In recent history, the Mets haven’t led the league in much, but they’ve been a powerhouse when it comes to excuses.
Terry Collins would always sound philosophical when he noted the conditions, the weather, the late arrival, the flu, or whatever bogeyman had snuck in to sink its teeth into the Mets. It was never quite an alibi — more something Terry was noting in passing. But it grated nonetheless, because what never seemed to get discussed was how the other team had also been dealing with poor conditions, cold weather, the flu or whatever malady was at hand — none of which had prevented them from beating the Mets rather handily.
So I approached tonight’s inaugural throwdown with the Phillies with a certain dismay. It was a wretched night, rainy and packing the kind of damp chill that gets into your bones, with both the seats at Citizen’s Bank and the virtual amphitheater of Twitter all but empty. (Something to do with Rangers-Flyers, I guess.) But the Mets seemed to collectively shrug and get to work on old pal Cole Hamels, who was armed with nothing but his change-up. They worked counts and waited for fastballs they could serve over the infield, cornering Hamels until that ineffective pitch was his only option. The display of patience culminated in a three-run fifth, with the crowning blow a single by Ruben Tejada after Ryne Sandberg tried to coax one more batter out of Hamels than he was capable of. After that the Mets had an official game and the Phillies seemed content to get on with it and wait for a sunnier rematch. Which will take a while — tomorrow’s weather forecast is Biblical, with the chance of a game being played essentially 0%.
It was a messy affair from the get-go — early on a hapless ballgirl set the tone by pulling her stool out of the way of a Tejada double off the sidewall, then inexplicably trying to field the ball she’d just tried to avoid.
Well, messy except for Jon Niese.
Niese is far from my favorite Met; he gives the impression that he’s only minimally interested in the craft of pitching or anything else happening around him, which I find deeply annoying. But he was terrific today, maintaining his focus in horrific conditions while Hamels came unglued. (It’s not the first time — Niese has been good pitching in high winds at Citi Field and in Minneapolis and Denver starts that might as well have taken place in a walk-in freezer.)
It was an awful night to do anything, let alone try to play baseball. And only one team seemed ready to do that. For a change, that team was the Mets instead of their opponents. No excuses necessary. I could get used to this.