- Faith and Fear in Flushing - http://www.faithandfearinflushing.com -

You Can Go Home Again

In the first couple of weeks of April, emotions are subject to the perils of small sample size just like everything else. Win and you feel like your team is a lock to win 125 games, with various newcomers locks to hit .400, slug 50 homers, retire every tough lefty and turn every double play. Lose, and someone needs to call up the surviving ’62 Mets and tell them to start monitoring box scores, because the errors and strikeouts and injuries are going to snowball into an avalanche that wipes out everything in its path.

There’s nothing wrong with this — we’re talking spectator sports and not, say, nuclear negotiations. All that pent-up emotion from a cruelly baseball-less winter has to go somewhere. But we should remember that it’s silly. And for once, this is where we can learn something from baseball’s Proven Veterans™. They know in their bones the cliches we forget every April — that all the games are the same, that it’s a long season, that you gotta take ’em one day at a time.

Someone today asked Michael Cuddyer [1] something along the lines of whether it was time for the bats to get it going, which is one of those daily baseball questions so Platonically inane that it should be counted as heating and redistributing air and not as actual speech. Cuddyer coolly replied that he didn’t think various Mets hitting .150 at the moment would keep doing so, which dispensed not only with the question but also with the foolish franticness behind it. The man’s been playing baseball for a long time, and he knows that a week is no basis to use for assessing anything. We should all keep that in mind, whether it’s April or August. Hot streaks will come and go, luck will ebb and flow, and we’ll make up stories to explain it all that will be triumphant or despairing, while Cuddyer and David Wright [2] and Curtis Granderson [3] and the grizzled vets measure out their marathon pace and remember — another useful cliche inbound — neither to get too high or too low.

But that said, few things are more fun than a home opener. Neither Greg nor I were there, but it was glorious watching the crowd bathed in sunshine, and seeing the happily dopey pomp and circumstance, complete with giant flags and Howie Rose barking out names and Mets waving, tipping their caps or practicing stoicism. (The faithful booed Bill de Blasio, which is what happens to elected officials of any ideological stripe; Ray Ramirez, which was childish but funny; and Ruben Tejada [4], which was just childish.) Bartolo Colon [5] was cheered like a conquering hero, which was as it should be, while Matt Harvey [6] received what was probably the loudest ovation ever accorded a pitcher with 13 career wins, a point I make in jest but I’m sure some talk-radio troll got half an hour out of. (I wouldn’t know, because the things I have to do with my time that would be better uses of it than listening to WFAN et al include stapling myself in the crotch and gargling with strychnine.)

And then, when all that was done, the Mets played a taut, interesting little game against the Phillies, one they came away from as winners.

It was an interesting game for a lot of reasons.

First of all, the ball wasn’t carrying at all, leaving Gary, Keith and Ron to ponder the mysteries of winds in that part of Flushing, an investigation now entering its sixth decade. If this game had been played in summertime, I suspect it would have been 5-3 early and relievers would have been a-scurry everywhere. Instead, it was one of those days where you got the feeling the game would come down to a compact little rally, a mistake, or both. And, indeed, that’s what happened: The Mets converted their first run when Aaron Harang [7] caught his spikes trying to field a little squibber by Juan Lagares [8], and their second run after Chase Utley [9] — who was the biggest tire on the Phillies’ fire today — let a double-play ball go right through his legs. Jacob deGrom benefited from not just the good luck but also the conditions — our favorite hirsute sophomore was admittedly not terrific, but hung in there with what he had and walked off with a win [10] and a deceptively sparkling pitching line. Baseball, to quote the noted philosopher R. E. Kanehl [11], is an unfair game.

Ben Revere [12]‘s fifth-inning snag of Curtis Granderson’s sure double goes in the file labeled Things You Didn’t Enjoy But Should Admire Anyway [13]. Revere played a superb OF all day in tough conditions, though his popgun arm wasn’t enough to prevent Cuddyer — who’d somehow tripled — from coming home on a Travis d’Arnaud [14] sac fly in the eighth. Small sample size alert: Don’t pencil Cuddyer in for 22 triples.

One New York fan added something neither enjoyable nor admirable to Daniel Murphy [15]‘s fourth-inning double, waiting to douse Grady Sizemore [16] with beer through the fencing of the Mo Zone. Here’s hoping he was not only ejected but banned from Citi Field. What’s hard to understand about this? Booing the enemy is your prerogative. Trash-talking (within the bounds of decency) is perfectly acceptable and can even be good sport. Interfering with a player in the field of play? Completely unacceptable. Plus from a replay it looks like he missed. Whoever you are, dude, you even suck at being a dick.

Spare a good word for Jerry Blevins [17], who has an unenviable assignment: For each series, he can identify the fearsome lefty hitter or two that he’ll be called upon to confront with the game on the line. Today Blevins was perfect, erasing Odubel Herrera [18] (who’s awfully young but looks pretty good), Utley and the still-animate corpse of Ryan Howard [19] in a flawless eighth. Blevins has retired all eight batters he’s faced so far this year, which we’ll forget when he hits a week in which bearding lions in their dens proves more difficult.

Oh, and how about the ninth inning? If your recipe for escaping a no-out, tying-run-at-the-plate jam was for a double play put together by Lucas Duda [20], Wilmer Flores [21] and Jeurys Familia [22], you’re a braver fan than I am. It’s nice when things work out, isn’t it?