Yoenis Cespedes

Smile On Your Brother

Some may come and some may go
We shall surely pass
When the one that left us here
Returns for us at last
We are but a moment’s sunlight
Fading in the grass

~  The Youngbloods, Get Together

I usually approach the last home game of the regular baseball season with sadness but joy.   But as I related here, this season was very different.  In fact, it was quite possibly one of the saddest and weirdest weeks of baseball if I can ever remember.

I described what went on with my team, and the perspective I had with watching them after they closed their regular home season.

We anticipated some sad news that was about to happen: Vin Scully, voice of the Los Angeles Dodgers, was retiring.  His last home game we knew would be Sunday, September 25.

What we didn’t know was that we would awake that day to some horrific news that crushed Major League Baseball, and that was the death of young phenom, former Rookie of the Year and All-Star pitcher, Jose Fernandez, who died in a tragic boating accident early Sunday morning.  The story could end right there, and it would be tragic.  Yet, it was more so not just because of his age and the potential he had to be one of the all-time greats, but because we also knew his back story. How he attempted to defect from Cuba four times, and the last time when he was successful he dove into the rough waters to save his own mother, who had fallen overboard.  And the news that he had just announced mere days before his death that he and his girlfriend were expecting a baby girl.

I don’t think my generation can even come close to thinking or feeling any loss like this that hit so close to home.  I guess maybe when Clemente died in 1972.  Yet, that was in the offseason.  I’m sure that it didn’t make the fact he was gone any less tragic.  Two others passed during the season, Thurman Munson and Darryl Kile, that all sent shockwaves.

Nick Adenhart was killed in a drunk driving accident after his very first start as an Angel in 2009.  The Adenhart happened early in the season, and yet the pain was still so very raw when I happened to visit Angel Stadium late that same season.

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But also I couldn’t help but be reminded of Bobby Ojeda, who was the lone survivor in a boating accident that took two of his teammates in 1993, Steve Olin and Tim Crews of the Cleveland Indians.  Mets fan favorite Ojeda rarely talks about the incident, has endured flashbacks since and describes the feelings he’s had since as a “black pit.”

Baseball is a family that we can feel as spectators, but the close knit communities really hit close to home.

We saw Keith Hernandez break down on the air, talking about how the time to talk to your loved ones is now, mentioning his good friend Bobby O.  Gary Cohen cracked after the memorial service on Monday at Marlins Park.  Dee Gordon visibly cried as he ran the bases after hitting a home run off of Bartolo Colon on Monday night.  Many teams around baseball had ways of honoring Fernandez, whether it was creating jerseys in his honor, writing his initials on their caps…there was something special about Jose.

And now he’s gone.

I think I only saw him pitch once at CitiField.  He did have one year that he was out due to injury.  We saw him on the parade route for the All-Star Game in 2013, which was held here in New York.  The time was short, sweet and oh so memorable.  There wasn’t a person in baseball he didn’t touch and namely, his Cuban compadres (like Yoenis Cespedes, who apparently didn’t even know him all that well, but had a fellow Cuban bond automatically).

Sadly, I have to say I don’t think I appreciated him enough when he played.  Some of it had to do with the fact that he played for our enemy but also he was out for an entire season of his short career.  I didn’t make it a point to see any games against the Mets when he started.  Sadly, that was all my loss.  I’ve had this sort of regret cast a pall over several instances in my life.  I said earlier this year that I always regretted never seeing the Ramones when I had a chance.  After Glenn Frey died, I lamented the fact that I had never seen the Eagles.  I had plenty of chances to do either.  I just didn’t.

Seems silly to think this way.  It just never occurred to me that they might be gone one day.  I said as much early this year, when Frey passed away.

And especially in the case of Jose Fernandez, it is the idea of wasted talent like Sonny talked about in Bronx Tale that will probably haunt me as I get older.

What added another level of sadness was that we were losing Vin Scully, who we knew was retiring.  When I was in college, someone told me that when her mother was a little girl, she said that she had no idea that anyone else besides Franklin Delano Roosevelt could have been President, since he had been all of her life (till he passed).  It didn’t occur to me that Scully would ever want to retire.  I guess there comes a time for everything though.

