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The Walking Ted

What was Chipper Jones [1] doing in the Mets clubhouse [2] before Saturday night’s game at Turner Field? Presumably signing over the deed on the joint to the visiting team.

Remember when Larry was loathed and Turner was terrifying? Vaguely. Like the Atlanta Braves who made the National League Eastern Division their private hunting preserve, it all seems a very long time ago.

Turner Field will stand after 2016, but the Braves won’t remain. They’re racing as fast as one can in I-85 traffic to escape what Google Maps refers to as their “nostalgia-filled modern baseball stadium” and vamoose to Sun Trust Park, where the Atlanta Braves will play as the Atlanta Braves despite not technically playing in Atlanta.

Which is fine with us, provided they continue to by no means resemble the Braves we spent a generation fearing and loathing, a tradition for which no Mets fan in his Wright mind will conjure a whit of modern nostalgia. Those Braves who made Turner Field synonymous with pain have taken a powder…which is what the Mets ground their former tormentors into Saturday night.

That makes it two wins in a row in this series and six overall, dating back to last September [3]. It’s not enough. It can never be enough. The Mets won 8-2 on Saturday [4]? Win 18-2 on Sunday. Sweep the four games slated in late June by larger margins. Upon return in September for the final three Mets-Braves games in Turner Field history, do to the Braves what Warden Norton threatened to do to Andy Dufresne toward the end of The Shawshank Redemption, a film that, coincidentally, was also set in a house of horrors.

Seal it off, brick by brick. Have a little baseball barbecue in the yard. They’ll see the flames for miles. We’ll “dance around it like wild Injuns,” to use the distasteful vernacular that is still evoked down Atlanta way by all that awful chopping and chanting.

The warden in Shawshank is not a suitable role model for our boys, neither in outcome nor demeanor, but the Mets were the nice guys for years at Turner Field, and until very recently, nice guys finished second over and over again. Before the Braves completely abandoned the pretense of competitive viability, they had taken five of their first six home games against the Mets in 2015, a pace completely in line with most everything that unfolded between the erstwhile rivals from September 1997 forward.

The Mets actually won their first-ever series at Turner Field, taking three out of four right after the All-Star break nineteen years ago. They capped it with a thrilling comeback victory on Sunday Night Baseball, hurtling over a first-inning 6-0 deficit to win in ten, 7-6. Bobby Jones [5] buckled down after a nightmare beginning and persevered through seven innings. Butch Huskey [6] clobbered a pair of home runs and drove in five. Alex Ochoa [7] put the Mets ahead with a solo blast. John Franco [8] wriggled out of John Franco-type trouble to nail down the save for Greg McMichael [9]. It was a quintessential 1997 Mets triumph.

It was also the Mets’ last win at Turner Field until 2006. Or so it felt [10]. No need to catalogue, at the moment, the 103 regular-season losses that accumulated between ’97 and ’15, nor delve deeply into the three postseason shortfalls that did a number on us in the fall of ’99. The fact that the Mets won 56 games prior to their current on-site six-game winning streak no doubt leaves you with the same thought it leaves me:

The Mets won 56 games at Turner Field?

They did. There were the aforementioned three in that misleading jaunty first voyage to the Ted; and three at the tail end of 2014, just when the Braves were completely evaporating from contention [11]; and another three in the joyous summer of ’06 [12], the first of a few times we thought for sure we’d never have to deal with Turner Field as Turner Field again.

The ballpark has been in business for two decades and, if pressed, I can probably identify most of the Met wins there, less from the power of memory than the fact that there haven’t been all that many Met wins to remember. Considering that the Mets visit for nine or ten games a year every year, keeping track of “all’ their victories isn’t much of a challenge. Or it wasn’t until now, when the Mets have stopped losing at Turner Field and can soon stop playing at Turner Field.

I’d like to go full-gloat, but I’ll ease up because the stadium will continue to host the Mets, and why get on its bad side? We may need wins in Atlanta before they load up the trucks and move to Cobb…County, that is. These are good times, but the evil spirits that have enveloped the edifice since that pair of September nights in 1997 when the Braves outscored the Mets 21-6 and squeezed the life out of what was left of our faint Wild Card hopes are only an overconfident stir away.

The scalping of ’97 was a veritable smoke signal of what to come. It was before 1998; and Angel Hernandez; and the three losses that closed the season and the books on our playoff chances again; and 1999; and Chipper; and Kenny; and the pennant that wasn’t; and 2000; and the division title that got away; and 2001; and Brian Jordan [13] deleting for the second time in six days what could have been one the greatest New York baseball stories ever written; and…

Sorry. I said I wasn’t going to do that. Let’s stay in the present. Let’s stay with country squire Larry Jones dropping by to pay his respects to fellow North Floridian Jacob deGrom [14]. Let’s revel in Steven Matz [15] easing from jams with minimal damage. Let’s make culturally appropriate arm gestures to salute David Wright [16]’s timely two-out, two-run double. Let’s celebrate the middle infield of Asdrubal Cabrera [17] and Neil Walker [18] and how they field fine and hit far. Let’s tip a cap toward Juan Lagares [19] making the most of an unplanned appearance in the starting lineup.

Let’s keep doing at Turner Field what we never did with regularity when Turner Field was in its prime. Let’s leave it a house of happy.

***

Immense thanks to Gary Cohen for offering such a generous appraisal of our blog and my new book on the air Saturday night — and heartfelt gratitude, too, to all who asked on social media, “Hey, didja hear that?” (Sure did.)

You’re already reading Faith and Fear, so you might as well get in on Amazin’ Again. The story of how the 2015 Mets brought the magic back to Queens is readily available from your high-profile online booksellers [20], and you can obtain a signed, personalized copy by visiting my sister’s eBay page [21].

I think you’ll enjoy it as much as you enjoy the Mets pounding the Braves.