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Arrhythmic April

This Sunday afternoon in New York has been sunny if chilly and breezy. Tonight will be chillier, probably as breezy and a whole lot darker. If this Sunday afternoon were a Sunday afternoon as originally conceived, I’d be sitting around complaining there’s no Mets game on because it’s being held in abeyance for Sunday Night Baseball.

That would be a great complaint to make right now.

I’m still sort of tracking the 2020 Mets schedule despite it having been rendered inoperative by prevailing circumstances, thinking to myself every day or two that if the Mets were playing, this is where they’d be playing and this is what might be going on. In doing so, I’ve gone through an array of phantom-limb sensations.

Opening Day.
The gaping off-day void that follows Opening Day.
The probable first rainout.
The inevitable first loss (because you can’t win ’em all).
The disbelief they’d be playing in this weather.
Knowing in my bones that the Mets would be not so great, not so bad and that the emerging effect would register as not so satisfying [1].
The trip to Washington, where our resentment levels would have risen about as high as their championship flag.
The trip to Houston, where there’d have been ONE pre-series storyline and it wouldn’t be Jake Marisnick’s triumphant return.
The trip to Milwaukee, when I would have mentioned, as I do upon every trip to Milwaukee, that the Mets always lose their second-to-last game [2] in Beertown.
The well-meaning Jackie Robinson Day mandate that every player on every team don 42 and the slight chuckle the invocations of Ron Taylor, Ron Hodges and Roger McDowell still elicit annually.
Disdain for Saturday night home games in April.
Disgust for Sunday night games anywhere anytime.

It’s almost as if we don’t need a season to be fans. But we do. For although there is much about absorbing baseball that is familiar enough to perform by instinct, there’d be something going on these first few weeks of 2020 that we couldn’t know about.

I can’t tell you what it was or is or would have been. Finding out what is why we keep coming back. If every season was a simple recycling of occasions and themes, the computer simulations I’ve mostly avoided would do. But the unknown is what you can’t program, no matter how sophisticated your software. You can imagine your head off (surely you have time to do so), but during a baseball season, the most unlikely or outrageous outcome you can imagine is no match for the thoroughly mundane that constitutes the fiber of our existence. We need that low hum of grounders to short and fouls into the crowd. It’s from the swelled ranks of the totally expected that one unanticipated aberration rises up and grabs our attention. Next thing we know, something we didn’t see coming lodges in our consciousness. Suddenly it’s a part of how we view baseball from here to eternity.

To borrow a phrase coined by my friend Sharon when I was crafting the original Happiest Recap series [3] in 2011 (most Amazin’ first game of a season, most Amazin’ 137th game of a season and so on), I adhere to the Metropolitan Calendar more than the Gregorian one the rest of society uses. When retracing Met steps — for example their record at a certain juncture of a certain season — I like to think in terms of where they were after ‘x’ number of games rather than where they were on such-and-such a date. Comparing records after ‘x’ number of games gives me a comparable playing field. The Mets have opened seasons on March 28, April 26 and sixteen dates in between. On April 26, 2019, when the Mets had been playing for close to a month, their record dipped to 13-12. On April 26, 1995, the Mets were freezing in Denver, saddled with a mark of 0-1 following the finally resolved baseball strike of the previous summer, autumn and winter and, at last, Opening Night at brand new Coors Field. You can see why I might find limited utility in contrasting what those two editions of the Mets were up to on April 26.

Beyond exactitude issues, I’m rather fatigued by “This Date In…” reminders. I have been for about a decade. I used to love being reminded — and reminding others — that on this date in some past year something Metwise happened and, say, wasn’t that something we haven’t thought about in a while? Because such information is so readily searchable, you can’t scroll six socially responsible feet on your feed of choice without being inundated with this or that having happened this or that many years ago. It was more fun when it wasn’t as easily accessed, which is to say it was more fun when it was left to people with unusual capacity for retaining day & date details (ahem) to the reminding, whether or not anybody else was in the mood to be reminded.

Nevertheless, I’ve picked up on a couple of those helpful reminders over the past couple of days and I’m glad I did, not so much for the facts that have resurfaced, but to realize that with every game and every swing and every pitch, we get new facts. On April 17, 2010, we received a torrent of them because the Mets and Cardinals played twenty innings that weren’t technically endless but essentially were. On April 19, 2013, we calibrated our common tongue [4] to incorporate the wonders of how we reacted to our young and promising ace outpitching somebody else’s young and promising ace. That was the night we chanted, with all relevant evidence tilting in our enthusiasm’s favor that HAR-VEY’S BET-TER! On that night precisely seven years ago, there was no disputing our assertion was anything but fact, just as on the afternoon into evening of ten years and two days ago, there was no escaping the sense that there’d be no escaping a game that would never end [5].

