Imagine if the men who rule baseball reduced each team’s schedule to its most elemental struggle. The Yankees and Red Sox would play each other 162 times — 81 in New York and 81 in Fenway — with at least 130 of those games shown on ESPN or FOX. (This would lead to only a slight uptick in media coverage.)
This current incarnation of the Mets would be best shown crawling in and out of MRI tubes and nervously eyeing debtholders, with the media tut-tutting about the former and ignoring the existence of the latter. But failing that, we could play the Phillies 162 times — all of them at Citizens Bank.
Hear me out: It would work. Citi Field would become a combination Brooklyn Dodgers museum and Shake Shack, with lots of seats and the occasional concert by some has-been band. Now that Ruben Amaro Jr. has lost his mind, Phillies fans are beginning to return to the sour apathy they’ve displayed for most of their 130 seasons. A couple more bad seasons and their park will be half-empty, leaving plenty of room for what’s left of our tattered fan base. So we’ll bring our road grays, Mr. Met and play 162 down there.
The games we play at Citizens Bank generally aren’t superb displays of baseball. They’re more like pro wrestling — you’re basically guaranteed a ludicrous reversal of fortune or two, a conspicuous display of boneheadedness, a controversial call, and some grousing and woofing before it’s all over. Sometimes they beat the crap out of us, sometimes we beat the crap out of them, and sometimes we beat the crap out of each other until eventually one guy crawls away. It’s high drama and low comedy at the same time, and generally pretty fun.
Take tonight. No, there wasn’t much juice in the meeting. Both teams are trudging to the finish line of sub-.500 seasons (in a division where only one team will want to remember 2013) and the lineups were not exactly marquee matchups. Surveying the lineup, I thought to myself, “Well, I see Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley, but who are the rest of these idiots?” I’m sure I could have rung up a Phillie pal or 10 who’d ask about the seven dwarfs following around Daniel Murphy and David Wright.
But, again, Mets-Phils in Citizens Bank Park. Even with the JV out there, it worked.
It worked because David Wright is awesome in Philadelphia, no matter the state of his legs. (Remember, he’s awesome everywhere.) He stepped off the disabled list, took one pitch for old time’s sake, and then smacked the second one into the right-field seats to give the Mets a 3-0 lead and Wright second place on the club list for career homers, taking over from Mike Piazza. (I’d like to say Wright will overhaul Darryl Strawberry next September, but his recent injury history suggests May 2015.) Eric Young Jr. stole his 40th base (32nd in blue and orange), Daniel Murphy stole his 20th (2oth in blue and orange) to go along with three hits, Daisuke Matsuzaka pitched decently enough despite some dopey defense behind him, and Juan Lagares looked lost at the plate but made one of his usual graceful, quietly awesome Beltranesque grabs. Most importantly, the Mets won.
Meanwhile, Cole Hamels hasn’t pitched well against us since running his mouth in late 2008, and his failings are always wonderful to watch. Hamels was down 3-0 before he recorded an out, did his best to annoy umpires and was his usual gawkily truculent self. He pitched poorly but the Mets couldn’t knock him out, got a new lease on life when the Mets commenced to play stupid, and then wound up the loser anyway. Baseball like it oughta be, in other words.
Mets 6, Phils 4. Not much to play for — in fact, given the reverse race for protected draft picks, you can debate whether it’s worth winning at all — but who doesn’t walk with a lighter step and an easier smile after beating the Phillies in their own house? Let’s do it again tomorrow. Hell, next year let’s play 162.