Mets 2012

Autumn In New York

Like many business people in New York City, I work for myself and I’m able to make my own hours.  In that vain I’m able to attend to real life issues such as declaring whether the Whole Foods Market salad bar is better than Westside Market’s, or to make my Trader Joe’s shopping list (which being able to go in the afternoon rather than after traditional working hours is a godsend, since everyone and their uncle goes after work).

And like many people in New York, I’m often running errands boasting my team colors.  Today, I was bumming around in my New York Rangers shirsey, bearing the number and name of one Bradley Glenn Richards.

So it’s autumn in New York.  It’s not just a one sport town, but a multiple sport town.  There is not one but several phenomena occurring this time of year. Typically, you can count on Yankee fans getting ready for the postseason, and Mets fans get ready to root for whomever plays against them.

Football season is a few weeks old.  Jets fans typically change their mind on the team more than the weather.

Yet there’s a gaping hole this fall, and it’s not the fact that I left the Giants out of the equation (come on, no one fucking talks about them until the playoffs)…and that’s hockey.

I’m a Mets and Jets fan, yet when I wear their attire, not much gets said to me when I’m walking down the street (unless I’m with my husband, and we get the “Hey, going to the game today?” comments).  I would gather that Yankee and/or Giants fans might feel the same when they sport their team colors.

Today, as I’m walking in Trader Joe’s, not one, not two, but THREE people (each from different walks of life — one an employee, one guy who looked like he just came in from the gym and someone who was probably working in an office setting still in their business casual clothes) made a comment about the team.  Whether it was, “Man, what do you think about the lockout?”  Or “We got Nash, and now we’re not playing?”  Or “Brad Richards, huh?”  (I get that a lot, but sue me, I was excited to have him on the team last year).

Come to now with the threat of no hockey this seasons I would be willing to argue that the true heart of a New York sports fan lies in their hockey allegiance.

That’s not to say that I don’t think there are super passionate Yankees, Mets, Giants, Jets, hell even Knicks and Brooklyn Nets fans.  They certainly exist.  Hockey fans are from a different cloth.  There’s a deep rooted passion, and it’s almost as if being in a room with 18,000 like minded people, indoors mostly, makes it seem like we’ve survived a war.  Perhaps we’ve survived several different battles, each game a mini battle in and of itself.

The battles these days aren’t being drawn out in the ice, but rather in board rooms, with Gary Butthead, the owners and players.  Someone pointed out to me that it’s probably not the best sign that players are going back to their homeland (Russia, Sweden, Czech Republic) to play in those leagues.  It dictates that they expect this to be drawn out for a long time.

Do I need to break out the world’s smallest violin, again, for the millionaires who are arguing over pennies while the diamonds are being passed over.  Diamonds in the form of long-term relationships with the fans who support and buy into the product.

What’s most nauseating being here in New York is that I know it’s not James Dolan’s fault.  He’s a money guy, sure, but he knows that the only way he’s gonna MAKE money is if his team gets out there and plays and his fans are happy.  Fans are not happy.

But what’s more.  I am a Mets, Jets and Rangers fans.  These three teams have brought me more sorrow than joy, but there are glimpses of hope as to why I stick around long term even though they are destined to break my heart more often than not.  Two years ago, and two years in a row, the Jets made the conference championships.  The Mets…well…let’s not go there.  But let’s just say that I do remember ’86 and think that sometimes those feelings are what keep me around.

The Rangers though.  For a fan with the teams I have, this is the closest I’ve had to a championship for a long time and a team I looked forward to the last few months to watch.  A team that could take me away from the drama of Rex Ryan land and the Wilpon Follies.  As someone else pointed out to me, we get Rick Nash, and pieces are falling into place, and now these people are just agreeing to disagree and getting absolutely nowhere.

Today would have marked the first preseason game for 2012-13 season.  Yet the only thing we are marking is time.

It’s autumn in New York.  And before we know it, it will be winter in New York.

As the seasons change, one constant may not be there.  And that’s not a pleasant thought.

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A New Era

Something about the chill in the air in September that gets me wistful.  I think about baseball season coming to an end which is always sad.  I think about when I was a kid and school would start, which meant that leaves would change, plant life would die, and birds go south for winter.  Growing up at the shore it meant the bennies would all go home and make it enjoyable again.

Now that I’m older it reminds me not only of that piece of information (that I’m not getting any younger that’s for sure), but as sure as death and taxes, the Mets leave me wishing for more.

What’s more: I was also reminded of better days.  I remember watching Mets games in October as a child.  I remember watching Mets in the playoffs as an adult in October.

But ultimately, I was reminded of Chipper Jones not only in my youth but in his youth.  And though I rode him mercilessly, it brings me back.  To the simpler days.  To when I watched Mets postseason games at Uncle Gene and Aunt Melissa’s house.  How when my dad told me when we were leaving San Francisco one year that Chipper Jones won the MVP award, I muttered, “Larry Fine.”

Some things will remind me that I’m getting older.  Like the fact that when I drink a milkshake my ass jiggles for a week. Like that I’m training for the marathon, and I’m not recovering from harsh workouts like I used to.  That I might need to invest in plastic surgery because gravity is taking toll.

But mostly that something weird is that I was sad to see Chipper Jones leave us at Not Shea for the last time.  Not that I’ll miss him kick our ass.  That part I won’t miss.

It means I’m no longer young.  The retirement of Chipper Jones means part of my youth is also gone.  Gone are the days of watching the Mets and Braves in the playoffs.  Yes, I know those were long gone.  But those memories I hold near and dear to my heart. The Mets will always be around, testing the very limits of futility.

