable ticket off of StubHub! Between how little a choice spot in Promenade goes for this time of year and that relentlessly advertised Citi Tuesday thing encompassing more than Ashley’s reveal of her inclusion on the no-fly list (flash your Citi card, get a $10 voucher good just about anywhere in the ballpark; it really works), it almost doesn’t pay not to go — and I do believe I’ve lined up my double-negatives properly there.
My added incentive was Tuesday was going to be New York Baseball Giants Nostalgia Society Night in Queens. My compadres from NYBGNS would be on hand in force. Though I hadn’t gotten around to signing on to the group outing, I figured I wouldn’t have a hard time finding them among the clumps of San Francisco supporters infusing our building with uncommon amounts of orange and enthusiasm. Took me no more than two batters to figure out where they were and I spent most of the evening watching the game with them, even if I was not exactly of them for the duration.
They’re swell fellas and I’m glad I’ve gotten to absorb their tales of the Polo Grounds over the past decade. But the “nostalgia” in the group’s title is a little misleading because on an occasion like this they’re very much about the now. These guys don’t wallow wistfully in recollections of Mel Ott and Monte Irvin when Yusmeiro Petit is tamping down Met rallies and Angel Pagan is turning Met stomachs. In real time they continue to root for the franchise that abandoned them despite its continent-shattering relocation 56 years ago this month. I’ve enjoyed their enjoyment of the Giants’ two recent world championships. They deserve the happiness. They stuck with a team that didn’t stick with them geographically, yet they somehow endured to live giddily ever after.
My generosity of spirit, however, turns tepid when I’m embedded among a contingent of visitors to my ballpark cheering my team’s misfortune. And the Mets were leaking misfortune like a sieve through Tuesday. Ott or not, I had taken all I could of their hootin’ and hollerin’. I don’t like any team that batters the Mets no matter how much I happen to adore their backstory. Hence, I bid the Bobby Thomson Boys adieu as the Giants took an 8-4 lead in the ninth and I slipped off to a mostly deserted Promenade Box to take in what was left of the worsening carnage.
Funny thing is the San Francisco beat actually came up shy of a certifiable blowout, Pagan’s most vengeful intentions notwithstanding. Somehow the Mets trailed by a conceivably surmountable four runs entering the bottom of the ninth. Woodside beckoned, but I had already devoted more than three-and-a-half hours to this slog. Why leave now?
Then the fifth Giant pitcher of the night, the heretofore unknown to me Sandy Rosario, walked Ruben Tejada to lead off the ninth. A flicker of hope? But wait — something was apparently wrong with Rosario. Here came Bruce Bochy and a trainer. There went Rosario. Here came Sergio Romo, Giant Pitcher VI, who would be given all the time he needed to warm up.
Well, of course he would. Time was not this game’s concern. But it was becoming mine. There was an 11:19 to be caught, a direct train. No changing at Jamaica. Late at night, that is immensely preferable to standing and peering down the tracks. So is getting every ounce of baseball I can as the unplayed stockpiles dwindle…but between how much I had seen and how little I had paid for the privilege, I think it’s fair to say I got my money’s worth.
So I left.
Natch, as soon as I decided after five glances over my shoulder that I’m gonna leave, I began to regret it. Met baserunners materialized as if from another, more successful era. Tuesday night was the 27th anniversary of the Mets’ third division title. The Mets coming to the plate against Romo weren’t Carter or Strawberry or even young Dave Magadan, but as I’m exiting Citi Field, I’m hearing Howie and Josh tell me about Satin singling and Brandon Crawford booting one and now the bases are loaded with one out.
Did I just leave the greatest comeback in modern Met history? One that will dwarf the Steve Henderson Game (Mets 7 Giants 6)? One that might catch and pass the 23-Inning Game (Giants 8 Mets 6, but 23 innings)? And is this a bad thing, necessarily? Perhaps it took my premature departure to properly reset this team’s karma. I’d been to 31 games in 2013. I’d stayed to the end a lot. It hadn’t gotten the Mets or me very far; we’re both sporting hopelessly sub-.500 records on the year. Now Murphy is singling Tejada home and it’s 8-5, with the bases remaining loaded. I’m whooshing toward Junction Blvd. Lucas Duda is up. He has “Pepsi Porch power,” Rose and Lewin attest. And if Duda can’t do it, Andrew Brown is on deck.
This is gonna happen without me, isn’t it?
Long-game story short: Duda didn’t do it. Neither did Brown. I did not miss the greatest comeback in modern Met history. No, I simply left an 8-5 loss a little early. I was sorry I didn’t live to regret it.
I’m not sorry I went, though. It’s still the Mets. It’s still baseball live and in person. It’s still the antsiness of the slow inbound 7 as first pitch approaches. It’s still the delight of a surprise stop-n-chat or two along the way. I finally got to meet Jon Weber from The Ballclub blog — one of the best around — and that wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t gone (and the 7 hadn’t lagged). Later I had the pleasure of shaking freshly dried hands with FAFIF commenter kjs. Instead of commiserating that Zack Wheeler (and six Met relievers) didn’t have it tonight, we praised what R.A. Dickey had goin’ on in Toronto.
You go to the game and you get an entire out-of-town scoreboard to watch, a digital town crier bringing you the distractions of distant pennant races without draining your smartphone battery. You wish somebody were watching their scoreboard to see what’s going in your game, particularly when the air turns crisp enough to recall ghosts of clinchings past. You wish it weren’t so darn easy and cheap to show up on a whim on September 17, because you’ll always associate “September 17” with “1986,” though for now you’ll take the bargain rates and smooth logistics. You accept that the best news surrounding any Met Tuesday was that which emanated from a Met who hasn’t played in weeks and still might not play next year, but if anyone can defy the odds inherent in ligament roulette, you’re willing to bet it’s Matt Harvey. And you go to the game because to not go to the game when you can go the game will never make much sense to you.
The Mets were eliminated last week. I’m still in there somehow.