Maybe you remember what happened the game before or after the Mets beat the Cardinals in twenty innings or the game before or after Matt Harvey overwhelmed Stephen Strasburg. Probably you don’t. That’s all right. You probably remember the two games in question, though. They became an element of your fandom. Maybe not the most definitive or compelling elements, but they’re there. You might not recall the exact dates or even the seasons they occurred without a nudge, but somewhere in the back of your mind, the games or at least the takeaways from them are there. Sometimes, as on April 17, 2010, games seem to stretch beyond their reasonable parameters. Sometimes, as on April 19, 2013, pitchers get us so excited that we don’t only want to watch them with awe, we need to describe them aloud [6].

And those were only two games among 162 games in their respective seasons among who knows how many thousands you’ve experienced through your life? If April of 2010 hadn’t included a slate of Mets games, you wouldn’t have a specific point of reference involving a twenty-inning win at Busch Stadium in which Tony La Russa resorted to pitching position players and Jerry Manuel warmed up Francisco Rodriguez enough so that K-Rod threw the equivalent of a complete game in the bullpen. If April of 2013 had proceeded without the Mets, you wouldn’t remember that there was a span of weeks when everybody talked about Matt Harvey as the next Tom Seaver and it was rarely interpreted as hyperbole.

So much to glean from two memorable baseball games ten and seven years later. So much to glean at the time from the now forgotten baseball games surrounding them. So much to inform our perspective as we roll along. So much to reach back and touch for a few minutes when there’s nothing of a similar nature emerging to engage never mind not depress us. It’s all a part of our baseball fandom.

This April we’re not adding to it, which is a real shame, if merely incidental to the larger picture painted by these unfortunate days.

Without new baseball, I’ve reveled, to a point, in the old baseball broadcast by outlets whose archives are a seemingly shallow blessing. Listen, if you want to air The First No-Hitter in New York Mets History and I happen to notice it’s on, I will greet its closing moments with a substantial semblance of the rapture I experienced and expressed [7] on June 1, 2012. But don’t expect me to make a night of it when you have aired The First No-Hitter in New York Mets History so many times that the total outpaces the viewer’s ability to count, maybe find another game to show.

SNY has been running an online survey in an effort to determine what Mets fans think is the greatest game of the last decade. They are providing a list of five choices — the no-hitter; Wilmer’s tears of joy; David’s return to the lineup wherein eight Met home runs were hit; the 2015 division clincher; and David’s farewell — and will televise them in ascending order this Monday night through Friday night, five through one. All five have been shown repeatedly. All five have been repeated repeatedly. Then they went into reruns and were rerun rerunnedly. After which, they went into a rotation so heavy that MTV c. 1983 was embarrassed that a cable channel could play the same few hits over and over and over.

Maybe find another game to show? Definitely find another game to show. We are hungry like the wolf to watch something besides the same dozen games in a loop.

Show the last game the Mets played before they’d ever had a no-hitter.

Show the first game the Mets played after they’d finally had a no-hitter.

Show David Wright going two-for-four with a double amid Jon Niese going six innings giving up four runs to whoever, it doesn’t matter.

Delve into that SNY library and do what you did for the first week or two of the great postponement. The network aired every 2019 win it aired last year, not just the so-called classics. Pete Alonso didn’t necessarily homer. Jacob deGrom didn’t necessarily toss eight scoreless. Nobody’s shirt was necessarily giddily detached from anybody’s sweaty torso. It was just one baseball game after another and it was quietly exhilarating amid a silent spring. We didn’t require additional suspense or intrigue. I didn’t require it be a Mets win, but I can understand if others aren’t so expansive to their approach to rewatchables.

I hoped that once SNY got done with the wins from 2019, they’d cue up the wins from 2018, then 2017 and keep going clear back to 2006, the first year there was SportsNet New York. Perhaps, if it didn’t require anybody to endanger their health or cross constricting contractual boundaries, they could arrange to pop on Mets games that predate SNY. This topic usually quickly descends into “SHOW THE JIMMY QUALLS GAME!” or some other vintage fare that one can be pretty sure doesn’t exist on tape or film fifty-one years later. I’m all for wish-listing, but I’ll be reasonable here. I’m not asking for video miracles. I’m asking for Brian Bannister and Moises Alou and Cory Sullivan and maybe a little Josh Satin. If a digital treasure chest of Fran Healy wishes to spill its secrets regarding Shane Spencer settling under a can of corn or Esix Snead coming into run with blazing speed, wonderful. Anything older, fantastic. Anything, really.

Nobody has to be walking off. Nobody has to be nailing down a Cy Young. Just fill the rest of our April with what we don’t have in front of us, and then do it again in May and June and we’ll let you know when you can stop.