I first learned about him in my 20s during the Braves hey-day in the late 1990s.  I got to know him intimately during the late season runs with those lovable black jersey wearing Mets in those years.  As sure as death and taxes, like the Mets leaving me to wish for something more, Chipper was going to stick it to us no matter what.

And yesterday we got to show some respect to the man who probably played the game the right way.  His name was never tarnished with PEDs.  His team was always in the thick of things late in the season.

As the pre-autumn chill hit the air, and the first football games were played for the 2012 season…I saw Chipper Jones take his last at-bat in Flushing.

And I was actually sad about it.

Like I said, it’s mostly for selfish reasons.  Most people know my slight obsession with Cal Ripken from the Baltimore Orioles.  When he retired, I was in my 20s still.  I drove down to Baltimore to see him play at home one last time for this retirement game.  I was sad to see him go but in a different way.  I never saw him intimately involved with killing my team personally.  I was sad for baseball that a great was leaving.

This time around is different.  It’s really the end of an era, for me as a Mets fan.

A generation has passed.  A generation of futility.  The one person to remind us of it was Larry Wayne Jones.  Now he’s no longer around to do it.

The only person reminding us of our futility is ourselves.

That’s no fun.

Let’s face it.  For years and year, Larry Jones made it a habit to kick our ass when it counted.  Now we just kick our own ass when we’re down and it doesn’t even count.  That’s no fun.  At least there was an element of collaboration there.  Now it’s simply self-defeatist.

A wise man once sang that “Life is a series of hellos and goodbyes,” and it’s time for goodbye again.  This time it means something.

It means we’re getting older.  It means another fall is going to pass, and turn into winter.  It also means that spring and summer will be around the corner once again.

It means that we’ll never see Chipper Jones play against the Mets anymore.  Some people are happy about it, but I’m sad.

It means that I have to acknowledge that I, too, am getting older.  And that’s no fun at all.

Fitting In With The Misfits

“Dear Ma,  You might find it hard to believe…But I think I finally found a home.  The weather’s lovely, there’s so much to see, and people who know what I know.  Now I’ve got friends that do want me and take me as I am.  Now I’ve got friends that do love me.  I’m all right with them.  Fittin’ in with the misfits.”

A Man Called E!, “Fitting In With the Misfits”

I know you might find someone like me who talks and drinks like a sailor surprised to find that growing up, I was very much a loner.  I didn’t have many friends and the shit I liked was NOTHING like what anyone else liked.  I was into New Wave and Brit Pop bands way before it was ever cool or emo.  I listened to music no one else was listening to.  I was a baseball fan when girls weren’t supposed to like it.

Instead of encouraging it, I feel that I was made to feel like there was something wrong with me as a result.  Kids thought I was weird and well, I guess I sort of agreed with them.

So I kept to myself mostly.  But being an only child, it wasn’t that difficult, especially an only child of divorced parents where both worked.  I had a lot of downtime for sure.

But the funny thing was, as I got older and met more people, I found that baseball was a connecting fiber for communities of people.  I remember during the Brooklyn Dodgers documentary “Ghosts of Flatbush” that was on HBO a few years ago, Louis Gossett Jr. said that when the Dodgers left Brooklyn, there was nothing to homogeneously identify with being in Brooklyn.  Baseball brought different races, creeds, characters from different parts of Brooklyn together, and nobody questioned it!

My baseball community started small, with my dad and his best friend and their family.  Then it grew when I started going to more games.  Then it blew up really during the era of social media.  I started my blog and met some amazing people, and even got a husband out of it.

But mostly, this was my happy place.  It’s sometimes not easy being a Mets fan.  It was the fans and the people who drew me in.

These days, I rarely go to games alone.  I’ve had no problem doing it, but usually just traveling to the game is a joint effort, with myself and Ed and the bears that usually come in tow.  There were two games recently that I traveled to CitiField all by myself, though, which is odd.  I’m used to traveling on trains and around the city by myself.  So I had my iPod queued up and ready to take the 7 train on Monday night.

I was invited to the game by a friend who was able to get four seats together.  Our friend Ray Stilwell, aka Metphistopheles, was joining us from the north and we got the Grand Poobah of Mets blogging to join us too, Greg Prince from Faith and Fear in Flushing.

You may remember my misadventures with Metphistopheles in May, when I got stranded in Buffalo, and he volunteered to drive me across the border.  To this day, I’m still grateful (though my trip didn’t exactly pan out the way I wanted it to).  Ray doesn’t make it down here all that often, so to take in a game with him is a treat.  Three out of the four of us made to the Hofstra conference in April.  This was the first time we got the band back together since then.

 

(Photo to the right was taken by Sharon Chapman)

The game itself was uneventful.  R.A. Dickey was masterful again, and deserved better from his offense as per usual.  Yet, I couldn’t help but be reminded of a song as I sat there with my friends.  Mostly me banishing Greg to the Caesar’s Club corner (for reasons I won’t disclose here, but it was pretty funny).  We talked about my husband and I almost got divorced over Angel Pagan (he’s Pro-Pagan, I’m Anti-Angel).  Talked about the previous game where our friend Sharon’s son was celebrating a birthday and he got the Carvel gift card they give out in the birthday inning.

On the way to the park that day, I had some time to kill on the train.  And I found an old album (gosh, it’s 20 years old at this point) that I once upon a time had on a cassette tape.  Ouch.  The artist was “A Man Called E!” and the song was “Fitting in the with Misfits.”  It’s interesting listening to that song 20 years after the fact.  At the time in my life, I was very alone.  I was a sophomore in high school.  I never fit in really anywhere.  That song always kind of struck a nerve with me.  I never quite liked it as one of my favorites, but I did like it enough. It was fresh in my mind as I sat at the game Monday.

