The Coalition

(no subject)

Given my year-long absenteeism, I can't really defend getting all loquacious about the official end of the MetSox seasons. When I did have something to say, it was usually accompanied by a reminder that I really never was ready for this Baseball season to begin, and that feeling followed me all the way to its conclusion. It would seem that I will now forever be unprepared for the 2008 edition of Major League Baseball.

As I mentioned in the 2008 preview, the antipodean endings to the MetSox 2007s created a fair amount of cognitive dissonance for me going into 2008. The high and low of last year could barely have been further apart (and yes, the Mets finishing dead last would have been far less traumatic than what happened), and I could not separate the two and just enjoy (or be horrified by) them individually. Instead, they congealed together into a muddy, yet not altogether unpleasant, paste. I hadn't reconciled the previous season before I was handed a new one that demanded assorted mental busy work from me.

I still attended to the season but it didn't feel right. Ever. Maybe this was the year when real life issues finally overwhelmed my ability to be a Baseball fan, but if that's true, I have no idea what else I was paying attention to. I accomplished next to nothing in 2008.

If 2008 demonstrated anything to me, it was that having two teams is about as fun as it was voluntary. Honestly, I'd rather have zero teams than two but I don't have any control over that. I never planned to be a Red Sox fan (being a Mets fan was more planned, but in the sort of way a 12-year-old plans things), but now that I have both, I think they're here to stay. Yet swearing off Baseball would be just as credible a promise as claiming that my head was totally in it this year. I wouldn't mind being somewhere besides the East Coast of the United States next year. Seems as good a time for that to happen as ever.
The Coalition

Weekend Recap

It's October, so I'm having flashbacks to last year, in which I tried to cram in two seasons of football with RedSocktober and ignore the fact that I am not going to find a new job in time to skip out on my company's next production. I'll try to manage not to lose my glasses on the subway tracks this time around.

Last week:

Sox all weekend at Professor Thom's, thanks to cable-only Baseball. TBS can suck it, by the way. Games 1 and 2 were dizzy affairs, with Lester, Bay and Drew making 2008 feel like destiny again. Then came Game 3, which felt like a game the Sox should have one, even though they had no earthly business doing so. Never stopped the Angels all season though, 100 wins worth anyway. The Sox seemed in danger of letting their last home game slip away, giving up two cheapies in the 8th, which were enough at the time, the Sox bats also having been miserly all night. With the margin gone in the 9th, the tying run at third looked like he was already home, which turned out to be not such an illusion after all, because he in fact was charging there prematurely on a missed bunt. Jason Varitek, not content with handing the responsibility off to his associates, ran down the offender and sent him away with a rap on the backside. Two hits in the home half and the night, and series, were booked and printed.

Football matters were a bit dodgier, if not in the results, then at least in the planning. My new football comrades, the Oregon Ducks were playing USC, who occasionally rule the football land. Yet this match of ranked teams was not on the east coast TV map. The duck hunting party I was in searched several blocks of Third Avenue before finding a suitable place for the tilt. The Ducks, down several rungs on the quarterback depth chart, managed to hang in there long enough to end up with a blow-out. Sullen, my quack-addict friend, Sarah, suggested we go to Professor Thom's for a night-capping mind-clearer.

We got more than we bargained for, finding that not only was the Rainbows game unexpectedly obtainable on satellite, that it was already on when we got there, and Hawai'i held a slim lead. On the road! Against ranked Fresno! The lead was not for long, as Fresno's bestial D-line prevented Hawai'i from gaining much further traction, after UH had been able to seize advantage from earlier turnovers. But Hawai'i, to their credit, neither allowed Fresno to actually take back the lead, and actually had a chance to go ahead again. They could get no closer than a long field goal attempt though, which was summarily rejected at the line. FSU compiled a long drive of their own, setting up yet another go-ahead FG with less than a minute in the game. And yet, unbelievably, this kick was also blocked. Fresno got the ball first in the extra session, Hawai'i got a key sack and Fresno was forced to kick: MISS! MISS! WIDE LEFT! Oh wait, a penalty. The misser was roughed. Attempt #2: MISS! MISS! WIDE RIGHT! On their turn, the 'Bows wisely held on to the ball for minimal gain, setting up Dan Kelly with an uncontroversial 34-yarder, FTW.

