save the best for last

September 26, 2008

Thursday morning I was talking with my friend Stan, who kept shouting (via IM): “ALL YOU NEED IS A DAMN FLY BALL!” Yes, he’d been to Wednesday’s game, called me after Daniel Murphy’s triple (I got home just in time to hear it) and we both thought, “Game over.” I screamed in delight. I yelled “DO IT NOWWWWW” to David Wright through the radio.

And of course it didn’t happen.

So Stan yesterday morning asked if I wanted to go to the game. “Yes. Maybe,” I replied.

“Maybe as in you might have something else going on or maybe as in you might not be able to stomach it?”

“Latter,” I said.

And so he bought two tickets, and we wondered the worth of sitting in the rain, and deduced that yes, it was worth it.

Getting on the crowded 7 Express from Times Square, I put on some Irma Thomas and looked at everyone on the train in Mets garb. As what happens when I see someone in a Mets shirt or jersey on the street, I checked the name and number on their back. Reyes 7. Wright 5. Beltran 15. Delgado 21. Santana 57. Wagner 13. A devilishly handsome man in Martinez 45. A tow-headed kid in Murphy 28 (note to the Mets: please make those in adult sizes, thank you). And as the 7 rumbled over Queens I looked out at the dreary day, hoping for something magical at what was likely to be my last game ever in Shea Stadium. (“Unless there’s a tiebreaker,” Stan said. “We have to go to that.” Pouty, sometime during a Mets deficit, I said, “I don’t want a tiebreaker.” And I still don’t. I’d rather them take care of business this weekend, goddammit, weather permitting).

And then the big blue of Shea Stadium broke the expanse of gloomy gray, and I stared, turning off my iPod, wanting to soak it in. Walked around it before Stan showed up. My last time ever there, and I never knew it well enough, being a Californian, being a NY transplant, having only roughly 20 live games or so to my credit.

We settled into our Upper Box seats, Pedro being requisite early-innings-runs Pedro. (“Who the fuck is Micah Hoffpauir?!”) And as the rain began to fall I began to feel elegaic, for this stadium I love even if I didn’t know it well, for this team I became devoted to by default and then by adoration, and for Pedro, one of the greats, as he steps off the mound, points up to the sky (God? Dad?), we raise in response and applaud, he salutes with a pumped fist and points to the crowd. Amid the angst this team has put us through, amid Pedro’s own corporeal shortcomings, I remember this, and say to Stan, “We could have seen his last ever appearance.”

We moved for shelter way WAY WAYYYYY upper deck, and Ricardo Rincon serves up a meatball to…WHO THE FUCK IS MICAH HOFFPAUIR?! “Of course!” I yell. “Of course.” And the idiots behind us are screaming and cursing and booing, and I understand the impulse if I didn’t completely abhor the practice. These same idiots would later be arrested in the bottom of the ninth (including one sixteen year old who tried to get away from security, as his plump drunk sister screamed “RUNNNN!!!!”) for attempting to dislodge and steal seats in the upper deck (they were in the last row). I would’ve felt sorry that the group of them missed out on such an ending were it not for the superfluous use of “faggots” to describe various Cubs as well as the “big nose” Jewish jokes aimed at Scott Schoeneweis in the eighth. Sometimes you get exactly what you deserve, and more so.

And I think I got what I deserved. At 6-3, feeling cynical and sad, bitching to Stan that I’ve seen too many seventh inning stretches at Shea where something horrible happened just prior, making me not jolly enough to stand and sing “Take Me Out To The Ballgame.” But everything I did last night, I reminded myself, “This is my Last Ever ________ at Shea.” So I stood up. And I looked at the score. “All they need is at least three runs with nine outs. That’s a run every inning. They can do that. Right?” Stan agreed. “And the bullpen has to not allow anymore outs. They can do that. Right?” I asked. “Now that,” Stan said, “I can’t guarantee.”

But it happened. It happened in ways that encapsulate this season. It happened after terrible relief pitching (Rincon). It happened with big hits from unlikely sources (Ramon Martinez, Robinson Cancel). It happened with bad jokes (Stan: “Robinson! You better cancel your postseason tickets if you don’t come up with a hit!” Me: [glares]). It happened with miraculous, “How did that happen?!” plays (Ryan Church evading the tag…Cancel’s hit made me jump, and Fukudome’s throw made my heart sink, and I groaned “Oh no, he’s out…wait…HE’S SAFE?! WHAT JUST HAPPENED?!” and everyone around me thought the same thing, and we erupted together, high-fiving and hugging and screaming).

