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

Something’s Coming

Could be!
Who knows?
There’s something due any day;
I will know right away,
Soon as it shows.

The shortest span between seasons in Mets history, from a little after midnight last November 2 to a few hours before midnight this April 3, has, predictably, turned into the longest wait for a new year baseball humanity has ever known.

Remember how happy we were that Spring Training had arrived? That was about a thousand months ago, and it’s still freaking going on. The charm, at least as gauged from the northern segments of I-95, has been worn down to the nub. Spring will look good again when its view is obscured by another winter. For now, it is The Thing That Wouldn’t Leave.

Yet it will. Give it time. Just a little more time.

It may come cannonballing down through the sky,
Gleam in its eye,
Bright as a rose!
Who knows?

I’ve tuned in to at least a portion of just about every Spring game the Mets have transmitted over their TV and radio outlets this year, yet I’d be hard-pressed, even while Spring is still literally in the air, to remember anything about any of them. They’ve very recently occurred, I possess a pretty good memory, but they evaporate into mist on contact. It’s Spring Training. We’re informed so regularly how unimportant their results are that it becomes second nature to ignore just about everything we see and hear. It’s supposed to be enough that the act of baseball is being carried out. Don’t look too closely. Certainly don’t look at who’s winning or losing. Chances are nobody is doing either.

But Sunday, because it was the last Sunday during which Mets baseball would definitively not matter for more than six months, seemed to matter, at least in theory. We reached the one-week-and-counting stage of Spring. That seemed to countermand the idea that none of this counts. It was worth watching and listening and maybe retaining.

So I did. It was the Mets and a split squad of Nationals, or roughly half of our contemporary archrivals. Just based on the whole vs. half theory, we should have prevailed easily. We had them outnumbered. In Spring, though, it doesn’t work the way you’re conditioned to normally consider these matters. Numbers don’t matter. Look at the players. A bunch are wearing numbers that hardly ever appear on baseball jerseys. It’s one more in a series of winks that you really should stop staring so hard at all of this. Come back in a week.

Nah. Let’s see what we’ve got here.

It’s only just out of reach,
Down the block, on a beach,
Under a tree.
I got a feeling there’s a miracle due,
Gonna come true,
Coming to me!

Steven Matz [1] started. Out of the corner of the one eye with which I’ve been monitoring Spring activities, I’d noticed Steven Matz was not performing in a manner befitting one-fifth or –sixth of the Greatest Starting Rotation Ever Assembled. I could dismiss such presumably aberrational behavior if I could measure it in relation to his awesome track record. But Matz has almost no track record. He threw two real good regular-season starts, went on the DL, threw four more (one of which was relatively superb), reported some back stiffness and then was tasked with taming the Dodgers, the Cubs and the Royals in October. He survived each of them and now he’s the No. 4 starter on the GSREA. There was a time we huffed “no scholarships” at starters will fewer big league credentials, but we all believe in Matz because a) we really like him; b) we really want to; c) we’re told he’s definitively worthy of our faith despite having pitched past the sixth inning exactly once in the majors.

I’m willing to take a relatively small leap that he’ll be what he is supposed to be — the best parts of his 2015 sample size were as tasty as his sample size was small — but maybe he could pitch well once in March so he could put my mind at ease in advance of April?

My fellow Long Islander did me a solid. Five-and-two-thirds innings of what appeared to be professional pitching. He walked four but struck out five and allowed only a home run to Clint Robinson [2] in the way of damage. Later he told those who asked that the Mets pitchers had a meeting and this somehow helped. Most meetings veer to the useless. Perhaps Dan Warthen [3] has a future in human resources.

Could it be? Yes, it could.
Something’s coming, something good,
If I can wait!
Something’s coming, I don’t know what it is,
But it is
Gonna be great!

David Wright [4] went the other way, all the way, belting a Yusmeiro Petit [5] pitch barely over Tradition Field’s right field fence in the first inning. David Wright stroking opposite field home runs is the rock on which His Wrightness was built. Then they built Citi Field, which sapped one of his core equities but doesn’t much matter in Port St. Lucie, where the Mets play in a ballpark whose dimensions remain an exact match for Shea Stadium. That was a brilliant concept in 1988, a lingering curiosity since 2009 for those of us who enjoy raising our eyebrows in “ya don’t say?” astonishment. The Mets aren’t using 338 down the lines and 410 to center anymore in real life, but knowing that the old ballpark’s measurements still play a role in preparing the players for their season in the current one tickles the historical rib. It’s like bumping into the Ebbets Field flagpole outside Barclays Center [6] or scaling the restored John T. Brush Stairway behind the site of the Polo Grounds [7].

Here’s a ghost for you, albeit one that ultimately learned it was time to blow: the air conditioner that cooled the visitors’ clubhouse at Shea from 1964 through 2008 was a transplant from the Polo Grounds press room. Ironically, an AC unit that was said to chill effectively enough “to store raw meat [8]” was ultimately knocked down because of a stiff Breeze [9].

