The more things change, the more they stay the same. Last night's Mets game aptly showcased why the Mets are the Mets. On the heels of a propitious beginning to their West Coast trip (those 10:15 pm starts have me bleary eyed, by the way), the team came out of the gate, guns blazing. They strung together a string of chances early on, collecting base hits and spraying the ball all over spacious Petco Park in sunny San Diego--a park that has not been kind to the Mets since its opening. I actually went to my first non-Shea baseball game at Qualcomm Park in San Diego in 2000, only to see the Mets knocked around like Tommy Gunn at the end of Rocky V.
However, despite the opportunities early on, the team left more men on base than could fit in CitiField (although now that I think about it, maybe that's not the greatest analogy). This turned out to be the theme of the night-- squandered opportunities. Throughout the game, the Mets offense just couldn't come up with the big hit. It was as if the Padres' pitcher had turned into Sandy Koufax. Yet, despite the offensive ineptness, the team's Ace (sorry, Johan) pitched marvelously, striking out the first two batters of the game and shutting down the Padres offense for the first six-plus innings, giving his team a chance to stay in the game. His knuckleball was a thing of beauty last night, coming in hard and with a nasty bite. Dickey competed valiantly, but in the seventh inning, things began to unravel.
A comedy of errors doomed the ill-fated franchise to a heartbreaking loss that I would score a 4 on the Heartbreak Hotel-o-meter, with a 10 being the 2006 NLCS game 7 against the Cardinals (that damn La Russa!). In a game that the Mets badly needed as they cling desperately to shreds of a wildcard dream (or delusion), and a game they should have won, fundamental errors cost them dearly.
After a misplay by out-of-position right fielder Jerry Hairston, which put the tying run on base, a base hit to the outfield was the tipping point. The play was excellently executed; a perfect relay to second and a perfect throw home had the runner more dead than a hit on The Sopranos. Yet, catcher Josh Thole channeled his inner Bobby Abreu and shied away from contact, failing to properly hold the ball in his bare hand, in the glove, and the collision at home plate loosed the ball and was the beginning of the end. A sacrifice moved the runner to second, and a delayed steal placed him on third before a dunk hit to left field put the icing on the proverbial cake.
A quick observation about the Hairstons: has there ever been a more mediocre baseball dynasty than this family? I mean the grandfather was a big leaguer and was mediocre; the uncle wasn't exactly Joe D.; Jerry is a glorified Girl Friday and his little brother Scott is of the same ilk. You have to hand it to them; they all make it to the Show and stay there. But I digress.
I really shouldn't be surprised, though. This is par for the course. Whether it is the '98 team blowing it at the end of the year against a team worse off than District 5 in "Mighty Ducks" or stumbling and bumbling against the Cardinals, or, pick your year (2007, 2008, 2009), each of which brought choking to a whole new level of potency and that brought fatal artifice to a whole new level of illusion, the Mets have repeatedly pulled the wool over our eyes. But you certainly can't fault them for bad theater.
Despite the heartache and the headaches and the ups and the downs, at the very least they have provided us with some exciting entertainment. Because at the end of the day, if you live and die by the sword, the team will rip your heart out like Jim Carey ripping that chef's heart out in Dumb and Dumber. If, however, you take if for what it is, and that is a team that is giving it their all, you just have to accept that baseball is a game of inches and that for all the Yadier Molinas and Chipper Joneses and Jimmy Rollinses, there are the Tug McGraws, the Bill Buckners, and the Endy Chavezes, and when you’re on the other side of the fence, it is all the more worth having suffered the agony of defeat (at least that's what I'm telling myself).
Like I said, you can fault the team for a lot of things, but you can't fault them for making things interesting. The same, however, cannot be said about some other things, namely the UFC, the NFL Countdown show from last night, and the Olympics.
Let's start with the UFC. Boy can this sport be boring. I mean when the two fighters are lying on top of each other, sweating and breathing heavily, you have to wonder if you aren't watching, Cinemax. I guess that's why wrestling became fixed in the first place at the turn of the 20th Century. Who in the blue hell wants to watch three hours of submission holds? Say what you want about the WWE, but personally, I'd rather watch a simulated fight that is exciting than a real fight that is more boring than those Parliament debates on CNN.
Speaking of the House of Lords and the House of Commons, what is with the wigs? Come one, I am a traditionalist and all, but let’s not go overboard here. Do they really need to still wear these? I guess it is comical and about the only thing remotely interesting about the program, but you don't see Americans still wearing stockings and heeled, buckled shoes like Washington, do you? Perhaps I am missing something. Yes, that is what it is. Maybe the wigs provide the British politicians with super intellect. Or maybe they serve as the proverbial thinking caps. No, I know what it is. They serve as a software program for instantaneous cognitive acquisition, like Trinity in the Matrix downloading the program that gives her the skill set to fly the aircraft. While I am on this tangent, why do they broadcast it in the states anyways? Then again, we are the same country that devoured the Spice Girls, created Potter-mania, and obsessed over that guy from Twlight.
Now on to the NFL Countdown show. I'll keep this laconic. Try as I may, this show was about as entertaining as Murder She Wrote. (Speaking of Murder She Wrote, is there a requisite that mandates people watch this show when they turn 60 or else they will be killed off like in Logan's Run?) Let me just run down the three hosts and be done with it. First, you have the female host (Hannah Storm or Suzy Kolber-ah hell, does it really matter?) who seemed more uncomfortable than Suzy Kolber (hm?) when a besotted Broadway Joe repeatedly told her "I want to kiss you" on national television on Monday Night Football. Second, you have former Denver Bronco Mark Schlereth who seemed stiffer than that guy who they put in the freezer on Goodfellas. You know, the guy who Ray Liotta in the voiceover says "it took them three days to thaw out the body before the autopsy." Third, another former player, whose name escapes me at the moment, was apparently trying out for the part of Mumbles for the Dick Tracy remake.
This brings us to the Olympics. Honestly, I enjoy the Olympics, the spirit of competition, the pride of nationalism, sportsmanship and all, but after a while, how many times can you watch these swimmers go back and forth in the pool? It's like watching a never-ending game of Pong. Dink. Dink. Dink. And how many races are there? What's that formula for permutations? 4! And do I have to see Bob Costas' mug everywhere, like he is the omnipresent one.
Anyways, I guess personal investment is what makes things interesting and why I'll take the Mets' maddening mishaps any day of the week and twice on Sunday over a lot of other bs.
With that, I leave you with some Quick Hits:
Is it me or do all of the female swimmers have pointy noses? Don't ge me wrong, a lot of them are good-looking girls. Just something I notices, like the big lats of swimmers. I think maybe they help with aerodynamics as they slice into the pool. Sharks have those massive overbites, so this could be one of those anatomical gifts, like Michael Phelps' skeletal structure.
Is this Mark Sanchez/Tim Tebow stuff getting out of hand? It's as if Zach Morris is now threatened by A.C. Slater and the sports world has turned into a collective Bayside High. How about instead of worrying about trivial minutiae, the Jets worry about performing at their potential and utilizing Tebow to spark their offense like only an agent of God can. I could be wrong, but I think Tebow was given the Mandate of Heaven…