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The Sidearmer Sleeps Tonight

Friday night, as I was watching the Nets lose — an activity surely signifying the depths of winter for both me and the team to which I’ve clung through four post-Julius Erving decades as if I’m convinced the Doctor will be coming out of the locker room shortly to start the second half — we lucky viewers were enticed with the promise of even more Nets basketball, Nets and Sixers, at a special start time of noon on Sunday. I was thinking how that sounds awfully early for a basketball game, though I reasoned that once in a great while the Mets will play a makeup doubleheader on a Sunday starting at noon, and that would sound great right about now.

But there was to be no Mets baseball on Sunday, only more Nets basketball (another loss, which I forgot was in progress until the third quarter) and Giants football. There will be more Nets basketball imminently; January is lousy with the stuff. The Giants, having lost their playoff game in Green Bay later in the day, find themselves on hiatus sooner than desired, though it does clear their schedule for sailing and other tropical pursuits.

The Mets, meanwhile, are nowhere to be found.

The last we heard from them [1], the Mets were signing righthanded relief pitchers Ben Rowen [2] and Cory Burns [3] to minor league contracts. Ben Rowen is a submariner. Cory Burns is said to have a deceptive delivery [4]. Actual submarines are supposed to be deceptive, but you can tell a submariner from a mile away. If only we were a mile from baseball season. Instead, it sits an eternity up the road.

Ben Rowen and Cory Burns, however they contort their arms in service to pitching, are nowhere in sight. Nor are any Mets doing any actual Met thing. Bring on the sidearming reliever. Bring on the unconventional reliever. Bring on somebody who can get somebody out. Bring on loaded bases and something to get out of.

This winter is endless. The next Met season’s gestation period is endless. It snowed on Saturday. There was no sense of baseball being blanketed. The Mets weren’t trading for George Foster [5] or Johan Santana [6] as they sometimes used to [7] in the dead of winter. They weren’t even inviting Ben Rowen to camp. They already did that, just as they already preemptively directed Cory Burns to frolic among the minor leaguers. We got our big name taken care of [8] weeks or maybe months ago. It’s hard to remember anymore. Yoenis Cespedes [9] is in the fold, which is splendid. Everybody else who’s contractually bound to the Mets is very familiar. Nothing wrong with that. Cuts down on the awkward introductory phases.

Then there’s Ben Rowen, the submariner with twelve games as a Ranger and Brewer to his credit. Should he make the Mets, he might come through in the seventh inning and we will praise Ben Rowen. Or he might implode in the sixth inning and we will condemn Ben Rowen. We will have our Ben Rowen plot points on the graph of perception and adjust accordingly. But I’d love a look at Ben Rowen warming up about now. Or Cory Burns, who’s been a Padre and a Blue Jay, though neither lately. Last year Cory was a Lancaster Barnstormer, which is not to say he couldn’t make a fine New York Met if given the chance. Or a terrible New York Met if given the same chance. You know how relievers are, in that you never know how relievers are. Every member of your bullpen should sign the Hippocratic oath: first do no harm. Then have a colorful delivery, a colorful shtick, a colorful backstory of how you chilled on Justin Bieber’s yacht on your off day before entering the frozen tundra and not dropping the ball…I mean striking out Bryce Harper.

You remember relievers, don’t you? And starters? And baseball in general? This past weekend I’d have given all the Nets basketball (of which there’s a surfeit) and all the Giants football (of which there is none any longer) for a 12:10 doubleheader, or even a 1:10 single game.

Same deal all week. Go ahead, make me an offer.