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Like an Egg

“And don’t hold the ball so hard, OK? It’s an egg. Hold it like an egg.”
— Crash Davis

Baseball season is returned to us, praise be. Today, for the first time, we’ll have games on consecutive days. Tomorrow evening in Miami we’ll get the first night game, and a chance to see what the Marlins have done to their uniforms and their stadium. (Spoiler: incredibly, given the starting points were gaudy and awful, they’ve managed to make both worse.)

This is the thin blush of the season, the time in which remembering every game and even every inning is possible, and I love that. But I’m also always struck by how fragile it feels. You don’t want to squeeze too hard, and excesses of emotion are to be guarded against. That applies to euphoria and despair alike.

After two games, Mets fans need to guard against euphoria, an emotional peril for which we’re not particularly loaded up with antibodies. Though last year “helped,” in a way I didn’t particularly want help — watching an 11-1 start turn to ash left a mark I suspect I’ll bear for the rest of my baseball life.

Certainly Pete Alonso [1] looks like he’s having the time of his life out there, which you’d expect since so far he can’t do anything wrong. Alonso is rifling balls over center fielders and off fences (through fences, almost), being alert and aggressive on the basepaths, and looks like a pickin’ machine over at first base. Seriously, if you had the Mets holding the line in the late innings based on a Wilson Ramos [2] infield hit and great Pete Alonso defense, go play the Lotto.

So far. Because, again, hold it like an egg. With the Mets having gone to 2-0, I saw Alonso ROY natterings and wanted to scream. There will be scoops out of the dirt that come up 100% soil and 0% baseball, leading to losses and hangdog mea culpas, just as there will be diving sliders flailed at and lonely walks back to the dugout. Alonso is a kid and he’s having a blast; he and we should enjoy both while keeping our cool. The things about Alonso that might be truly significant, from this tiny sample, are that the game hasn’t seemed too fast for him and he shows little inclination to expand his strike zone. Those traits have a better chance of lasting than a .500 average.

A number of other new or at least newish Mets had notable days too. (When you score 11 runs, notable days will be abundant.) Ramos spent a lot of time on the basepaths, where his running suggests he’s cosplaying a sauropod from Jurassic Park. We will find this entertaining as long as Ramos can convincingly impersonate a tyrannosaur with a bat in his hands. In the top of the first, I sagely observed to Emily that Jeff McNeil [3] triple would score Ramos from second; because it was that kind of day, McNeil obligingly tripled.

(Still, a thought experiment for those with a better Baseball Reference subscription than mine: Has a batter ever recorded an inside-the-park home run on which a runner in front of him was tagged out at the plate? And would that even count?)

Not all was rosy in Met Land: there was an “8” to the right of that “11,” after all.

Noah Syndergaard [4]‘s location came and went and he looked peevish and out of sorts for long intervals on the mound. (As did Stephen Strasburg [5].)

Brandon Nimmo [6] looks anxious and lost so far, swinging at pitches he’d need an oar to reach, and Michael Conforto [7] looks similarly tentative and frustrated.

And Mickey Callaway [8] made a number of odd decisions. He left Ramos on first base in a tie game, requiring him to be shoved around the bases by McNeil, Amed Rosario [9] and J.D. Davis [10], like a refrigerator being delivered tag-team. (By the way, Davis’s full name is Jonathan Gregory Davis, which isn’t Mickey Callaway’s fault but still leaves me with questions.) With the bases loaded Callaway opted for Seth Lugo [11] to relieve Jeurys Familia [12], despite the fact that both are right-handed and Lugo is more prone to the home-run ball. (Matt Adams [13] hit a seed to the fence; no word if Lugo returned to the dugout and serenely said, “Well, I got my man.”) When Lugo was undone by Rosario and Robinson Cano [14] kicking around a double-play ball, Callaway left him in for a 40-pitch ninth, which would be abuse in July, let alone April; he wound up having to go to Edwin Diaz [15] anyway. One of the Mets’ offseason moves that most pleased me was bringing in Jim Riggleman [16] over Gary DiSarcina, who looked a lot like a career American Leaguer in his first go-round as a National League bench coach. Yesterday I wish Riggleman had talked more, Callaway had listened more, or both.

But the Mets won [17], thanks to Alonso and McNeil and Davis and Ramos and Dom Smith. We could be Nationals fans, who after two days have a long list of things to overreact to — failures in the clutch, anxious at-bats, shoddy fielding, whether Victor Robles [18] needs more time to fix his Awesome: Dunderheaded ratio, how much time the team will need to reconfigure itself in the post-Bryce era, and maybe if anyone else will balk in a run before throwing a pitch. (Seriously, that was something.) They’re 0-2; we’re 2-0. Both those things seem gigantic while not actually meaning anything.

Like an egg. It’s all new. Don’t squeeze too hard.