Wright, who’s been around since that air conditioner was frosting Bobby Cox [10]’s autographed balls, is working toward not being an anachronism. He’s working hard so he can take Johnnie Walker’s advice on remaining ambulatory [11]. Tell us all you want that Spring is somewhere to tread emotionally lightly. David works it. At 32 and saddled stenoically, he has to [12].

The work paid off on Sunday. It didn’t count at all, yet surely it counted for something.

With a click, with a shock,
Phone’ll jingle, door’ll knock,
Open the latch!
Something’s coming, don’t know when, but it’s soon;
Catch the moon,
One-handed catch!

Gary Cohen was on assignment, which could be taken to mean he’d be filing reports from Lebanon on The Nightly News with Lester Holt unless you know that announcers for your favorite team actually announce other games. Howie Rose does hockey, Josh Lewin football, Gary college basketball. Though they’re all as talented there as they’re talented here, it can’t help but feel like the tiniest bit of betrayal to their true missions, which is talking to us about the Mets every time they open their mouths. Lindsey Nelson called the Cotton Bowl without once mentioning Buddy Harrelson. Lindsey, I’d wonder, why aren’t you talking about the Mets on New Year’s Day?

With Gary broadcasting for radio audiences the improbable step Syracuse took [13] into the NCAA Final Four, Scott Braun took his place telling us about the PSL Nobody’s Keeping Track Two. Braun — whose voice I inevitably associate with Barbasol-sponsored updates [14] on the MLB Network at four in the morning — filled in last Spring, too. He and Jim Duquette and Alexa Datt. It’s not at all bad what they do. It’s just not what we’re used to.

Keith Hernandez [15], though…him we’re used to and wouldn’t have it any other way. Keith, who fretted between Sunday pitches about booking his brother a hotel room in Sag Harbor two months from now, did color while Scott did play-by-play. It was a generally affable and amiable arrangement, though you certainly hope Cabrera and Walker are in better sync by Kansas City than these provisional partners were.

Scott asked Keith a pitching question. There was a pause of several seconds.

“I’m sorry,” Keith finally and honestly replied. “I was daydreaming.”

Ah, Scott. Everybody knows Ronnie handles the pitching questions [16]. But he was on assignment as well.

Around the corner,
Or whistling down the river,
Come on, deliver
To me!
Will it be? Yes, it will.
Maybe just by holding still,
It’ll be there!

At any given moment, I’m hyperaware of no more than three Mets prospects. One of them is Amed Rosario [17]. I’ve heard he’s the Shortstop of the Future. The last one we had was Jose Reyes. I was hyperaware of him as he climbed the ladder. It’s been all pretty TBD at that position in the four going on five seasons since Jose left. Will Amed fill the post-Reyes gap once and for all when 2018 rolls around? It’s too soon to peer so far. Rosario’s only 20, has spent all of two games above Single-A and was sporting No. 89 on Sunday.

But No. 89 was in action. He, like Matz and Wright (and, I suppose, Braun and Hernandez), started. He banged out two hits. He made a leaping grab of a line drive. He exuded enthusiasm all over Twitter before and after.

It was a “privilege and honor” playing alongside the “big boys”; any number was a good number if got him “to play in the show”; the best part of his day was “seeing Captain David Wright healthy, winning and playing in front of the Mets home crowd.” Young Amed volunteered all of this and answered every atta-boy fed him in the occasionally fraught 4-6-3 pivot of social media.

Come to think of it, maybe it’s @amed_rosario [18] who has the future in human resources — after he stars at shortstop for us for a decade or two.

Come on, something, come on in, don’t be shy,
Meet a guy,
Pull up a chair!
The air is humming,
And something great is coming!
Who knows?

Nobody won. Nobody lost. That happens in Spring Training. It happens a lot to the Mets, who on Sunday posted a tie for the third consecutive day. Once the bottom of the ninth was over, the score Mets 4, Nats 4, I braced myself for the most predictable March camera shot this side of some UNC Tar Heel cutting down a net: Terry Collins waving “bye” to the other team’s manager.

As of this coming Sunday night, we won’t see that shot anymore. It will be whether you win or lose, not just that you played a game. The bullpen will have to fine-tune itself. Cespedes will have to judge deep flies to the base of the wall better. Conforto will have to be comfortable, deGrom up to speed and Harvey…gads, what exactly is up with the titular ace of the GSREA? Nothing good [19], say the sources inside my head.

This gets real and stays real before we know it. It’s only just out of reach.

Music by Leonard Bernstein. Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim. [20] Anticipation by New York Mets fans everywhere.

***

Profuse thanks to all who came to Foley’s this past Saturday for an Amazin’ Again [21] event that lived up to my book’s name. You humble with me with your words and actions.

Hope those of you in or adjacent to the Borough of Mets can join me Thursday evening, 6 to 7:30, at the Queens Library’s Central branch in Jamaica [22] for a talk I assure you will be as Amazin’ as I can make it.

And speaking of Amazin’ talk, this chat [23] between myself (at 35 minutes in) and Chris McShane of Amazin’ Avenue was a pleasure to be part of.