Sunday afternoon, I decided to finally try out McFadden's, the Bills bar I've read so much about from the weekly newsletter from the I signed up for last year. It's a midtown setting - 42nd Street, no less - so I've been a little wary of it all this time. But, with the Bills sitting on a 4-0 record and facing their biggest challenge of the year in the Arizo... wait, am I writing this down right? Nope, it says that the Cardinals were indeed given the "biggest challenge of the year" tag for a 4-0 team. Guess I've been away for a few years. Anyway, the bar lived up to its billing, with the place packed so tight I think even a pound cake could sweat. There was a DJ, hyping the crowd and singing during breaks. There were $20 all-you-can-consume Bud and wings. There was a scantily-clad (for New York in October) bartender dancing on the bar top dispensing shots into patrons, so the place was definitely going for some sort of "Buffalo Ugly" vibe. And I'm not saying that to be mean. Unfortunately for everyone involved, the main event was a football game, and it was indeed ugly. Trent Edwards (AKA, "the man who was not to be JP Losman) was injured on the Bills' third offensive play of the game. On a 13-yard completely, no less, as if to drive home to us just what we'd be missing for the next 3.9 quarters. Trent Edwards can get a first down while in the process of being concussed. JP Losman, by contrast, seems to live the rest of his life semi-concussed and yet chooses to play football on top of that. To be fair, he did connect on his second full series for an 87-yard designed play TD, the Bills coaching staff apparently thinking the element of surprise might work against the Cardinals at least once before they realized facing Losman was actually a pleasant surprise. The party was pretty much over after that. Which might not be a bad thing if I want to go back to McFadden's and hope to breathe once in a while.

(no subject)

It may seem like I avoided posting most of the season because the Mets were thrusting an existential crisis onto me. Ahh, but it only SEEMED that way. The lack of commentary was indeed due to an existential crisis, and the Mets were supposed to be secondary to that until they joined me there. But I'm not falling for it this year. They (and by extension, Mets fans) were lucky to even be put in the position to be crushed and disappointed. The Mets had no business getting eliminated later than the Yankees. Really, all of us should be living it up!

I know I predicted the Mets to win the World Series. There are a few theories on why that might have happened (my making that prediction, not the prediction itself): 1) I was setting a reverse-jinx 2) I was setting a reverse-reverse-reverse jinx, and lost count 3) I mistook Nyquil for Gatorade. Or, 4) I believed that the team was too good not to learn from the mistakes of last season. Turns out, the fourth (and craziest!) one turned out to be closest too the truth. The 2008 Mets were good enough to learn from their mistakes. The problem was, they weren't good enough to do anything about it.

Early in the season, it looked like the Mets hadn't learned anything. Barely .500, trading unsatisfying wins and darkness-inducing losses, with every single flaw from last season out in plain view. Then the manager is made an example of and is fired, demonstrating to everyone on the team exactly how precious life really is and shouldn't be taken for granted -- I GUESS -- except that it works, and everyone does show up for work every day and GETS SHIT DONE. The problem is... the team's biggest flaw was still there, still obvious, but everyone forgot about it, sort of, because everyone was so happy that the sun was out and everyone was smiling again and the team seemed to be clicking closer to, you know, how they should have been all along for the past two years. That problem was that the Mets bullpen just flat-out fucking sucked.

A supposed benefit of a long, 162 game season is that it creates a vast raft of results by which to gauge a team, separating out the statistically significant from the noise. But this can create some awkward psychological problems. When a team misses the postseason by 30+ games, it is hard to focus on the really important ways to improve it, since most likely every facet of the team was awful. Where does one start? It just seems like a hopeless mess and then you end up with 20 years of the Pirates.

But when a team misses the playoffs by a single game, the opposite seems to occur. Even though it should be easier to see where things went wrong, instead every little mistake comes to the fore since every loss, no matter how it happened, could have saved the season. But let's make no mistake about the 2008 Mets: the bullpen was a disaster when the season started, it was a disaster when Willie Randolph was fired, and it was a disaster through the home stretch.