Mets fans are an interesting lot.  We stick with the team, when sanity could reason that we should not be.  We root for a perfect game each day, knowing that our team is far from perfect.  And yet, CitiField and the Mets is where I belong.

Thanks to Sharon Chapman for the great photo!

This was us on Monday night.  At some point our Mets fandom and baseball fascination has brought us ridicule from others, but we found each other, in the “lost and found” as A Man Called E! sang about his misfit friends 20 years ago.

Later on that night, I went to go visit a friend of a friend…the infamous Darth Marc, from Metstradamus fame.  Turns out, he and I have a larger connection than Metstradamus…we know a lot of the same Blondie’s gang who hang in the Brooklyn Met Fan forum.  Talk about a bunch of “misfits” right there.  These are the guys who encouraged me to be myself and to blog, and were my very first supporters in the blogosphere.

More irony is when he posted this pic on Facebook, a mutual friend from Blondie’s and Brooklyn Met Fan, IrishMike, commented.  I never knew his last name.  We were only friends in Blondie’s name only.  Regardless, I was surprised to him friends with Darthy, though I dunno, I probably shouldn’t have been.

“Coop’s a brunette, Marc is at a Met game – I don’t know what’s going on. Well the Mets sucked again so there is some normalcy.” – IrishMike

The game sucked balls.  There’s no nice way to put it.  But hanging out with some of the misfits I know makes the games more enjoyable.

I was asked last night on a podcast why I was still watching games.  It has nothing to do with “believing” or thinking something might happen.  It’s not even about being mathematically alive or dead at this point.  But I’ll say this:  I watch because I know in a few months, there will be no baseball.  I may have hockey.  I may have football.  But baseball is my heart and soul and comprises so much of my personality.

I watch because it’s finite.  If you don’t stop and take a look once in a while, you might just miss it.

But on Monday night, I got to hang out with mostly Mets folks (disclaimer: Darth is an “Evil Empire” fan – figuratively and literally.  Or literally and literally.  Whatever).  People who are like me.  People who get it.  “For lost souls don’t know where they’re bound,” as E! once sang.

But we’re only lost when baseball isn’t around.

Thank You, Sir, May I Have Another?

  Most of you know that I am a Mets fan.  In fact, I’m that person that when something Mets-related happens, people tell me later, “You know, I thought of you when such-and-such happened.”

What most of you might not know is that I am a season ticket holder.  I have been since mid-season 2006.  I was going to so many games, that it made sense for me to invest in it then, since it was evident they were making the playoffs.

I held onto them in 2007 and in 2008, the big carrot dangle was guaranteed seats in CitiField, which opened in 2009.

None of this is probably “news” to you.  But in 2009, I invested in Promenade seats.  I wasn’t given much of a choice because it was either there or $9000/seat in the Excelsior level.  Yeah, no thanks!!

When the Mets didn’t perform and fell off a cliff that year, the Mets’ form of an apology was to lower ticket prices, and I actually was able to invest in field level seats (outfield level, but still, I could market them as field level and have a pretty decent resale value).

Each year since 2009, the Mets ticket sales folks have worked to lower ticket prices, but also make the experience more enjoyable for the fan overall by instituting some things as “Amazin Mets Perks,” which got me to take the field with a player (perhaps you’ve heard me talk about my ass being on Scott Hairston’s wikipedia page) and I also got to take the field during batting practice.

My ass might be on Scott Hairston’s Wikipedia page, but I got on the field because of my status as a season ticket holder. Photo credit by Sharon Chapman.

This year, I got a customized Niese jersey for being a plan holder.

This year, 2012, was also the lowest price I’ve paid for Mets season tickets since CitiField opened, but also since my Shea days when I had seats on the Mezzanine level.

As the saying goes, it’s no secret the ticketing department has been selling ice to Eskimos where Mets tickets are concerned.

Yet this year was interesting.  The Mets got off to a rollicking start, and it was announced that the All-Star Game would be held at CitiField in 2013, possibly the worst-kept secret in, well, the universe really.

So I guess it wasn’t a huge surprise that I got a notification from the sales department and my ticket rep, whom I have a very good relationship with, that in order to secure your seat with the All-Star Game, you would require a $250 deposit per seat per account.  The kicker, though, being “the deposit goes towards your 2013 seats” and “2012 Mets Full Season Ticket Holders who commit to 2013 Full Season Tickets by taking advantage of this offer by July 10, 2012 will lock in 2012 season ticket pricing for the 2013 season.

Uh, hello, that’s not only a “no-brainer…” Hell it was a YES brainer!  Of course, I want to hold onto my season tickets for not only personal reasons but also to cash in on the All-Star Game festivities.  But locking in my price now for 2013?  Man, that’s just icing on the mother f’ing cake.

I paid the $500 (since I have two seats) deposit by the deadline and figured I’d be good to go.

Now over the years, the Mets’ ticketing department has come under fire for a few reasons, one of which is their invoice due date each year being around Christmas time.  If I remember correctly prior to the 2008 season, invoices were due around January 15.  Don’t quote me on that, but I’m pretty sure of it.  Yet, after the flailing at the end of 2008 and the opening of CitiField, they leaned on the ticket plan holders for early payment.  Some people complained that it was “too close” to the holidays.  For me, though, I guess it didn’t bother me as much personally.  I kinda figured, you know, that people are usually monetarily wounded around the holidays, what’s the difference a month makes?  (Of course they required back then to pay in full, now there are payment options).

I think another thing is the timing.  The Mets just came off two years of narrowly missing the playoffs.  How DARE they ask us for money when we’re still in mourning?