And I knew it had to be ours. And after Joe Smith, my beautiful Joe Smith, recorded the last three outs of the ninth (dealing with lefties along the way), I knew it had to be. I knew it couldn’t be a repeat of the previous night, even if the score was the same. Because Josex4 was up and singled. And even if Daniel Murphy was ludicrously asked to bunt (he can’t bunt, he can hit, especially in late innings, let him swing!), and even if David Wright again couldn’t get it done, and even if Carlos Delgado was treated like Carlos Delgado again and intentionally walked, they weren’t going to lose. And when Beltran smoked one past Hoffpauir, I knew I witnessed something special.

Cubs fan Michael texted me afterwards, “Happy to know that your finale at Shea was a good one.” I responded, “Best game I’ve ever seen live, esp considering the circumstances.” The circumstances being: a big comeback in a crucial game, the Mets fighting for a place in the playoffs, the last game I’ll ever see at Shea, and my first walk-off. I remember my previous games at Shea, none as memorable or important as this one. I remember various Sundays at Chavez Ravine, but they exist as hazy nostalgia with not much tangibility. I vaguely recall some at Anaheim, just there for the hell of it. But they can’t top this:

So thanks, Mets, I’ll always remember it. And thank you, Shea, it’s been a pleasure.


from joy to misery

September 25, 2008

3B
K
IBB
IBB
4-2
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cursin’ the cubs

September 24, 2008

After Jason Marquis’ grand slam on Monday, Cubs fan Michael texted me “Suicide watch?” After Kosuke Fukudome’s RBI double yesterday, Cubs fan Josh texted me “Bye bye season!” (I responded “Fuck you dummy!” which I admit is terrible, but give me a break I’m an angst-ridden Mets fan). Another Cubs fan who I used to work with is a total hipster douche with awful opinions (Q: redundant?) and a superior attitude (A: yes), and earlier this season laughed in my face and jigged while Jorge Sosa (remember him?!) gave up eighty home runs in a two game series against the Cubs. On WFAN after the game, a Cubs fan called in to say that the Mets were lucky that Reed Johnson was in the game, because he’s terrible. Reed Johnson, who had two hits last night and is now 12 for 22 against Johan Santana. Hey Chicago, when did you turn into Yankees fans?! Keep your hubris in check, considering your history. (And I like the Cubs!)

I was all set to talk about Johan Santana’s insane hit, which really seemed to be the turning point of the game, comparing his broken black bat to Ron Santo’s black cat, but it seems as if the NY Daily News already has that covered. It’s funny, at least. And I’m not one who believes in curses but I do have a (non-Mets fan) friend going to the game tonight who offered to dress up as Bartman. Is Alou around too?

Why Santana’s hit, leaving aside the idea of divine intervention and whatnot, was important was because it seemed to wake the Mets up. After a dismal game Monday and half of one yesterday, it really did seem like the team was ready to go down meekly. Prior to Santana’s “magic bat trick” (see: Piniella), the offense’s turning point seemed to happen in the first inning, when Luis Castillo followed Jose Reyes’ single by grounding into a fielder’s choice. This guy is supposed to move runners up and get on base, hopefully at the same time, but with every swing of the bat it has become Automatic Out. I can’t stand three more years of this, like he’s 2001 G.W. Bush. He is terrible, surely, but even worse is hearing the boos that cascade on him before he makes an out. It’s not motivating, guys, and it’s pretty embarrassing to boot. In fact, it seemed like everyone aside from Reyes/Wright/Delgado/Santana was getting booed after striking out/grounding out/popping up, up until the bottom of the fifth. Because it was You Ain’t Got No Alibi time until the bottom of the fifth: Nick Evans getting hit, Santana’s crazy hit, Castillo walking (!), and David Wright coming through for only the fourth time all season with the bases loaded to tie the game.

And after that, you just knew this game had to be ours, right? You don’t get a nutty play in your favor and just throw it away. A bases-clearing Reyes triple (200th hit of the year) the next inning provided the cushion, and even Pedro Feliciano didn’t blow it (because Luis Ayala relieved him of his duties).