Since apparently Blown Saves aren't a real stat that are kept in real sortable counters anywhere online, presumably because they would hurt someone's feelings, I could only find the Mets' Blown Save count for 2008 in a roundabout way. That total - 29 - sounds about right, though if wrong, seems too low. I have no idea if that was actually the MLB high for the year, but regardless, Jesus Christ.... 29! To put that number into some perspective, if you paid each of the Mets relievers an equal share of the $700 billion corporate bailout... they'd still have fucking blown those saves.

As hard as it may be to believe, the Miracle for the Mets this year didn't fail to appear. It did. The Miracle got us to the last day of the season with a punter's chance of actually making it to the next week. True, the result of that Miracle would be like making it all the way across the Atlantic Ocean with a twenty-foot gaping hole in the side of your clipper, only to sink in a reef half a mile off-shore with everyone on board devoured by tiger sharks. It was a Miracle that the sharks got all that food.
The Coalition

potpourri and picks!

To demonstrate that I have, in fact, been paying attention:

- A recap: I predicted that the Mets would win the World Series, before I gave up on them during the Seattle series, before they clawed their way back into first place, before they positioned themselves to make the playoffs ONLY if the Brewers could collapse more completely than they could. So yes, to recap: I am a genius.

- The Red Sox, despite essentially grabbing a playoff spot a month ago, have yet to make that spot official into the last week of the season. For fuck's sake, the Yankees are still mathematically alive. The Yankees! They're terrible! Boston is moving towards the postseason with all the urgency of a 747 taxiing to the gate.

- The University of Hawai'i Rainbows are going to be bad this season. So naturally two out of their first three games are against the defending champion Florida Gators and PAC-10 stalwart Oregon State. The positive way to look at this would be that if they had such a schedule last season, even with June Jones and Colt Brennan, all talk of a perfect season would have ended within the first four minutes of it. 12-0 season and WAC championship, versus a hairs-breadth chance of holding our own against the big boys? Yeah, you can wrap up the first one and I'll take it to go.

- Not that it's believable at this point, but I never had any plans to run another "Buffalo Bills Screw Their Draft" Watch in 2008. No, believe it or not I actually had hopes that the Bills would make some noise this year, and that was before Bernard Pollard devoured the Patriots season like a crocodile taking out a wildebeest on a riverbank. Of course that matters little now that the Bills have jumped out to a 3-0 start, including two comeback wins and a blowout of Seattle; I'm a little late in declaring my faith in my team. Of course, that matters even less. It's hard to care about the trivial matter of when did I declare what about who. The Buffalo Bills are 3-0. And they play the dismal St. Louis Rams next week. HFS.

On the subject of the NFL though, let's forget the last three weeks. Take yourself back to the week of Labor Day. Remember it? I believe that was the week two blustery depressions began making their way across the country. One had a man's name and was capable of much death and destruction. One had a woman's name and caused a big stir at first before everyone realized the commotion would be mostly just an annoying nuisance. And oh yeah, there were also two hurricanes that hit the US mainland that week too.

But yet more importantly than all that, three weeks ago the NFL season had not yet begun, and my attempt to predict the season's outcome wouldn't have been a transparent attempt to cheat. So take yourself back to that pristine time, and I'll take you through the NFL season to-be, and not yet one-fifth done. And as if it needs a reminder, I'm not making these picks on the basis of any inside information. Nor outside, sideways or slant-ways information. The only place these picks could be said to have originated in, is my head, which is like finding out they started hiding prizes in jars of peanut butter. Sure it's a prize, but there's not much to do with it once you get it out of there.

[Ed. note - Didn't you correctly predict a Colts-Bears Super Bowl two years ago? And astutely observe last year that the only thing standing in the way of a Patriots championship was the Patriots themselves?

Auth. note - Yes, and look how those turned out. Manning championships all around! Readers need to be fairly warned.]

New England
NY Jets


(Eh, eh? How's that for an untainted pick? The Browns! This list HAD to have been made before the season began. QED.)