Since 2009 though things have marginally gotten better, with the institution of the perks program, and making the season ticket and partial plan holders a part of the family.  As well they should.  That was probably my biggest complaint at the time, was that season ticket holders were taken for granted.  I would say a big change in the philosophy of the department happened when Leigh Castergine took over for longtime Mets fixture Bill Iannicello.

But now, I’m seeing some shades of previous Met establishments, and I’m not liking it.

Go back to what I said about locking in prices for 2013 seats by putting a deposit down on your account.  There were two things there: the All-Star game and 2013 tickets.  I get that you should have a plan to be able to reap the rewards for the game, and I have no problem with that.  But last week, plan holders were sent an email about putting yet ANOTHER deposit down by AUGUST 31st  (meaning: like 17 days from now).  A minimum 20%, and as my ticket rep explained, the next payment wouldn’t kick in till October.

Either the first email was in error about locking in prices by opting for the deposit in July, OR they’re just conveniently forgetting they told some fans this.  I mean, I can’t be the only season ticket who was verbally told this, emailed this AND given this new email that’s all passive-aggressive.  “Deadline?  Oh, this deadline?  Of course, that’s new.” (Oh, and before I forget to mention, we were encouraged to put a deposit down, even in the event that ticket prices were lowered in 2013 we would get that new price.  But promised it wouldn’t go higher).

Normally, I wouldn’t give a shit.  But the pricing is very essential for 2013 for me.  For one, each year since I’ve been at CitiField has resulted in me having a lower ticket price AND (something they didn’t do before) is give season ticket holders a discount over the regular cost of a seat to compensate for those days we have to eat tickets or sell below face.  Now, while I was pleased with that revelation, I shouldn’t applaud the Mets for simply doing what other sports and teams have done since the flood.  They needed to do what they could to keep us happy.  I get that.

Don’t tell your most loyal fans that by putting a deposit on your seats in July for games that won’t happen for at least another nine months will guarantee a price lock, then say, “Oh that whole thing, we’re forfeiting that and you have to give us another deposit in less than a month.”

Pardon me if I tell you to kiss my pucker.  I’m pretty upset about this.

In years past, I will acknowledge that the Mets have done the right thing by treating their season ticket holders better, giving them more perks and making us more appreciated.  Each year, the Mets have fallen far from expectation, and each year as a courtesy our ticket prices have been lowered.  In the meantime, would it KILL them to keep ticket prices steady for a year?  Let’s be fair: we know this money isn’t going to be used to improve the team any time soon.

And what’s worse is this whole not-so-much-of-a-warning that your prices may go up if you don’t give into their extortion deposit demands.

Your loyal customers.

Your loyal fans.

For what?  Because we’re riding high on euphoria for having the first no-hitter in Mets history?  Because R.A. Dickey may win the Cy Young this year?  Because you really prepared yourself with a backup catcher this year? Oh wait, that didn’t happen.  Mostly, it’s due to the All-Star Game in 2013.  Fine.  I didn’t mind giving that deposit.  But what I do mind is that I was told one thing, now I’m being told something IN ADDITION to that.

Hell, if I had known I would have to lock in my 2013 prices with or without the stupid $250 deposit, I might have been more okay with it.

I know these are total First World Problems, and most of you could give a shit about my status as a season ticket holder.  But this isn’t just me we’re talking about.  We’re talking about loyal fans who were probably told one thing, and thought one thing, only to have something blindside them.

Over the years, the Mets have ridden goodwill into the ground with their loyal fan base.  In the 1980s, it was due to the 1986 championship.  When the Mets were shitty, they did everything in their power to bring us back with different promotions.  When the team did well in the late 1990s, the Mets rode for years that goodwill in the form of ticket prices.  Only to see the team falter again.  But oh look! The year 2006 came along, and once again, ticket plan holders were taken for granted by locking us in again.

The last four years have been a real test, I have to believe.  The owners, despite what we may or may not know intimately about the financial situation, clearly are not in a position to freely spend.  I’m actually okay with that overall, but the reality is if you see what’s going on in LA after their owners were bankrupt and driven out of baseball, they’re spending and making investments in the team.  Makes me wonder what would happen if MLB actually intervened.  Maybe then we’d have a good team.

But I digress.  In the meantime, they’ve really had to suck up to us and do everything in their power to bring us back.  I’m paying nearly 50% less than my final season at Shea Stadium now for better seats in a nicer stadium.  I can’t complain about that.

My point is, now that the Mets are doing marginally well, they’re technically allowed to ask more of us as fans.  Because they can.

What I can complain about is the blatant advantage taking by the Mets ticket people of their season ticket holders.  As I like to say when the Mets are down 6-0 in the bottom of the 5th: they got us where where they want us.

What am I supposed to do here?  Not pay by the deadline, and risk my ticket prices going up?  When the original plan was that the deposit essentially said that I’m locked in?  Because I wasn’t prepared for this.  Now, I have interested partners in my ticket plan, and I’m appreciative of their offer, but that’s not the point.

I feel used.  The Mets played me.  They drew me in by treating me well and giving me nice things only to shit all over it because they can.

I guess the more things change, the more they stay the same.

You Could Miss It

“Life moves pretty fast.

If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

~ Ferris Bueller

Every year, it’s the same thing in my household.  Every year, starting in April, my husband starts scoreboard watching and starts mentally calculating how many games out of first the Mets are, the Wild Card race, how many teams are in it, blah blah blah.

He’s not joking or even merely being ironic.  No, he’s serious, and I’ve let it go as it’s his thing.  After all, if ESPN has Wild Card standings from, like, Day one, why shouldn’t he have a little fun with his math.

Yesterday, I was talking to good friend BlondiesJake, and we both agreed that as Mets fans, we’re having fun.  Yeah, I said, we’re having fun.

