Sometimes the jokes write themselves: Wednesday was Dinosaur Education Day at Citi Field, which led me to imagine a Jonah Hill type patiently explaining to Terry Collins why bunting is often a bad strategic play and urging him to use his best reliever in the most critical situation instead of when the eighth inning was over. Plus there was Bartolo Colon, who rumor has it came up as a rookie hurler for Gondwanaland to notch several victories against their hatred rival Laurasia.
Or, given recent events, perhaps Dinosaur Education Day was a warning to cue the “Jurassic Park” music and wait for ownership’s cheapness to trigger a preventable tragedy involving paying customers being devoured.
But today no T. rex appeared to chomp fandom’s jeep. Terry didn’t do anything tactically indefensible, the kids yowled and screeched happily through an afternoon so cool you wondered if soot from an asteroid impact was blocking the sun, and the Mets played like sprightly adaptable mammals while the Pirates galumphed about uselessly and then politely expired.
Which, like Tuesday night, was a useful reminder that baseball is a pleasure even in dark times, and that winning is a mute button for most controversies.
On Tuesday night, heartily sick of the Mets’ recent nonsense, I swore that I would watch the game and tweet only positive things — if bad stuff happened, I’d grit my teeth instead of typing. The Mets obliged by winning an interesting little game filled with highlight-reel plays, and today had its pleasures too — there was Colon coolly forcing the Pirate hitters to play his game, the madcap adventures of Daniel Murphy scampering around the bases, an encouraging relief outing by Jeurys Familia and a no-doubt home run by prodigal son Lucas Duda. It was fun. And more than anything else, baseball should be fun.
Which isn’t to say that what’s happening down there between the white lines is a cure-all — if you show up at Citi Field these days happy for whatever’s given you, you’re exactly the kind of rube the Wilpons want as a customer. It’s impossible to assess the Mets’ roster decisions these days unless you understand this crippled franchise’s financial constraints and dysfunctional chain of command, and ownership is doing everything it can to prevent you from understanding those things. That’s breaking an implicit compact between ownership and fans; much as we wish it were otherwise, being a knowledgable Mets fan today means you can’t ignore unpleasant off-field matters.
But you can follow the off-field tragicomedies without having to dwell on them when there’s a game to watch. That’s what I’ve decided to try to do. For three hours at a time, I’m trying to let the game be the thing, asking myself questions that have nothing to do with who ordered a coach’s firing or if payrolls will ever rise:
- Can Juan Lagares catch that? (Of course he can.)
- Wasn’t it neat to see balls come out of play for Colon’s 2,000th strikeout and Familia’s first hit? (Yes.)
- Was his “Little League triple” the most Daniel Murphy play ever? (No — if Murph had been called out for stepping on Jody Mercer’s glove instead of second base, then it would have been the most Daniel Murphy play ever.)
- Did you see the way the ball exploded off Duda’s bat on its way to the Shea Bridge? (Oh boy yes.)
Even if it’s only a respite from the other stuff, that state of mind really is baseball like it oughta be.