San Diego
Kansas City

New York Giants

Green Bay

New Orleans
Tampa Bay

San Francisco
St. Louis


Cleveland d. Indianapolis
Pittsburgh d. Jacksonville
Minnesota d. San Francisco
New Orleans d. Seattle

Pittsburgh d. New England
San Diego d. Cleveland
Minnesota d. Philadelphia
New Orleans d. Chicago

San Diego d. Pittsburgh
Minnesota d. New Orleans

Minnesota d. San Diego

(no subject)

Summary of the Manny saga, as seen through the prism of the summer's #1 movie:

You either retire a hero or you play long enough to see yourself become the villain and then traded for Jason Bay.
The Coalition

(no subject)

FenSheaParkway is under construction right now (the sort of construction that no one tells you is planned, nor is announced by any official signage; it's more of a construction of the mind) because it (me) doesn't know what it (me) wants to be anymore. But there's one thing it does know: When an athlete has a great name, people have to know about it.

The Phillies just traded for Joe Blanton. Included in the deal, going to the Oakland A's: Josh Outman Thankfully for everyone involved, he is a pitcher.
Ventura Drive

(no subject)

The Mets have two stadia right now. One is full of I-beams and sand and occasionally hard-hatted men. The other is full of peanut shells, people and occasionally drama. The latter, of course, is William A. Shea Municipal Stadium. Big Blue. The Ol' Coffee Can. The House that Guilt Built. The former is Citi Field (or will be; should a building be called by its name before it's been used?), looming past the outfield over its predecessor, like your lower-salaried replacement hovering over your desk on your last day at work because of an HR screw-up.

The Mets marketing department (the group of people responsible for such level-headed campaigns as "Next Year Is Now", "The Team. The Time" and "Your Season Has Come") has been toiling to prepare six months of retrospection to help us remember Shea Stadium with all the dignity it deserves. Loud, bombastic, distracting dignity, often with kooky typefaces, displayed throughout every home game.

I'm not a native New Yorker, so I have to excuse myself for not having deep-seated mommy-and-daddy memories of Shea Stadium from my youth. But I am a native Mets fan, which led to being a Baseball fan, which in turn led to wanting to be in few other places more than at a live, well-played Baseball game (I include "well-played" in there just to make it clear that I am only going to your kid's little league game as a strict courtesy to you, because I'm a nice guy). So I take the stadium experience very seriously. Far more so, apparently, than the stewards of most modern stadia do. And the Mets, unfortunately, are no exception. Here's a rundown of some of the sights and sounds that await you every half-inning at Shea:

Player introductions - Whether these are done in a calm, non-hyperventilating manner, you will never know, because you are still traveling from work on the 7 train or stuck in line at the turnstiles.

John Maine hosts "Maine Street USA" - John Maine encourages you to guess an American city based on three clues. Example: Ohio State. Okay, stop right there because I know the answer. Oh, and the namesake discovered America too? If you're going to drag popularly-held misconceptions about world history into it, then I give up. Are the Buckeyes from Eriksson, Ohio? Is there a city there named for an anonymous paleolithic tribe of nomads?
[This slot was previously filled by 'Professor Reyes', an often-hilarious and far-superior segment hosted by Jose Reyes, wherein we see regular Mets fans try to pronounce Spanish words or phrases like Aeropuerto, crosscut with encouragement or derision by Jose. (Sample response from Professor Reyes: "A-ha! You cheated! You espeak espanish!") This segment seems to have been discontinued, possibly due to the perception that public overexposure somehow led to Jose Reyes' fade down the stretch last season. Highly speculative, yes, but no matter if the switch was made due to hypocrisy, a double-standard, or just shoddy decision-making, the result is the same: This year's educational segment sucks.]

Dancing with the Mets - Two tween-age children are hoisted out of the crowd onto the tops of the opposing dugouts to dance arhythmically along with Mets cheer-squad members. The rest of us, if we're not ignoring this spectacle completely, are encouraged to text our choice of the two to win some mystery prize. The only thing about this that would interest me is to find out the total number of texts that are sent to determine this contest. Because if it's over 10, then the possibility that election fraud occurred is the only compelling part of it. And really, the only people who are close enough to see the contestants are also seated within earshot of the cheer squad, who might as well say, "Why don't you just tell me the name of the best dancer!"