A few days ago, I was on OnTheBlack with Kerel and we both talked about how, from a blogging perspective, there’s been a dynamic shift from being negative and poopy, to being lighthearted, jovial and looking at the bright side of things.

Considering what this fan base has been through in the last six years…I’ll take a six game losing streak midseason if I have to.

I know baseball is a very reactionary sport.  I know that the Twitterverse can be very reactionary too.  But the jumpers – you know, the ones who teeter close to the edge on the Queensboro Bridge – are making it clear that it’s almost time.

I’m not ready yet.  It’s baseball, have fun with it.

Most of us would have signed on for .500 baseball at the break, no questions asked.  Just the way they did it, in Metsian fashion, a loss leading into the break, a sweep by the Braves, with a patented Chipper Jones home run off a rookie pitcher, and losing two heartbreakers to the Washington Nationals, one of the best stories in baseball this year.

It’s more than just the bullpen – this is a team effort, and there’s a lot going on, like lack of situation hitting (yes, I DO KNOW that this cannot be practiced), and the starting pitching maybe crashing down to earth (including an injury to Dillon Gee….who expected him to have a break out season???).

Going back to my husband, who mentally calculates how many teams are in the wild card race, how many to win, even magic numbers.  He’s not joking or being ironic: he’s being serious.   One time, I just said, “Hey, here’s an idea.  Why don’t you just watch the games, and enjoy baseball for once.”  He explained that he did enjoy baseball, he did enjoy these calculations.  But to listen to him do it, and potentially stress out at a game IN APRIL that the Mets might lose a game, suffice to say that I didn’t believe him or agree with him.

And if you listen to some folks on Twitter, the time has come to jump.  Well, I say hogwash!  This has been a fun team to watch, one of the most fun to watch in a long time.  This is something WE deserve as fans, for the all the crap we’ve had to deal with over the years.  A young, homegrown team that is making the most of a bad situation, whether that situation is financially-related, injury, a warts-and-all bullpen, or starting pitching coming down to earth, you’re going to miss David Wright’s amazing season, you’re going to miss that RA Dickey is still an intriguing character to watch, you’re going to cloud the no-hitter on June 1st…

I’m not in a position to tell fans how to think, do or feel.  But I will say that one of the best minds of our time did once say that life moves fast, and if you don’t stop to look around once in a while, you might miss it.

The same could be applied to baseball.  We’re gonna win some games.  We’re gonna lose some games.  Enjoy this season without thinking about Wild Card implications, or division implications, playoff implications.  We know that coming into this season, expectations were low.  That has gotten away from us.

Enjoy it now.  You could miss it!

Refuse To Get Up In Arms, Literally

If I could muster up some faux outrage for the slight of R.A. Dickey, who is by far and away the well-deserved candidate to start the All-Star Game, I would.  But I won’t.  For several reasons.

I’ve made no bones that I think the All-Star Game is just one ginormous shit show.  The game “counts,” yet I would venture to say that about 80% of the starters, let alone those who have made the roster simply because there needs to be a team representative, won’t even sniff the playoffs.  Besides personal gain (like All-Star bonuses, etc), what incentive is there for say, a Miguel Cabrera who played for the Marlins in 2006 to not Roger Dorn an easily playable ball, leading to Trevor Hoffman’s meltdown which essentially turned me off for the All-Star Game for good? And yes, I brought that up the other night on the Happy Recap’s podcast, because unlike 1986, I won’t get over it.  Dammit.

But there’s more.  Tony LaRussa pulled a Mr. 3000 and retired right after his team, dark horse candidates for the World Championship, won the World Series last year.  Besides San Francisco Giants fans stuffing the ballot box so less deserving players can start (Pablo Sandoval, really people?), is there a point to this whole thing?

Not really.  Except once again, personal accolades for the individual and home field advantage determination for the winner.

Makes sense to me.

(Editor’s Note: No, not really)

There are so many inconsistencies with it this year though.  Okay, so Mets fans all know and love R.A. Dickey, he’s awesome, hard-working, published author, a cool dude.  In essence, he’s one of us.  He’s had a monster break out year.  Well, I was on ANOTHER podcast earlier this season when someone asked if I thought he was a Cy Young candidate.  I said I’d need to see more consistent work after the second half (and his last two games didn’t look too hot, so take that with a grain of salt), but that even if he did coast it out and was awesomely awesome, chances are, the knuckleball, seen as an eccentric pitch, would be voted against him.  Turns out I was half right, as it worked against him for the All-Star Game start.

My favorite explanation was that LaRussa was not sure that Buster Posey, a dude who probably shouldn’t have even been starting anyway, might not be able to catch a knuckle ball.  Well, if Josh Thole is the only catcher, name him to the roster…or does Jason Varitek need to be called out of retirement…I guess Dickey is going to be throwing a lot of passed balls because NO ONE knows how to catch a knuckleball.

Seriously?  THAT’S YOUR REASON?

Now that I got that circular logic out of the way, I refuse to be upset about this.  It goes against everything that I stand for, really, regarding this exhibition.  This is what I find hilarious – an “exhibition” game, that “matters.”  Isn’t that the very definition of something that’s, I don’t know, a total paradox?  Sounds like it. But I was only an English lit major, what the hell do I know?

So my friend Sully writes a column today about how Matt Cain starting is a good thing.  Since I respect his opinion, and even when he bashes the Mets, I tend to agree with him from time to time, I wanted to address it here.  Like usual, I agree with some, disagree with other points.  Like one is Matt Cain paid his dues.  So, R.A. Dickey, who had an incredible journey to the majors, learned to knuckleball, published a book, wants to lecture on Faulkner and English lit masters when he’s retired…that’s bupkis?

