They gave us quality-mounted canvas prints of a photo taken at the first game Shea Stadium ever hosted. It’s the reason I snapped up tickets in January, the reason I schlepped my stubborn cold and a hundred or so tissues to Citi Field Saturday night. I wanted the Mets to remind me of Shea.
Oh, they did, all right. They reminded me of all those nights that melded sloppy baseball, listless baseball and idiotic baseball and how, within the span of a few innings, they would turn all of it into unreasonably hopeful baseball, only to surrender just enough additional runs to ultimately put the game an inch out of reach once they mounted a final and furious comeback that was equal parts valiant and futile.
I was at Saturday night’s game at Citi Field plenty of times at Shea. The names of the villainous visitors and the non-heroic homestanders change as surely as the facilities did between 2008 and 2009, but the story arc remains the same. Everything that can go wrong begs to go right, but the pleas fall on deaf ears. A win lurks inside a loss but is too shy to come out to play. Some reliever makes life a little more difficult than it has to be. And when things begin to get exciting, the contest is brought to a numbing halt because the Mets have run out of outs and left all their chances on base.
Call it an opportunitease. Bad calls, bad throws, bad swings, bad slumps, badly miscast personnel, yet a good chance to pull it out. If only a long fly would have flown a little longer. If only a ball in the hole had carved itself a little more leeway. If only situations that were made for replay review were permitted to be replayed for review. If only, if only, if only.
The Mets lose by two to the Braves but outhit them instead of losing by five and garnering just one hit. They make it interesting the way my cold or whatever it is makes my bronchial passages interesting. They make the masses who upped and left when a Valverde meatball Upton left over the center field fence seem brutally misguided in their priorities. You’re hanging in there. You’re coughing your head off and blowing your nose to Kingman come, yet you’re helping Tim Teufel wave a carousel’s worth of runners around the bases in the bottom of the ninth, undeterred by your quiet observation that the Mets have been batting for 20 minutes and battering Craig Kimbrel but somehow still trail by two.
And they lose by two. But they made it interesting. You hoped more in the eighth and ninth than you dared believe you would from the first through the seventh. You take that and your print and the remnants of your tissue supply and you go home.
You always returned to Shea Stadium. You’ll return to Citi Field, too. You can put it on canvas and mount it.