Virtual Home Run Derby - Another, even younger, Mets fan is given a video game controller by a set of disembodied off-screen hands, and implored to hit two home runs on MLB2K8. Either the kids these days can jack a video game homer with their eyes closed or the play control pre-settings on this game have been turned up to 11, because the kid jabs out at least one of three pitches every time. Not that it matters, because they always end up with a copy of MLB2K8 for their efforts. How climactic!

The Guessing Game Contests - A staple of entertaining every captive audience when they don't need to be entertained. The Mets have a variety of ways to hand out gift certificates to area restaurants: The classic team-related trivia game; what year did such-and-such happen, etc. Guessing some arcane multiple-choice fact about one of the players. Video three-card monte, with animated Citi Fields dancing around instead of cards. And sometimes you run out of ideas, and make some fan simply pick one of three numbered boxes. Hey, I understand, most times I just want to get the hell out of the office too.

'Meet the Mets' - This one I approve of. It's totally corny, and I don't even sing along myself. But I appreciate the Mets clinging to this one genuine manifestation of their early-60s roots, back before writing a song like this would have been either brutally market researched or contaminated with irony. I wish they'd play the whole song though. Like any true American anthem (Star-Spangled Banner, Battle Hymn of the Republic), 'Meet the Mets' has additional, but lesser known, verses. C'mon people!

Pepsi Party Patrol - Like any good party, this one follows a rigid script from start to end. The PA guy first tells us to welcome Mr. Met and the PPP onto the field. Mr. Met is accompanied by 5 PPP members while music plays. Again, like any good party, it is the same exact mid-90s psuedo-dance song every time. They throw branded t-shirts into the field sections, or launch them out of two of those pneumatic clothing cannons into the Loge and Mezzanine sections (the Upper Deck was purposeles and ingeniously designed to be just out of the range of these apparel armaments). The number of shirts distributed to the crowd can be greater than 30, but can under no circumstances be over 35, or Mr. Met will be sporting stitches by tomorrow. Well, MORE stitches anyway. Capisce?

Seventh Inning Stretch - Sometimes features God Bless America. Or maybe always; that's how unimportant that song is, either to the Mets for not programming it every night, or to me for ignoring it half the time. Followed of course by Take Me Out To The Ballgame, which is weird when you have a team name of either one or five syllables because that's hard to insert into the "Root, root, root for the [insert team name here]" part. Immediately following that is a crazy novelty Italian song by Lou Monte. This is the best part of the stretch, if only because it is so bizarre. Old people and kids love this song.

Eighth Inning Sing Along - Last year, the Mets tried to install (and I use that word in much the same context as when you read "the US-installed Shah in Iran") 'Sweet Caroline', only without the appearance of spontaneity or cheer, as it is with some other teams. Just tossing out an idea here, but when you make it a point to announce a sing along sponsored by XM radio, seems like it would be a service to both your fans and your sponsor that the song be, I don't know, different each night? Seeing as your sponsor is actually in the business of broadcasting a variety of music. I guess that's why I'll never get that MBA. Anyway, after having that song once again crammed down my throat in a new stadium, only in a more degrading manner, the Mets announced this year that the Eighth Inning Sing Along would be determined by a fan poll, which was predictably Rickrolled. The status of the sing along is still undetermined, though the Mets might be thinking about a platoon situation here with 'Sweet Caroline' and The Monkees' 'I'm A Believer'. This might be the best way to go, since Caroline can't hit lefties for shit.

Ninth inning - If Billy Wagner isn't coming out of the bullpen to the opening riff of 'Enter Sandman', then there are probably fewer Mets fans around to care about what is going on instead. There isn't anything else in particular to replace this in those cases anyway.

All told, the Shea Stadium experience is constant noise and motion, but amounting to approximately nothing. Kids dancing who can't be seen from 94% of the stadium; random contests, the results of which we don't care about; rote, pedantic exhortations of "fun"; it's all just pointless, impertinent bullshit. The wait between innings doesn't have to have anything of import going on at all; it isn't THAT long. Just play a song, put up some trivia, make community-related announcements, it'll all be over in two minutes anyway. But the triteness of what IS being chosen seems actually to endeavor to degrade the entire package on account of the constant poking and prodding us to pay attention to its worthlessness. If all you want to do is run a string of ads during the inning breaks, you know what? I'd be OKAY with that. I'm bombarded with ads from the time I step out of my office until I get home. I can cope. But it's actually the transparent bundling of those ads into lame attempts at crowd excitement generation that leaves me with a bad impression of the thing I actually paid to see in the first place: A Baseball game.