R.A. Dickey has only been a star for a few months, consistently he argues.  Well, while I’d agree with one part (see my paragraph above about how I felt that he needed more of a body of work for me to consider a Cy Young, let alone a NL All-Star start, which by the way was totally deserved), but I have to ask…if not the All-Star Game…and let’s say for argument sake that he bowls over the competition, leads the Mets to the NL East title and the World Series…would that preclude him from getting a Cy Young…BECAUSE he *may* be in fact a one-hit wonder?

Does that make sense?  I mean, chances are, Dickey may come down to earth, and be more level in the second half…so that might not be Cy worthy.  But an All-Star start…that’s ever a time to have a so-called maybe one-hit wonder start.

I did agree, however, that Dickey coming into the game will give Mets fans a reason to stay tuned in middle innings.

But the All-Star Game is supposed to be based on merit, the cream of the crop, the top of the class.

Yet there’s the other side that it’s an exhibition game that “counts,” and the fans are voting their favorite players in.

Forgive me if I can’t muster up enough of an attempt to give a shit.

Yes, I did write about it, I did acknowledge it when I promised myself I wouldn’t.  The fact is, I could get upset about R.A. Dickey not starting the game, I could get upset that David Wright wasn’t voted as a starter because a fanbase 3000 miles away managed to game the system.

But that would actually make me admit that I care about the All-Star Game.  And I don’t.  In fact, I found out that Prince Fielder won the HR Derby once again on Twitter.  I didn’t watch.  I may watch tonight just to see my players play.  But that’s about it.

If the players and manager refuse to care about it, why should I?

Must Be The Season Of The Pitch(er)

There is a big story in baseball this season, and it’s not the long ball, it’s the pitcher’s duel.

It’s the season of the pitcher, folks, and to me, baseball is only as good as its pitchers are.

Think about it.  On a team, there’s often the old school adage of “pitching wins championships.”  Mostly, of the starting pitching variety. Even the bullpen figures in, occasionally, since a strong bullpen is depended upon during the long postseason if your team should be lucky enough to participate.

Look at my team.  The Mets have been blessed with great starting pitching, from Seaver and Koosman, to Doc, Sid, Bobby O and Ronnie, Al Leiter, even Fresno Bobby Jones.   But for years and years, it was always about the no-hitter.  The goddamn NO no-hitter, I should say.

But forget about Johan Santana’s no-hitter two weeks ago.  Okay.  Remember it.  But that’s not the point.  Clearly, the story this year has been the knuckleball and most importantly, R.A. Dickey’s renaissance surge to not only make his case to start the All-Star Game this year, but quietly mounting a strong campaign for the NL’s best pitcher hardware.  Time will tell, but although Santana’s no-hitter will christen the Mets’ books as the historic one, if you saw R.A. Dickey’s start on June 13th against the Tampa Bay Rays, clearly, that was the more dominant pitching performance…BJ Upton bedamned.

The funniest part of that story is that the Mets actually put in an appeal with MLB to get the first hit (an infield variety by Upton) charged as an error by David Wright.  So let’s see — go 50 years without a no-hitter, than two in two weeks!  Okay, gotcha.  I doubt that MLB will reverse it, but hey.  Goes to show just how dominant pitching has been.

Jered Weaver started the trend in Anaheim with his no-hitter.  I remember my friend Sully, from Sully Baseball, telling everyone to turn the game on, as the 9th inning approached.  He was so excited, Weaver had to pee between innings!

Then came a potentially cruel joke, with former Mets pitching prospect Phil Humber pitching a PERFECT GAME for the Chicago White Sox.  While he’s been lackluster (at best) since, the guy who was traded to get Johan Santana was pitching a perfect game, and the Mets didn’t even have a stinkin’ no-hitter.  Point is he can suck for the rest of his natural born life, and he pitched a perfect game.

Then came Johan.  Then came the Seattle Mariners’ combined no-hitter effort of the Los Angeles Dodgers.  Really?  What is fascinating about those two no-hitters is that they were against strong offensive teams.

Lastly, Matt Cain of the San Francisco pitched a perfect game on June 13.  MATT CAIN who walks, like, everybody.

Some pessimists may say that the achievement isn’t as notable now.  Other say that the change in data sharing in baseball has improved for the defensive side of the game, and not the offense.  Yet at the same time, fans dig the pitchers duel.

It’s true.  A home run derby in the most literal sense is a reason to drink at games because you really don’t need to pay attention.  Great pitching performances leave you on the edge of your seat.

Give me a call when the San Diego Padres break their no-no-hitter drought, but in the meantime, I think the season of the pitcher is about friggin time.  It’s more than just the stats, with Dickey leading the NL in wins.  The pitching landscape is just so interesting right now, and the pitching performance is back.

I love it.

After Darkness…Light

For an English major, I tend to use cliches more often than I should.  I guess that’s because sometimes, I feel the need to say something succinct, and everyone gets it.

When Johan Santana was traded to the New York Mets in the winter of 2008, the title post was “It’s Always Darkest Before Dawn.”

Think about where we were as fans that year.  The Mets continued that old experiment — you know, the one where they’re convinced they can pull your heart out of your ass? — and then continued to spiral downward until…well, until last night, basically.

A common theme I like to say when I describe my Mets fandom is that if there’s one thing it’s taught me over the years, it’s not even the capacity of giving up.  It’s that no matter how dark times get, there is ALWAYS something better lurking around the corner.  Let’s forget about 2007…2006 was the REAL disappointment in not going to the World Series or winning the National League Championship.

This team could lost every game after tonight.  I’m sure we’ll find something else to bitch about.  But the fact remains, we have one less thing to gripe about…And that’s the no-hitter.

