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Being Mike Pelfrey

It’s often this way when you’re furious with someone you love: Irritation boils up into anger and anger explodes into rage, but then the rage consumes its fuel and you’re left feeling tired and vaguely sick and wish you could just fast-forward to whatever point will allow you to start over.

So it was with the hapless, badly led, star-crossed 2010 Mets as they brought their 2-6 season into their third game in Denver: I hadn’t changed my mind about any of the things that are wrong, but I couldn’t stand to spend any more time dwelling on them. The Mets would play and I would watch and listen and we’d see how things went.

Luckily, a couple of things were stacked in their favor even before the game began.

There’s always a brief lift from the day game that caps a series and sees your team off to another city and another opponent — they’re moving on, for better or worse, and so are you. Similarly, there’s something about a midweek matinee with spring still stretching its legs: The physical season and the baseball season are both new enough that you’re not yet used to the idea of either, and so they feel like gifts. And for me, personally, there was the added wrinkle of the first game that I’d have to keep up with catch-as-catch-can, with the second half followed through quick glances and surreptitious Gameday watching during errands and the FAN in one ear while walking home with the kid.

Being Mike Pelfrey [1]

Whoa, we're about to plow into Miguel Olivo.

I love that aspect of weekday matinees, too: From beneath my headphones I watch other people scurrying around on their errands and see how few of them have a game to keep them company, and I thank my parents and good fortune for having brought me to the Church of Baseball. I don’t think I’ve ever felt truly lonely with a game in my ear — I’ve been sad and irritated and enraged and anxious and hopeful and very occasionally smug and triumphant, but never lonely. How could you be, with the announcers and the players and the fans right there with you?

Not that any of this would have been much help if the Mets had been awful and/or lunkheaded once again. And, hey, they did have their moments: The top of the third was a particular farce, with an incredulous David Wright watching baserunners disappear in front of him until he was alone and the logical thing to do was wave at a rare Jorge De La Rosa strike and disappear himself. But this time the dopey moments were comic relief, thanks to Mike Pelfrey [2].

Big Pelf was horrible in spring training, like every other starter handed a rotation spot just for showing up in St. Lucie, but he’s been awfully good so far. There’s the new splitter, a renewed dedication to pitching inside, a certain measure of meanness that’s been lacking, and so far a lack of, well, Big Pelf moments. Pelfrey isn’t a flake in the Tug/Turk tradition, but he’s certifiably eccentric — this is a guy, let’s remember, who last year tipped his pitches by wandering around on the mound muttering the name of the pitch he was about to throw. I sometimes wonder what it would be like to take a few minutes and see the world through Mike Pelfrey’s eyes. Would it be revelatory? Amusing? Terrifying? I don’t know, but I bet it would be interesting. (For one thing, most people would look a lot smaller.)

At least for today, things looked pretty good from that perspective. And so for the next 21 hours, some is forgiven.