On top of all that, I can't see how the team management figures this noise is even helping generate the crowd excitement in the first place. I've never seen Shea Stadium filled with 55,300 people. I haven't been there for a Yankees game, but if they have to rely on their hated crosstown rivals to sell out a game, then they're doing something horribly wrong. Every other game I've been to hasn't yielded a boffo combination: Braves games, Phillies games, interleague games. Warm sunny matinees, Friday evenings, holiday weekends. Pennant races or wire-to-wire winning seasons. Every combination of favorable conditions for attendance still leads to empty seats. Maybe it's an 'on-paper' sellout, but that didn't lead to people in those seats, which really diminishes the quality of the atmosphere. Not only is the between-inning fabricated rigmarole probably not helping, but I'm reasonably certain that it's actually hurting. It isn't doing anything to bring in more casual fans and lessens the ability for a more passionate fan to take the experience seriously, even if he or she really wants to.

As it happens, Sports Illustrated published on-line a poll-derived ranking of the MLB stadia. Unsurprisingly, Shea finished in 28th. It finished in the bottom 3 in half of the categories. Some things, like park amenities, will get taken care of (hopefully) with the move. But by improving the general feel of the Shea experience, in an addition-by-subtraction sort of way, could do a lot for the, admittedly arbitrary and hard to define, categories of "tradition", "atmosphere", "hospitality" and even "fan IQ" (whatever that means). Shea itself is a lost cause and a lame duck, but treating the game like the event it is supposed to be, and not just incidental action taking place at a mall, can only increase interest with the fans, which is going to be worth taking with the team into their new home.
Ventura Drive

(no subject)

Typically, in competitive sports, you have two teams vying to end the game with their side on top. What happens before then comprises the full spectrum of magic that is competition. And then you have instances like last night's Mets-Pirates match, where the game itself just gives up and bellows, "Go the fuck home, you sorry bastards! I'm done already! See you tomorrow."

Not that I can blame the game one bit. The players, on the other hand... Well, I'm getting ahead of myself.

It all started before I had navigated my way through the ticket line and into the stadium. That confused roar/moan I heard? Nate McLouth hitting a leadoff home run off of Johan Santana. I later learned Nate's last name rhymes with McSouth, and not McSooth, as I had always sounded it out in my head. Or it does to the Mets' PA guy anyway.

A couple innings later, Santana gives up another solo shot, to Jason Bay. 2-0 Pirates. This is Santana's second home start. In his first start at Shea, he pulled the pins on three bombs and left the game under a shower of ribald vowel sounds. Much has been said about this treatment of the Mets new ace, but yet again, I'm getting ahead of myself.

Church is finally good for me, for once in my life. Sunday, Ryan Church saves a game-tying run with a sprinting, falling, crashing catch at the wall, and Tuesday, he hits a two-run game-tying long ball. Nope, I actually have nothing bad to say about this Roamin' Catalyst Church.

A previously struggling Jose Reyes triples in Endy Chavez. A previously sizzling David Wright narrowly avoids a double play and drives in a run, courtesy of a Pirate error. 4-2 Mets.

Johan is laboring. Despite giving up only those two mistake runs, he's over the 100 pitch mark in the sixth inning, thanks to a mix of walks, strikeouts and fouls. He leaves the bases loaded to a guilt-ridden ovation. Pedro Feliciano gets a quick out so the Mets could move on.

And now we move into the angst-and-ennui portion of the Mets game. I think one of the reasons Mets fans are so bent out of shape about our bullpen is that we are forced to see EVERY SINGLE GODDAMN MEMBER OF IT EVERY NIGHT. If it's possible to imagine a night in which the Mets' starter gets within one out of a complete game, I can also imagine the Mets using 6 relievers to get that last out. I can't even tell anymore whether this is due more to crappy pitching or bullpen micromanagement. Anyway, this night's parade continued with Aaron Heilman, who at this point may have developed a low "OOOOOOOOO" tinnitus in both ears. Still, the Mets made it through two scary innings only shaving their two run lead in half. No problem though; we have Billy Wagner warming up, and he hasn't even allowed a run yet this year!

