Howie and Josh mentioned a 1-0 lead during our brief half-inning together, but that’s all I absorbed before I had to reluctantly click them off. My phone flashed a lot of “Young” and “Murphy” whenever I gave it a borderline-polite furtive glance, yet I also spied a bit too much back-and-forth on the scoreboard for comfort. At 4-4 and the Mets-Braves game going to the seventh, you know what I needed?
Happily pulled between two compelling baseball events in Manhattan Thursday evening— Dusty Rhodes’s family gracing the New York Giants Preservation Society meeting in the friendly confines of Bergino and a knockout Varsity Letters lineup hosted a little further downtown by that Jason Fry fella — I wasn’t able to sit down and stare intently at the Mets for the duration. I could only divine what I could divine on the fly. And what I divined most, even as EYJ and Murph piled up numbers and the bullpen (!) strung together zeroes and the whole team took two of three in Atlanta, is there’s nothing quite as divine on the Mets right now as Juan Lagares.
So wonderfully Juanderful. Mostly glove (and arm), but not without some bat, as his go-ahead RBI that I just knew he would produce showed. Juan’s in that golden phase of Metsdom at the moment. He’s been here long enough to not be a total surprise but hasn’t been around so long that he doesn’t continue to represent a revelation. Like Dickey when Dickey was still becoming a thing. Like Fonzie after he was deemed more than a garden-variety utility player but before the entire industry recognized him as the epitome of class.
I find it fitting that I watched Juan coming through like Dusty Rhodes in the ’54 Series on a bar’s television because he seems to be in the bar band phase of his potentially brilliant career. He doesn’t have that big record contract yet, no starmaking machinery behind the popular song. It is up to us to serve as his word of mouth. Right now we’re mostly making “ooh” and “aah” sounds, punctuated when appropriate by “WOW!” Someday we’ll be telling people, “You should have seen Lagares when he was just starting out. You think he’s great now? Early Juan was the goods! Wait, I have a bootleg of his 2014 Brave series right here…”
It’s still early. The nine-game Mets are at least temporarily OK (or as OK as a 4-5 team can be). It’s also still early in the context of a magical center fielder who hasn’t been a major leaguer for a calendar year. Of course it’s too soon to say what Juan Lagares will be beyond the hot start to his second go-round. But isn’t it fun to believe we’ve stumbled into something worth knowing about?
Speaking of Met outfielders, get to know all over again one of the best we ever had when we had yet to have much. Straight outta 1967, enjoy the rhythmic recollections of Tommy Davis and all that jazz, via David Jordan at Instream Sports.