And then I fell in love
With the most wonderful boy in the world
We would take long walks by the river
Or just sit for hours
Gazing into each other’s eyes
We were so very much in love
Then one day
He went away
And I thought I’d die
But I didn’t
And when I didn’t
I said to myself
“Is that all there is to love?”
—Peggy Lee, with a little help from Leiber & Stoller
When I learned Dillon Gee was designated for assignment, I felt genuine sorrow. Gee, I declared to anybody who was listening, had been among my favorite Mets of recent years, which wasn’t an easy status to attain. The recent years of Mets baseball haven’t been among my favorite to experience.
Still, you gotta have a soft spot for somebody. One of mine, when pressed to think about it, was for Dillon, the bulldog competitor, smart pitcher, menschy Met who took the ball every fifth day when healthy, even if he couldn’t quite take being bounced into a nonexistent role in the current rotation. The apparent end of his line here shouldn’t represent Gee’s dot on the Mets time-space continuum. He was better than our last sightings of him would indicate.
The moment I’m moved to remember where Gee is concerned came last May. Dillon was on the DL, but hanging around before a game against the Dodgers. It was one of those Blogger Nights when at some point Mets PR folks realize they have a couple of fistfuls of quasi-media types on their hands and nothing to do with them once home BP ends. Inevitably, somebody grabs an injured Met who doesn’t have to get ready for the action just ahead. On this night, Dillon was available and willing to stand in the tunnel between the clubhouse and the dugout and chat.
We surrounded the righty and let loose our general cascade of casually informed questions. You know, how’s the rehab coming, how do you like New York, what are you doing for dinner (OK, nobody asked that). Gee was amenable and articulate, but it was the way he answered a semi-throwaway that got my attention. I asked, in light of Jacob deGrom’s recent promotion, if the kid had been giving you guys any hitting tips, ha ha. You might recall that as 2014 got underway, no Met pitcher had done anything at bat until the unheralded rookie came up and got Mets hurlers off their collective schneid more than six weeks into the season.
“We just suck at it,” Dillon said of Met pitchers hitting. He wasn’t chuckling, he wasn’t going for shock value. He was expressing the obvious honestly, then expounding a bit on the subject before being ushered offstage.
Dillon most definitely did not suck at what he did, save for his awkward final appearances as a Met, final assuming the DFA takes and he winds up somewhere else. You never know with these designations for assignment. Kirk Nieuwenhuis was recently DFA’d, yet after a brief sojourn to Anaheim to check in on Collin Cowgill, he’s once again headquartered in Las Vegas behind the “activate in case of emergency” glass. But it doesn’t feel like Dillon Gee will be back with the Mets, so it feels right to remember him as something of a personal favorite while he’s still more or less top of mind.
Because if you ask me in a few weeks when he’s safely and I sincerely hope (unless he lands with a team I can’t stand) productively ensconced elsewhere, I probably won’t be thinking all that much about Dillon Gee. If the Mets continue to win in heartening fashion, as they’ve done three games in a row, then Dillon will have faded quickly from our Met consciousness. And if the Mets revert to the form that’s annoyed us intermittently since things began otherwise promisingly this season, then I imagine the subject of Dillon Gee will arise only in the idealized hypothetical, as in “…and they let Dillon Gee go, too!” Either way, we’re not likely to sit here and dwell on Dillon.
We’re not miserable human beings. We’re just being fans. The game moves too fast to dwell on those who fall away in quest of better things. If we’re fully invested in our team, business always edges emotion, sort of like the Mets edged the Blue Jays by one run Tuesday night. I’m a fairly emotional fan given to endless spells of dwelling on certain personally beloved Mets who are taken away from me without my implied consent — sometimes dwelling for decades on end — but ultimately I check the standings, check the score and root like hell for whoever’s wearing the uniform today.
I’ve had five “favorite” Mets in my now 47 seasons of fandom. I’ve had hundreds of guys I’ve liked or liked a lot, but only five I’ve identified strongly as My Favorite Player in a given period of play. None of them is a Met as we speak. None of them was when I took a phone call this past Spring Training from a ticket rep trying to sell me a package. Part of his script was to engage me as if he knew what he was talking about.
“So when was the last time you were out at Citi Field?” he asked.
“September 28,” I answered cheerily.
“You know, Closing Day…the last game of last season?”
“Oh,” he said. “Well, I’ve only been working here since November.”
Anyway, the ticket rep asked me how long I’ve been a Mets fan and I gave him a condensed version of my origin story: 1969, six years old, world champions, still with them. He asked me who my favorite player was. Tom Seaver, I told him. Of course it’s Tom Seaver. You pick a favorite player at six and are still rooting for his team when you’re 52, you don’t automatically turn him in for a newer model just because his warranty expired.