Shit. Well at least he still hasn't ALLOWED a run this year. Okay, so bottom of the ninth, time for some heroics. Reyes gets on base for the sixth out of six tries. (HEY!) Castillo bunts him over. (OH BOY, HERE WE GO!) David Wright hits a ball deep into the cold, brittle air, and it settles into a glove. (STILL JUST NEED A SINGLE!) Carlos Beltran slaps a ball sharply towards the second-base hole and, no wait that's the second baseman.

This goes on for a couple more innings. Normally, extra innings thrill me, especially when I'm present for them. This night though didn't feel exciting, mostly because it was just cold enough not to FEEL anything. This dance continued just long enough to drag the top of the Mets lineup nigh and by then, the game's own weight seemed to be dragging itself down:

Single by Endy Chavez. hey.
Endy to second on a balk. grand.
Sacrifice to third. oh boy lookit that.
Reyes intentional walk and fielder's indifference advance. no run? pff.
Castillo regular-style walk. bases are, what's that called? loaded?

Bases loaded, one out, bottom of the 11th inning, with your team's best hitter at the plate, and I'm just guessing here, fills most Baseball fans with elation, hope, joy, and anticipation... you know, emotions. Last night, I was trying to calculate how many more fans would leave the stadium if Wright bounced into an inning-ending double play. 10% more? 30%? What percentage would that be of the total game attendance? Hmm...

Wright lofts a ball high down the first base line. It falls in the corner, behind a seating bulkhead, obscuring its status to much of the stadium. The fans look around at each other. The players look around at each other. The umpires look around at each other. A signal is given: fair ball. The game, not seeing anyone else take charge and change the course of history, took care of it for us. Fans, players, umpires - we all get to go home now.

And the Mets won.

Programming note - I ran out of time tonight, but there's a lot going on this week. Coming soon:

Mets fans: Assholes, or just asshats?
44 years of Shea Stadium: What's good about that place again?
The Toronto Bills: Why it's sometimes best not to live in the city of the team you root for

(no subject)

Fourteen inning games are immeasurably more enjoyable when it isn't freezing and you have company. Both of these conditions were met last night, and the Mets' defeat of the Nationals in the bottom of the fourteenth after two wild pitches and a throwing error was a hoot, and 5/9ths of another hoot. Since I delivered a whole bunch of randomness yesterday after a regulation game, I have to keep it shorter today, after a long one.

- I still don't understand why people are booing Lastings Milledge. Questionable behavior (even if actually infrequent) aside, it isn't like he forced himself out of New York. Quite the opposite. Makes me wonder if the Mets actually DID make the right move (albeit in a twisted sense and by accident) because maybe there was a lot of latent disapproval towards Milledge out there. If the booing isn't people finally having a correct outlet for their dislike of the player, then I don't know what it is. It's too bad Paul Lo Duca was unavailable for this series, so I could compare the booing. If Lo Duca gets less booing than Milledge, I'm going to start to wonder about my fellow Mets fans.

- Nelson Figueroa is kind of awesome. Before this game, I had no idea that he was from Brooklyn (apparently Billy Wagner gave Nelson his stadium suite so Nelson's family could all come watch his starts) and I didn't even know he was a journeyman reliever/spot-starter for parts of the past eight seasons. That diminishes my fantasies of a Santana/Maine/Perez/Pelfrey/Figueroa rotation for years to come, but I think he still has a shot at being a significant solution for 2008. Of course, we won't find out until a few more starts in whether he's a new Alay Soler, a new Jorge Sosa (who was pretty damn good himself in the extra innings of this very game), or someone even better. But I'm perfectly happy to forget about Orlando Hernandez and Pedro Martinez for the time being.