And that deserves a HOLY SHEEPSHIT AND BALLS.

OH and if you’re feeling particularly euphoric, consider harnessing that energy to donate to the Tug McGraw Foundation, where I am raising funds while running the NYC Marathon this year.

Never. Again.

If you ever hear me say “Never. Again,” or write it somewhere, here is the story behind it.

My husband and I frequent this place for brunch, where they sport unlimited brunch cocktails.  About a year ago, there was a flamboyantly funny Russian waiter named Vladimir.  He used to see us during the week and would say, “Come this weekend, I get you drunk.”  Meanwhile, he must have said this to others who would clamor for his section to get their moneys worth of unlimited cocktails.

One weekend, Vlad had to sub for someone as a host.  It was a crazy busy Sunday, so we were surprised to see him up front.  Something told me he didn’t take well to hosting, since customers get all bitchy while waiting (there is also not a big waiting area for this joint either).  When we said good bye to him as we left that day, he made it a point to say in a dramatic fashion, “NEVER.  AGAIN.  Will I fill in for someone.”

Now, when Ed or I say, “Never. Again,” it’s said in a flamboyant Russian faux accent.  Our little nod to Vladimir.

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When I saw the Mets were playing at Rogers Centre this season during interleague, I really wanted to go.  I heard so many nice things about Toronto, and I’d never been to Canada.

Mostly, I just remember what I saw on TV of what was once known as the SkyDome.  I remember watching the 1993 World Series, and the crowd going berserk after Joe Carter’s home run.  I remember seeing the hotel in the outfield and thought it was so cool.  People have told me Toronto is a nice place to visit, and I’d never been.

Since the Mets haven’t been there since 2006, I figured I didn’t want to potentially wait another six years for them to return.

Up to about a week or so before my trip, the only thing I had booked concretely was my flight to Buffalo.  I figured it would be easier to take my brand-loyal JetBlue flight to Buffalo, then figure out a way to cross the border.  I’d had a passport already, so that part was taken care of.  But a few weeks earlier, I had been at the Hofstra conference (which I still owe you all a recap, but this thing called the NHL playoffs has been very distracting in my life).  My friend “Metphistopheles” Ray Stilwell said that if nothing else came up, that we could take a ride together.  Unfortunately some things came up, so I had to find another way to the border.  Megabus to the rescue (or so I thought).

Here comes Friday, and I spend the night at the airport hotel.  The hotel had a shuttle and I asked the driver if he would still be on duty at around 4:30 am.  He said yes, and that he actually had someone else leaving then.

EVERYONE I asked said the same thing — Megabus is at that location.  There was no other place it would be.

Till it was 5:30 and it didn’t show up.  I kept looking at my schedule, making sure I didn’t mess it up.  Nope.  Buffalo Airport, clear as day.  Having been a fan of buses like Bolt or Mega, I understand that they sometimes piggy back different stops.  Didn’t make much sense to piggy back the bus terminal (about 15 minutes or so away) then the airport, which was out of the way.  No.  It just didn’t show up to my stop.

Before I decided to commit hari kari at the steps of the Buffalo Airport, I decided to vent on Facebook about it.  Here I am, stuck in Buffalo, with a bear, some Crumbs cupcakes for the friends who had already made it across the border, a passport and a ticket to the game in Toronto that afternoon.  The next bus doesn’t leave the airport till around 3 pm.  Two hours after the game.  Not gonna happen.  The next bus scheduled to leave at 8:15 was from the downtown area.  With no one at the switchboard of Megabus, I had no idea if I could even get on it.  Or in any case what the hell happened that they forgot about my stop anyway.

In that time, Metphistopheles said, “Don’t panic, we’ll figure it out.  In the meantime, let’s get some pancakes.”

 

Sometimes, pancakes solve everything.  But not everything: I still needed to get to the border. What sucked is that I had about 2 hours of sleep.  I’m sure it’s elementary getting across the border (and it was no big deal), but since I was functioning on that little sleep, the last thing I wanted to do was rent a car in that situation.  Worry about parking, getting back that night, etc.

I should have just sucked it up and flown Air Canada or whatever to Toronto.  Lesson learned.

So after pancakes, Ray drove me to the downtown terminal…just as the bus was pulling out about 15 minutes ahead of schedule.

So if they’re not showing up to their stops, they’re leaving 15 fucking minutes early.  Got it.

Ray offered once again to take me across the border.  I had confidence I could get back.  After all, the bus depot in Toronto was a *real* one, and not one at an airport terminal.  If I needed rest, I could sleep then.  We got in his car and made it across the border to Canada in a few minutes.

 

Not bad for two folks who met only twice before, and under weird circumstances.

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Turned out, we had a lot in common for people who admire each others thoughts on the Mets, but have only met in person twice.  For instance, Dana Brand brought us together the two times we met: at his life celebration last year and at Hofstra Conference a few weeks ago.  We were both English lit majors a hundred years ago. We’re born storytellers.  Perhaps, unlike Dana whom I actually had the privilege of knowing, I’ll remember to ask Metphistopheles what his favorite book is…but for now, we’ll stick to the game plan.  And that was to get me to Toronto to meet my friends who were already there, and get me to the SkyDome.

I told him the story of Vladimir, in relation to the story about Megabus.  Megabus, from New York City, is pretty reliable and I’ve never had a problem.  For some reason, the trip to Buffalo, the trip FROM Buffalo to Toronto and ultimately back just seemed doomed, especially since my own husband didn’t even want to bother with the trip.  What I do to quench my wanderlust thirst for baseball stadiums.  I suppose in life there are lessons, the lesson here is that anything that early with Megabus…don’t do it.  Unless you are in a large metropolis.