Luckily, for me, I’ve had the opportunity to hear Scully.  As a Mets fan, you can’t help but think about the 1986 World Series that he called.  Famously said after the Game Six heroics, after allowing the fans’ reaction do the talking for him, he said…if a picture is worth a thousand words, you have seen about a million! 

If you are reading this because you follow me for the Mets…tell me the thought of that quote in Scully’s voice did not put a big smile on your face.  I know it always does for me.

I had a tough time getting through Sunday.  It was supposed to be a happy time for us fans, celebrating our team and their accomplishments.  Yet, the moment was so much bigger than any shellacking of the Phillies could be for me.

Not one person had a harsh word for Fernandez, and later we celebrated Vin.

I had felt sick to my stomach most of the day.  Then we got home and finished watching the Dodger game, which ended on a walk off.  Because Vin Scully’s last game had to have additional baseball at no extra cost.

Of course it did.

I smiled.  As the Dodgers not only celebrated their walkoff win, but their NL West championship clinching, they took a moment to honor Vin.  As he addressed the crowd, he should have warned me, thatt I was about to cry as audio of him serenading the crowd with the song “Wind Beneath My Wings” played in the background.

I can’t actually believe that after the horrific way Sunday had started for baseball fans everywhere, I finally broke down and cried during Vin Scully’s last stand.

Baseball has brought generations of fans and families together.  Families we choose.  Families by blood.  Yet, the biggest family in baseball are the actual teams, and how each player feels loss.  We seem to think that these guys are robots.  They are not.  This was evident by how everyone came together and lifted one another up to get through this difficult time.

While our hearts broke for the loss of Jose Fernandez, baseball players lost a friend, a brother, a teammate or fellow countryman.  We said so long to Vin Scully, but his voice will be alive I’m sure in many Dodger classics.

I have to say, it was such an odd day of loss and feelings I won’t forget for quite some time.

What I will most remember is how we all came together as a family to say some sad goodbyes and saw just how healing and good that baseball could do.

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Let It Yo, Let It Yo, Let it YO

I’ll admit: I didn’t think it would happen.

I’ll go a step further:  I wasn’t sure if I wanted it *to* happen.

The “it” I am referring to is, of course, the Mets bringing back Yoenis Cespedes.

I was totally against the “7/$150mm” years and dollars being bandied about.  I don’t care who the player is, I’m just not a fan of “throwing money” at a problem or just placate a bunch of loudmouth idiots (media and fans alike).  It seemed as though other teams were not only happy about that prospect, but teams that had experience with Cespedes had that thought process too…

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Mets fans were able to celebrate Christmas in July at the trading deadline last year, with the acquisition of Cespedes (in addition to Kelly Johnson and Juan Uribe, which were pretty decent acquisitions for us).  But what’s lost in the mix is what we *didn’t* get.  One and a half seasons of (injury prone) Carlos Gomez for Zack Wheeler and Wilmer Flores, or Jay Bruce.  I think that’s pretty fuckin awesome.

Late Friday night, as the eastern seaboard prepared for a “snow day,” what we didn’t expect was to become “YO-ed” in, as right before bed time, we got news that the Mets reacquired Yoenis Cespedes.  Sometimes stupid baseball makes me miss sleep.

You can’t always get what you want?  Sometimes, though, you get what you need.

I will admit…I could have taken or left Yoenis Cespedes, as I said to JB on Twitter.  Despite what the general public may think, the success the 2015 Mets had post-trade deadline is often over-correlated to acquiring Cespedes (read Mets Daddy‘s great piece on that for more info…I don’t believe the title is accurate…but the content is on the money for being impartial).  People don’t want to hear this either, despite whether or not he was playing “hurt” (he never confirmed or denied it), he didn’t come through when the team needed him in the postseason.  Yes, I realize it wasn’t just on him.  But Mets Daddy’s post does bring into the spotlight what his numbers truly brought out.  But I won’t get into all that, you will simply have to read his post to figure that out.  Besides his take on the pitching, (I won’t nitpick an otherwise great post) I couldn’t agree more that Cespedes wasn’t the be-all end-all.