- The Mets bench needs some work. For some reason, Willie Randolph started the game with Brady Clark and Raul Casanova back-to-back in the lineup. This awfulness was so massive, it actually created a black hole in the last four spots of the order, the suckiness of which was so great, not even Luis Castillo could escape. In fact, this black hole created an event horizon that rent the very fabric of the game's space-time. To illustrate: if the real starters had been in from the first inning, LO, the crowd would have found themselves at home TWO HOURS before they did in reality. This is truly a disturbing universe. The Mets either need to get Moises Alou and Ramon Castro healthy, or they need to find different back-ups for them, because Clark and Casanova are terrible.

(no subject)

During last season's METSTRAVAGANZA, I went to about five games in April. They were cold, windy and the Mets lost most of them, but I still enjoyed them. Last night, I had some indoor plans fall through and, since I already had the time reserved for sports and the weather was pretty nice all day, I decided to go to Shea.

Here's a tip for the future: Either plan something like this further in advance, or just always assume you might end up outside for four hours. I've never had to buy coffee just to keep my hands warm before, but last night was the first. Naturally, I did this while the Mets scored 80% of their runs and made the score that would remain as the final, but hey, at least my hands were warm for an inning and a half. Plus, I got to drink 2 ounces of Dunkin' Donuts coffee for $3, which happens to be the exact amount of my tax refund net this year.

Despite missing the game-tying and go-ahead homers by Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran, I was having a pretty good time at the game. I have a pretty hard time NOT having a good time at a Baseball game, my pursed, shivering exterior notwithstanding. But there were some "fans" present who were doing their best to help me try. Even with a rare Yankees home game happening at the same time as the Mets, and even with that game being against the Red Sox, Shea Stadium was beset by a plague of ugly-hatted hooligans. What's worse, is that on a cold April night in a stadium built for 55,000, there was an insufficient volume and density of counter-insurgents available to drown out the idiocy. If anything, the times that someone would try to engage the vandals only amounted to throwing gas on the fire.

The merits of paying ones way into a hostile environment only to taunt and ridicule strangers are tenuous at best and, at worst, completely fucking insane. Still, I'd rather have had my fellow Mets fans just ignore the interlopers, as encouraging them could only serve to enrage us further. Case in point: a typical Yankee agitator only has one mode of argument, which can most accurately be summarized by "Kount Da Ringgzzz!", often embellished by pointing at their own ringless fingers.

Until recently, Yankee fans could be counted on getting "creative" with this logic when dealing with Red Sox fans, by flipping their focus from their own team's success (most of which occurred before they were born) to the contrapositive, their opponents' team's failures. A curious position unless one presumes that the rich aren't content enough with their wealth merely to look down on the serfs, but actively mock them too, but then I don't know what Donald Trump does in his free time. As luck would have it, the Red Sox themselves have done much of late to lift this nuisance from their fans, and the Yankee fan chant of "1918" has currency only with the most illiterate of them (which means I still hear it from time to time).

As for last night, the most persistent Yankee fan in my section took a more rhetorical approach, asking Mets fans with mock inquisitiveness about the year, 1986: "1986? How about 1986? Last time you won a World Series, what is that, 22 years ago?" Over and over again, he repeated this unsolicited bit of scholarship, as a small child might after learning a new word. For all I know, the same forces may have even been at work with this individual, having learned about the miracle of subtraction earlier that day. I have heard other Yankee fans obsessed with 1986 before, but only as evidence of Red Sox failure; this was the first time I'd heard it employed against Mets fans, whose team WON that series. Sometimes I wonder if maybe being a Yankee fan might actually be MORE tortuous than being a fan of a supposedly inferior team, what with the even greater disappointment at failure (which still happens most of the time). It often seems that way from witnessing the machinations of some of their fans' minds.

But because I bear no ill will (clearly) and wish to be helpful, here's an excerpt of a handy road-trip phrase book, for the jet-setting Yankee fan on a ballpark tour:

In Toronto - "1993? 1993? What is that, fifteen years ago you won a World Series?"

In Pittsburgh - "1979? No World Series in, what, 29 years? 2006? What, no Super Bowl in, what, two years?"

In Chicago - 1908? What year is that anyway? No World Series in 100, no, 99, no wait, 100 years? Yeah."

In Seattle - "2008 minus... Wait, there's supposed to be another number. I'm trying to subtract here! What, no World Series in, what... what... what!!!"