We play at least two of these every year, the template as familiar as those sacks of fertilizer in the dugout:
1a. Up by a couple early, Marlins yank us back come the middle innings.
1b. Down by a couple early, yank Marlins back come the middle innings.
2. Long slow grind, possibly interrupted by a rain delay.
2b. Bad feeling breaks out. (Optional.)
3. Miscellaneous tomfoolery/strangeness puts one team or the other ahead.
4. Heroics make things even once again.
5. Extra innings loom, or begin in apparent innocence.
6. A seemingly unlikely Marlin rally results in them dogpiling while dispirited Mets leave field and I say terrible things.
Two different new Met relievers got rough initiations into the primal suck that is Soilmaster Stadium and the Florida Marlins, favorite team of around 8,000 souls provided the weather is perfect, which it never is. Both Bobby Parnell and Darren O'Day looked stunned; I was not. No, I was numb, waiting with the dull, sour expectation I imagine (though this is unconfirmable) is shared by veteran skydivers when the reserve chute doesn't open either. A two-out bunt, a bloop and a sharp single that went against the defense for starters; an infield single, walk and another sharp single for enders . Utterly and hideously familiar.
When Hanley Ramirez hit the home run for the early Marlin lead, I was possessed by a terrible thought and scooted over to the fridge to look at the schedule, where I exhaled in relief to find we finish up the 2009 regular season against our expansion brethren, the Houston Astros. But then I thought better of that: Like there isn't some way Hanley Ramirez will engineer a trade to the Stros for the final week, even if it means asking for his release and paying his own salary, or disguising himself as a Round Rock Expressman. And with our luck he'll bring Jorge Cantu with him — the oddly smash-faced Marlin first baseman was all that stood between Matt Lindstrom and ruin in the top of the ninth, as Cantu speared a Carlos Delgado ball that nearly went through him and smothered Alex Cora's bid for the go-ahead RBI. And then, of course, he finished us in the bottom of the frame.
John Maine had an encouraging start and Jeremy Reed a heroic moment consigned to a lower-case h by the outcome, but I can barely remember that now, because I'm seeing teal.
I'm normally an advocate of cities doing whatever shady deals are required for new baseball stadiums, in part because I assume governments will otherwise do something even stupider with all those civic dimes. But I was rooting hard against the Marlins ever getting a new park, for the exceedingly simple reason that I loathe the Marlins' very existence, from their ghastly colors to their claiming the state name for their own despite sharing that territory with another team to their succession of wretched owners to their vapid, no-show fans. (And they gave Jeff Torborg money to do something other than disappear.)
For years I've devoutly hoped that this hideous franchise would soon be forced to leave this awful city and its apathetic residents in their natural, thoroughly deserved state of baseball-lessness. Now, it looks like it's not to be, and oh how it steams me to think the Mets will now never escape. They'll forever be slogging down to a Miami stadium whose seats will be sprinkled with 15,000 fans, 7,000 of them New York expats who don't realize that they're putting their hand back on what we all know will wind up being a very hot stove.
It's not that I think we'd never have soul-killing displays of futility against the San Antonio Last Stand or the Portland Yoga or whatever the Marlins might have pulled up stakes to become. But somehow I always imagined those would bother me far less — if only because maybe they'd have a room somewhere reserved for the bags of fertilizer.