I don’t know if the last few years have just left me jaded, or the fact that players I’ve legitimately wanted have faltered (see: Bay, Jason or Santana, Johan) in the limelight here.  At the end of the day, I don’t think that I truly believed he would take a win-win scenario as a contract, and would go for the “sure thing” (e.g. Money and Years).

People who know me know that I am a fan of Terry Collins and the Sandy Alderson-led “dream team” of front office professionals.  What I really love is that we are in a position where we can actually trust their judgment.  Because I have to believe that even if they are being financially prudent for the sake of the owners who don’t know shit about running a baseball (but like the perks that come along with it), Alderson really believes in what’s best for the team.  And thank goodness, he doesn’t engage with #MetsTwitter.

Here’s the thing about Cespedes though…with one fell swoop, everyone was happy.  He gets a nice dollar amount and can test the waters again next season, so he actually has incentive to play well so that he can potentially get a bigger pay day and years for the 2017 season.  We didn’t break the bank nor do we find ourselves with a backloaded contract if he does indeed wish to stay.  Those of us who strongly criticize (rightfully so) ownership sees they actually did reinvest fan spending to bring that goodwill feeling back.

But push all that other shit aside.

Let’s look at how the players actually WANT to be here.

Let’s also take a look at Mets history…

41KVDFGDN3LIn the 1986 Mets video An Amazin’ Era, Tug McGraw saw the decline of fan interest and the franchise as a visitor in the late 1970s.  When his teammates would say, “We have to go to New York and play…”  He would scream, “Don’t you people know how great of a town this is to play in???”

In 1983, St. Louis Cardinal Keith Hernandez cried in the shower as he found out he was traded to the lowly Mets.  A team, by the way, that won a World Championship three years after that, and an NL East pennant in five years later.

In the hot stove season going into 1985, Jesse Orosco said he jumped around in his living room once he found out all-star catcher Gary Carter was traded to the Mets in a blockbuster deal with the Montreal Expos.  In a loose paraphrase from an interview I saw him in around 2006, he said at the time, “We’re really putting this thing together.”

David Wright blasted reports that Cespedes was a “bad teammate,” and made an impassioned plea to bring him back just before the deal was finalized.

Wilmer Flores cried on the field as he thought he was traded from the only team he’s ever known.

Zack Wheeler is itching to return to pitching after his Tommy John surgery, saying he wants to be a part of this.

And Bartolo Colon is so happy, he’s doing head-shoulders-knees-and-toes in response to it…

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New Met Alejandro de Aza had this to say on his Facebook account:

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Players want to be here. It’s not about a 24 + 1 mentality or 25 players taking 25 different cars to get home.  Hell, even Noah Syndergaard offered to be Cespedes’ roomie…AFTER the Thor family wore “Big Sexy” shirts for Christmas Eve.  For the first time in a long time, the players are there for the names on the front, not the names on the back.

As I noted on the Rising Apple report podcast on the snow day, my favorite Yoenis Cespedes moment almost had nothing to do with his individual performance.  The 2015 trade deadline also happened to kick off the heated divisional rivalry series versus the Washington Nationals.  The Friday night game was the Wilmer Flores walk off.  By Sunday’s game, though Cespedes didn’t do anything so totally dramatic himself, there was a buzz not heard in Flushing since Shea Stadium was around.  It had to do with Thor and beating the rivals and basically going on a tear and wouldn’t look back.

As a Yankee fan friend of mine said to me after that weekend, “Who the FUCK is this guy Syndergaard?  Holy shit, that kid’s for real.”  And how could any Mets fan not get the feels when Flores pumped up his Mets jersey in his walk off?

Despite my initial reservations about Cespedes, I say, why not us?  This is a team, despite what we may think of ownership, the front office, the manager, the “franchise” third baseman…we’ve got a team of supremely confident men who give zero fucks and what to finish what they started.

That’s something we can all get behind.  Including me.  Opening Day can’t get here fast enough.