He wanted to know who my favorite player was on the current team. That I had to think about. I realized, as of March 2015, I didn’t necessarily have one. I groped about the roster in my mind. I said I liked Gee (he was pitching on SNY while we spoke, so that probably helped) and I was excited about Harvey coming back, and “of course you can’t go wrong with David Wright,” which got no response from the guy, who was then on to the variety of ticket packages that could meet my needs and budget.
I interrupted him: “Oh, Juan Lagares — he’s my favorite.”
That also got no response, because we were deep into the selling portion of the conversation. While there was no transaction completed between us, I did realize that I must not really be that into Lagares if it didn’t occur to me to mention him right off the bat (or glove). I love his defense and I am affectionate toward his potential, but the title of Favorite Met remains vacant.
Unless you count Jose Reyes, who’s been my Favorite Met since 2003, and my Favorite Met in exile since 2012.
Don’t let the past
Remind us of what we are not now
I am not dreaming
— Crosby, Stills & Nash…mostly Stephen Stills
Yeah, this isn’t about Dillon Gee. This is about Jose Reyes, who visited Citi Field this week for the first time since he was a Miami Marlin, which was a bad dream that didn’t discourage my ardor for the shortstop of my subconscious. I still can’t look at Reyes as a Blue Jay and not see a Met, the same way I couldn’t look at Seaver as a Red, Gooden as an I forget what, Brogna as a Phillie or Alfonzo as a Giant and not see a Met. Those were my other Favorite Mets, the guys between Seaver and Reyes. Those were the ones whose removals without my say-so irked me the most. Those were the ones who took a long time to be replaced in my heart of hearts.
But they’re also the ones I functionally got over because I had to. Because I was a Mets fan. Because I needed the Mets to win tonight and convince me that they might win come October, whichever October it was. There were only a few Octobers in which that seemed like a realistic goal when Reyes was here, but he was square in the middle of it. Jose and David and the Carloses and Pedro and some other Mets I couldn’t get enough of, but Jose more than the rest. He was my guy. He helped me get over Fonzie, who helped me get over Rico, who helped me get over Doc, who helped me get over Tom’s second departure (I’m still not quite past the first one from 38 years ago this week).
Then he wasn’t here and I moped throughout 2012, not particularly caring if the Mets without Reyes prevailed when they played the Marlins with Reyes that year. I hated the Marlins, but I couldn’t root against Reyes. I wanted him to go 5-for-5 and score five runs every time we faced them. If we happened to win 6-5, that would be nominally preferable, but mostly, give or take an R.A. Dickey decision, I wanted Jose to succeed.
This does not mean
I don’t love you
Yes, and for always
These days I want the Mets to succeed. I want the Mets to be what the Chicago Blackhawks and Golden State Warriors have been on successive evenings, evenings when the most I hoped Jose would generate at Citi Field were two triples, two singles, four stolen bases and absolutely no runs scored. I want champions in Flushing again. We’re going on 29 years without, you might have noticed.
Watching the awarding of championship trophies to championship teams who aren’t the New York Mets was, as it has been since October 27, 1986, bracing. There have been 113 titles earned in the four major North American team sports following the 1986 World Series. I’ve seen 53 different franchises toast ultimate victory since the Mets last did. I’ve seen champagne gush, parades jam downtowns, commemorative caps go on sale, trophies passed from hand to gleeful hand. The Mets were part of none of it (except for that one time they were the runner-up).
I’ve been wanting to be a part of that scene again for 29 years. Victories like the one over the Blue Jays — Matt Harvey returning to Dark Knight dominance; Bobby Parnell materializing from out of the shadows to save Matt’s W; Wilmer Flores continuing to muscle the ball if not do everything else certain other shortstops used to do with élan — are giving me hope that I might get my wish in the present era, maybe even before the wish turns 30. My hopes might be dangerously out of control after a three-game winning streak, but what a trilogy it’s been. The Mets could have very easily lost on Sunday, on Monday and on Tuesday. The Mets lost on none of those days. It’s not so much, per the middle of April, that this feels different. This feels warmly familiar to the way it was when the way it was was the way it was supposed to be. These are the Mets I know and love in my soul. These are the Mets I love when I know they are capable of coming from behind and just as capable of not blowing from ahead.
This is Mets baseball at its spiritually finest. This, maybe, could be the stuff of The Year The Mets Lost Last Place. Never once, in my last seven years of cheering for the Mets, have I felt so good.
For the first time, I don’t miss Jose Reyes quite so much.