But it was Santana’s night, as it always seems to be when he’s on the mound. Slightly shaky in the first few innings, he settled down and became dominant again, in a game he knew was the biggest of the season. And it was, until tonight, and the one after that, and so on. Hopefully, the last game he pitches this season (scheduled for the last day of the season) won’t turn out to be the biggest one. Hopefully, by then, it won’t mean a thing.

AWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW.

Oh also, the Yankees were officially eliminated last night. Surprised it took this long, frankly.


it could’ve been worse?

September 22, 2008

Yes, it could have. The Mets could’ve been swept in Atlanta. In fact, they really should have been, if not for the heroics of one Daniel “Jesus” Murphy on Friday, atoning for the sins of his teammates’ lousy (some would say “faggy,” oh how clever, sometimes I love other Mets fans) defense in the previous half-inning by doubling in the go ahead runs, leading to the inevitable FIRST! (and only!) Mets win in Atlanta this season. Because they then shit the bed in the following two games, in the most excruciating, dull, predictable of ways.

Why they should’ve been swept, reason #1: mediocre starting pitching. Oliver Perez danced in and out of trouble all night on Friday, furthering our love/hate relationship. There are very few who are as electric as Ollie is when he’s on, and as frustrating when he’s not. He’s got all the talent in the world, except between the ears (somehow this reminds me of a critique my music teacher gave me, saying I was really gifted but entirely lazy). On Saturday, Pedro Martinez had his requisite first inning troubles (three first-inning runs this time!) before settling in, and Mike Pelfrey did a pretty good Pedro impersonation by looking wild and uncomfortable for much of Sunday, until resembling the dominating pitcher he was in August (almost a matter of too little, too late).

Why they should’ve been swept, reason #2: the bullpen. But that’s almost a given at this point. Rather, the bullpen was great on Friday (even Heilman had a big strikeout!) and Saturday, so of course on Sunday (with a lead!) something had to give, and boy did they give. This group is a regular collective Santy Claus. But it’s easy to pick on retarded kittens, when a lot of the weekend’s blame should go to the supposed big cats.

Why they should’ve been swept, reason #3: the offense. Sure, the offense came through on Friday, thanks to Daniel Murphy, who was downright awful in the following two games, but it’s okay; just about everyone was awful in the following two games. When your only two runs on Saturday are driven in by YOUR PITCHER, something’s wrong. When you’re nursing a slim 4-2 lead knowing that Aaron Heilman and Scott Schoeneweis are in your bullpen, you need to score more runs. Especially with the opportunities given in the sixth and seventh innings. When the first two batters in an inning walk, then you have to lay down the bunt, Pelfrey! And not swing at the first pitches, Reyes and Murphy! And the next inning, Wright and Delgado single only to see Beltran pop up and Church ground out into a double play. Wee. That right there was the game, forget about the bullpen. Because now you just expect the bullpen to give up a few runs (two-run lead? NOT ENOUGH!). But especially seeing Delgado hit that two-run homer in the ninth, you would’ve liked to have seen at least one of those runners on base with no out in the sixth and seventh actually score. Yes. That would’ve been nice.

***

Congratulations to the Chicago Cubs for clinching the NL Central Division title. I texted my friend Michael to congratulate him, and he responded that he was “pretty much drunk right now.” Then this followed:

“I just realized i love the post season because you finally get shirtless heroes.”

Which, I mean, obviously. But, um…are there hot Cubs?! Oh, right:


david wright sure saved our bacon

September 11, 2008

Favorite quotes regarding a game I did not experience at all, except for extreme angst while at a bar furiously checking my phone for updates, per Adam Rubin:

Dukes indisputably was in the wrong when he took umbrage at an inside pitch from Mike Pelfrey to start the slugger’s second at-bat. Pelfrey had surrendered a homer to Dukes in their previous encounter and merely wanted to get a ball inside to him to start the next sequence. At least the episode led to some hilarity postgame. Two starts ago in Florida, Cody Ross had inexplicably took exception to a 2-2 pitch from Pelfrey that hit him, leading to a bench-clearing incident. Here’s Smith’s lighthearted take on how Pelfrey handled the imposing Dukes vs. the diminutive Ross: “He was scared. He tells Cody Ross, ‘Let’s go!’ Tells Elijah Dukes, ‘I didn’t do it on purpose.’” As for Manuel, his comedy routine about the Dukes episode went like this: “At first I thought the ball went behind him the way he reacted. … I said to (Brian) Schneider, ‘Where was that ball?’ He said it was almost a strike. I said, ‘What the heck am I doing out here? I might get beat up.’”