Before I knew it, we were there.  I was only about two hours behind.  Even my friends who were there overnight, who made the trek to the Hockey Hall of Fame, got a late start.  So it was like nothing had really happened, just that I might have gotten a late start myself.

 

I felt mostly bad for Ray, who was very insistent that this type of thing happens, and that he was fine driving back across the border by himself.

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Rogers Centre, aka SkyDome, has a better reputation than it should.  Toronto fans are not polite, their mascot is even worse, and Shea Stadium looks like a Sheik’s palace compared to Rogers Centre.  Okay.  Some of you might think that *anyway* about Shea, that it was a palace and that we loved it and it was great. Throw your nostalgia aside.  Shea was a dump.  It had charm though, and history.  All SkyDome has is Joe Carter.  It’s a slum, certifiably so.  Just with a nice view of the CN Tower.  Oh and do they not believe in escalators?  Not one to be found.  Ramps and elevators.  Really?

When I say their fans are not polite, it’s weird, because if Canadians have one preconception, it’s that they’re usually very nice.  Having never been to Canada, I was looking forward to some north of the border hospitality.  I’ve come to the conclusion that they’re all just really clueless, and have no comedic timing.  My good friends the Dosters were in town, and had the opportunity to attend Friday’s game.  They said that the Toronto fans got SHITTAY, and therefore were belligerent. And they won, the Blue Jays.  No need for that.  Where was this Canadian hospitality we heard so much about?

When I got there on Saturday, I wore my Jonathon Niese jersey (who had gotten rocked the night before with like a gazillion home runs).

“Let’s go Mets, eh?”  No, I’m being serious.  SOMEONE SAID THAT TO ME.

I think it’s honestly just a poor attempt at humor.  But still, Canadians were clueless.  And had no clue.  Did I mention, clueless?

As for the mascot, “Ace,” he’s a Blue Jay.  No, seriously, a blue jay named Ace.  Okay, a few years ago, I have a friend who was in Toronto following her team.  When she waved to Ace, he threatened her with bodily harm.

Yes.  A mascot threatened my friend.  So keeping this in mind, I kinda figured he was a douche.  And he was.  Since I traveled with teddy bear, I usually try to get his pic with the mascot.  Not this one.  I was afraid he might try to rip his head off.  I guess all things considered, he just made me look like I was being photo bombed.  I suppose it could be worse.

 

Canada also has a reputation of being “cheap.”  This was before the exchange rate was like 1.5:1, now it’s more even, like 1:1.  There was really no benefit, to me, dollars wise, for buying something in Canada.  An upper deck seat was around $17.50.  My friends got seats in the lower levels, and said they’d try to stub me down.  As irony would have it, as I ate my pregame poutine, they found a ticket in their section.  I figured by then, someone might have gotten his friends to stub him down.  I wouldn’t try to go to those seats, but when my friends said there was an empty, I went right down.

The usher was kind of a prick.  Yes, I know these aren’t my seats.  But they’ve been empty the whole game, and it’s the 6th inning.  If they come, I’ll move.  But no one was coming.

Yeah, Canadians are polite, my big fat ass.

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Between the lack of cell phone usage (in a stadium owned by a goddamn media company, you’d think wifi would be part of the rigeur there, right?), the debacle getting across the border, Blue Jay fans being idiots, and not being able to sit with my friends, I was eager to get home.  When I found a Red Lobster by the train station, I figured I could get some cheddar bay biscuits and call it a day.  They forgot to bring them to me, and my stuffed mushrooms were awful.

Home, please.  Yet, home wasn’t for a bit.  I still had one more night in Buffalo, and a flight the next morning.  It’s odd, flying to the same state.  I’ve flown half away across the world, and short flights (like from New York to Florida) are no bother for me.  A little over an hour?  Freaked me the fuck out.

Yet, there was a lot to get me across the border that morning, and things fell into place for it to happen.  So thanks to all the powers that be to get me there.  Ray got his care package of cookies that I sent him as a thank you, everyone else made it back home, including me.  Yet, I have a hankering to go back to Buffalo.  I’d like to visit there and have more time, maybe to grab a minor league game or to see the Rangers play the Sabres there.  Maybe a Buffalo Bills game?  I definitely want to make it across the border, too, to get to a hockey game there perhaps, and to go through the Hockey Hall of Fame, which sadly I didn’t have enough time to do.

Rogers Centre? SkyDome? Never.  Again.

And thank you Vladimir.  Wherever you may be.

A Celebration of Mets History and Academia

Starting Thursday, April 26. until Saturday, April 28, Hofstra University is hosting the Mets 50th Anniversary conference, which our friend and Mets brother Dana Brand was putting together before he unexpectedly passed away last year.

I’m pleased to announce that I will be one of the panelists for the “Bullpen,” which is a roundtable of bloggers discussing Mets centric topics, and for the “Passion of the Blogger” roundtable on Saturday.

This panel on Saturday will be moderated by Greg Prince from Faith and Fear in Flushing, and I’m joining Steve Keane from Kranepool Society and John Coppinger from Metstradamus.  It’s funny, when I started as a “blog groupie,” these were the three main blogs I followed at first.  I’m honored and humbled at the same time.  Never in a million years did I think my fandom of this team would allow me to discuss them live with friends and “blolleagues.”

Tonight’s Gal For All Seasons podcast will be discussing the Hofstra conference, with my guests E.J. from The Happy Recap and Metstradamus himself.  ‘Damus and I might talk a bit of hockey.

If you have the time, definitely head out to Hofstra this weekend.  I didn’t want this to be an event that I looked back at and said, “Dang, I shoulda been there.”