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

Roll With It, Baby

Hosmer the Cat (a.k.a. Hozzie) rightfully turns his back on Hosmer the first baseman (a.k.a. the enemy). [1]

Hosmer the Cat (a.k.a. Hozzie) rightfully turns his back on Hosmer the first baseman (a.k.a. the enemy).

As we approach the never previously calculated New York Mets Championship Equinox — Saturday at 9:53 PM EDT is the moment between the final pitch of the pennant-clincher and the first pitch of the World Series — we inevitably shift from the portion of the postseason where we’re exceedingly happy to be where we are to the time when we dwell on whether we can climb that one final step higher.

I like where we are, but I really want to be up there. That’s been the goal all along, but peering looking too far ahead, never mind above, makes my baseball instincts dizzy. And though I never doubted the Mets could be here when this postseason commenced, it never quite occurred to me they would.

The Mets are in the World Series. I like to keep reminding myself. You don’t mind, do you? Perhaps you’ve been elbowing your brain in the ribs telling yourself the same thing since 11:39 PM EDT Wednesday. Perhaps you’ve got tendonitis and a headache from such unusual activity. That’s OK. We’re all out of practice at this and we have all these off days to root ourselves into World Series condition.

The Mets are in the World Series. Y’know what? That doesn’t hurt at all.

Not much about 2015 evokes 2000, but I do clearly remember my favorite part of winning the pennant then was early in the interregnum between the NLCS and the World Series, specifically that period when there was only one known component of the Fall Classic — us. I sort of hoped for a Players Association wildcat strike to materialize, because if the American League failed to send a representative, we’d be world champions by default.

The second that ALCS was over, the fun was curtailed. It wasn’t the impending matchup that bummed me out — I thought we’d beat the other team that year; it was how we had to share the municipal stage with two-time defending world champions and all the oxygen they sucked up in those days. The bulk of that week cast the Mets as visitors to New York. I felt more cheated by the city’s zeitgeist surrounding my team’s first World Series appearance in fourteen years than I did by pinstriped hotheads flinging bat barrels and not facing ejection.

This is so different. The distance from Flushing, Queens, to Kansas City, Missouri, is approximately 1,200 miles. I know of one Royals fan who lives in New Jersey. There may be another. Otherwise, the Mets being in the World Series overwhelms New York, just as it did during the three instances prior to 2000 when the Mets made it.

That’s what I’ve been waiting fifteen years for. I’ve been waiting to turn on the radio one of the mornings between the NLCS and the World Series and hear a well-produced if horribly conceived frontrunning song parody. In this case it was WCBS-FM recasting “It’s Raining Men” by the Weather Girls as “We Love The Mets”.

How do you not go with “It’s Raining Mets”? Seriously? There was, however, a line in there that beseeched, “God bless Daniel Murphy,” so clearly it has redeeming features. Still, where was this “love” for the Mets when our fellas could have used a little extra affection? Why wasn’t 101.1 FM “Hungry Like The Murph” when he was throwing to the wrong base and not appearing nightly in a cluster of high-fives?

Ah, everybody loves a winner almost as much we love this winner. Thus, everything since Wednesday night has been raining Mets. The bandwagon is rolling, and I say hop on board. Apparel nobody has ever commented on in my neck of the woods has been attracting steady streams of enthusiastic approval. Local media that acted as if there was only one baseball team in town…well, they were right, weren’t they? It’s just that it’s a different baseball team than they had led themselves to believe. As Designated Mets Fan in certain spheres, I am congratulated and wished further luck constantly, not extended condolences and told not to take it so hard.

Every afternoon during this admittedly disturbingly lengthy layoff between Game Five and Game One, the Mets show up at Citi Field, put on fresh blue hooded sweatshirts and run around doing baseball stuff. They do this in late October and every move they make is reported on breathlessly. It’s like Spring Training that matters. It’s like baseball season never ended.

It didn’t. Not the Mets’ version.