I love this team. Congrats to Jose Reyes for breaking Mookie Wilson’s club record for stolen bases. Ho-zay ho-zay ho-zay ho-zay!

***

I would be remiss if I didn’t congratulate the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim Orange County Southern California West Coast America for clinching the AL West title yesterday. As I have lived in all six of those places, I have a special place in my heart for the Angels, especially when they beat the Giants in the 2002 World Series. I hope to see more pictures like this:

Except substitute, say, Daniel Murphy, Johan Santana, and David Wright. That would be nice, wouldn’t it?


what got into delgado?

September 10, 2008

I mean, all of his swings look like this now:

Don’t believe me? Look at the previous post!!!

I know there are chants of “MVP!” at Shea and I know there are grumbly Mets fans who find it ludicrous but in my mind, if Jimmy Rollins can win last year then why not Delgado this year? Especially if he continues to put this team on his back, hitting huge homers in big spots. I can’t recall a homer of Delgado’s in the past few weeks that hasn’t been important, tying a game or providing a lead. And sure, there have been steadier players this year with the numbers to back it up, but when has that ever stopped emotion from ruling all? When has that stopped the importance of narrative? And Delgado’s narrative–a year and a half of uselessness to unstoppable power–is as compelling as any other in sports right now. Who doesn’t love redemption? Just ask Roger Federer and Serena Williams this weekend.

Oliver Perez was absolutely dreadful last night, and it seemed terribly predictable that he’d struggle against the Nationals. One hoped that his season’s turnaround would continue; I don’t ever recall him being as consistent in his career as he has been in the past few months. Part of me wondered if it had to happen at some point, his regression to Mr. Hyde; thankfully he was helped by the offense as well as a bullpen that was able to shut it down (not including Nelson Figueroa and Brandon Knight, but what does it say about Heilman that he wasn’t even considered last night?) and get a win for Joe Smith, for the Mets, and thank God for the Marlins for almost-but-not-quite blowing a huge lead to the Phillies. Identical scores of 10-8. 2 1/2 game lead. Phew.


le week-end

September 8, 2008

Prior to the storm of Hanna not the sportscaster lady, my weekend was shaping up to be pretty full and satisfying: Mets-Phillies Saturday afternoon game, women’s U.S. Open final on Saturday night, Mets-Phillies Sunday Night Baseball on ESPN (I was planning on heading to a bar). And then! RAIN ALL DAY ON SATURDAY OH MY GOD. So my perfect Queens-related sports obsessions were thrown all out of wack.

I managed to catch the first two games of the Mets-Phillies series, unhappily. All credit to Brett Myers (that hurts to type) and Jamie Moyer for pitching brilliant games, though I will continually be befuddled by the Mets’ (the previous one notwithstanding) inability to smack the crap out of Moyer’s slop. And my golly did Fernando Tatis play outfield like a little leaguer.

With the weather, the U.S. Open women’s final was pushed from Saturday night to Sunday night, meaning an athletic Sophie’s Choice between my beloved Mets and my tennis version of the Mets (i.e., Serena Williams). Considering the previous two listless losses to the Phillies, my general confidence in Santana vs. Hamels, and the fact that I haven’t seen Serena win a big title since January 2007, I decided to go with tennis and headed over to my pal Stan’s place to watch the final, during which he’d give me updates on the Mets-Phils score.

So then this stuff happened:

CARLOS I’M SORRY FOR EVERYTHING I SAID. AGAIN.

(Sidenote: Pfffft Hamels. You guys should’ve just let Kendrick pitch, he would’ve done a better job)

Serena battled Jelena Jankovic for nearly two hours before prevailing 6-4, 7-5 in a tense, dramatic rollercoaster of a match that saw both women playing for not only the U.S. Open title (Serena’s ninth Grand Slam, and what would have been Jankovic’s first) but also for the crown of #1 player in the world. Serena is once again top dog after five years, the longest such stretch in tennis history (besting Andre Agassi’s 3 years and 5 months).

Pretty good Sunday for me; pretty good weekend once the weather cleared up.

***

The perfect capper to all this would be the ability to go see Daniel Murphy sign some crap at the Last Licks in Scarsdale tonight. Why do they hold these things in places like Scarsdale or someplace out on Long Island? Why can’t they do this kind of stuff in Midtown or some other horrible crowded place in Manhattan? SIGH WHINE.