Hockey crowds [2] cheer them. Talk show crowds [3] adore them. Sandwiches [4] honor them. It’s as if those of us who act like this 24/7/365 (366 in leap years) wandered into a shampoo commercial and we told two friends, and they told two friends and now an entire region is friends with the Mets — and not just the Facebook kind.

This is a nice place to be, but I don’t want to live here. I want to live up there. Gotta take that extra step. It really hit me when I saw a picture of Citi Field with the 2015 NATIONAL LEAGUE CHAMPIONS logo plastered on its left field exterior. Very pretty. Not pretty enough.

That’s when the competitive clock was set earnestly in motion. Gotta upgrade that sign, I said. Gotta.

I feasted as best as I could off “National League Champions” post-2000. I still proudly display in my office the TD Waterhouse-sponsored mini-flag I was handed at the Home Opener in 2001. I was grateful the Mets accomplished that much the year before, but it was never fully satisfying. A pennant is something beautiful, but a world championship is simply gorgeous. “Hello, gorgeous,” I want to say at some point after the next four to seven games. I’ve been waiting 29 years to have that conversation. Some of you have been waiting longer than you’ve been alive. Whatever your age, you’ve waited long enough.

At last, we know our obstacle [5], our non-archrivals, the Kansas City Royals. There is lit’rally nothing relevant I can tell you about the Mets’ history with their fellow expansioneers the Royals that you don’t already know. There really is nothing relevant to know. There have been nine games total between them, which is about as close to a pure World Series as you can get amid the ongoing Interleague plague. Only three have taken place since this blog has existed and none of them lately. You’re no doubt familiar with Foy for Otis, Hearn for Cone, the Bret Saberhagen deal, maybe a few other players with shared affiliations.

None of it is relevant, but it’s fine to know. The Royals having valiantly filled the role of enemy-of-our-enemies versus the Yankees, Phillies and Cardinals eons ago is fine to know, but it’s not relevant, either, no more relevant than my lingering animus for the Cubs was going into the NLCS. For what little it’s worth, I’m no longer harboring Cubbie grudges from 1969, 1984, whenever. For what even less it’s worth, my second-hand fondness for the Royals and Don Denkinger sticking it to Whitey Herzog and St. Louis in 1985 doesn’t fill me with any conflicting emotions as Tuesday 8:07 PM EDT nears.

Good old Royals. They’re the enemy now. They have to be. If my cat Hosmer — a.k.a. Hozzie [6] — didn’t have the beverage-inspired [7] name way before I’d heard of [8] the Kansas City first baseman Hosmer, I’d probably be tempted to change it to Murph (which, incidentally, was the runner-up feline name choice in 2002; for Bob, not Daniel). If I still had the Royals t-shirt I purchased at a Wichita-area Walmart in the late ’90s, I’d briefly consider defacing it. If the Royals live up to their billing, I’ll be mighty mopey.

As I would be if the Blue Jays had alighted in the World Series. They worried me. The Royals worry me. Of course they do. It’s how the postseason is supposed to work. Every opponent looms as trouble. The Cubs loomed as trouble. They were like one of those storms for which you lay in bottled water and flashlight batteries and brace for the worst until you hear on TV that Hurricane Schwarber has changed course and blown out to sea. It wasn’t a waste to worry then, though. Whatever typical playoff anxiety went unused in the last round will remain stockpiled and be reinforced for this one.

We dodged Irene where I live. We stayed alert for Sandy regardless. We’ll be ready for the Royals now. That’s we, as in the fans, who put on sometimes frightfully worn blue hooded sweatshirts and hum along to those awful retrofitted song parodies and decide if we’d rather try the Matz or the deGrom next time we find ourselves in East Setauket, which will likely be never, but you can’t be too careful. I know logically our thoughts do not influence the actions of the Mets, but what did I just say? You can’t be too careful.

***

Also, I can’t say “thank you” enough for the heartfelt wishes and generous sentiments expressed over the past couple of days regarding my dad [9]. The stories you saw fit to share about your families and what the Mets have meant to you in that context touched me very deeply. Wherever your loved ones are in the games ahead, I’m glad that in some genuine sense they will be very much with you. We all deserve to take in a Mets World Series with those who mean the most to us.