And I’m not just saying that because there’s a shitload of snow on the ground.

Everybody Wang Chung Tonight

“I’ll drive a million miles, to be with you tonight
So if you’re feeling low, turn on the radio
.” – Everybody Have Fun Tonight, Wang Chung

One of my favorite television shows of all time is Cheers, and also up there is Frasier.  Thus, Frasier Crane is probably one of my favorite characters in television history.  I can watch that video clip above over and over, and laugh every single time.  Certainly a dry humor guy with no interest in pop culture, who loved a good scotch, opera and high art.  Yet, when he deadpans this line, “everybody Wang Chung tonight,” I lose it.  EVERY. TIME.

I felt like a drove a million miles last weekend.  The husband and I do like to take road trips, and we really wanted to get to Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati, especially this year since the series was over a weekend.  It just so happened that the games were meaningful in and of themselves.  When we had planned to go, we hadn’t really thought about implications if the Mets were going to be in first place or a potential clinching game.  It was more of a…we really need to get Cincinnati out of the way.

Last year, we had planned on going.  Although there was one glaring condition: I’d have to drive.  Since the hub doesn’t have a license, 10+ hours of driving was all on me.  That’s not very enticing for me.  Plus when we checked out airfares, we couldn’t find any fairly prices nonstop flights.  Moreover, we couldn’t find connections that didn’t take like 10 hours themselves.  I figured, we could just drive.  I live in the city so I don’t have to drive all that often or rely on a car.  Again, not an enticing idea.

So we started to scope out airfares early on.  While we found some fairly priced, once again we were faced with not finding decent connections anywhere.  Some people in that area have recommended flying into Columbus, Indianapolis, Lexington or Louisville, all within a two hour drive.  Again, didn’t make much sense, logistically.  Plus I HATE flying.  So deciding to drive was actually the easy part.  Especially since I’ve done the Pittsburgh trip, once as a passenger, once as a driver.  I figured, if I could do that, what’s another 4 1/2 hours?

Of course, I underestimated it.  We had to stop a few times, naturally, but mostly, by the time we made it to Cincy, I was done. DONE.  And I had to do it again.  Thankfully, we had the thought of mind to book a room in West Virginia, about four hours out.

We would leave after the last out of the Saturday game.

When I drive, I need tunes.  We splurged in the rental car for Sirius XM.  I love 80s and New Wave music, and since I was driving, hubby didn’t mind listening to it (also interspersed with some E Street Radio).  I heard “Everybody Have Fun Tonight” by Wang Chung several times on the ride.  And every time I hear it, I deadpan the line from Cheers in the Frasier voice.  “Everybody…Wang CHUNG tonight.”  (And I also found out recently that Wang Chung actually means “Yellow Bell.”  So they’re telling you to Yellow Bell tonight.  I don’t know what that means.  Wang Chung tonight to the ears of the imagination sounds a lot better and more fun).

But something else.  The song “Everybody Have Fun Tonight,” originally came out in the fall of 1986, right before the Mets went on their whirlwind clinching, then historic postseason.  I was 10.  Instead of the hokey “We Are The Champions” or even Kool and the Gang’s “Celebration,” I always thought of “Everybody Have Fun Tonight,” as a more appropriate song to describe what it was like to be a New York Mets fan then.  It was crazy.  People kissed and high-fived strangers.  The 1980s were a fun time.  For my birthday this year, I’m going to have a 1980s dance party.  It was just different.  The music is ageless.  And I always think of the 1986 World Series when I hear “Everybody Have Fun Tonight,” because I’m certain I listened to it in the Shea parking lot after the Mets won the Series.

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I didn’t think much of the concept of the Mets clinching the NL East while I was out there.  Many things had to go right, like the Nationals had to lose a game, and the Mets had to win both games while I was there.  Beating the Reds didn’t seem that hard of a task; seen their record this year?  There have been weirder things to happen to the Mets this year.

Also, this would potentially by the fifth clinching game I have seen the Mets play: 1986 Game 7 of the World Series; 1988 NL East Champs (#PostTraumaticMetsDisorder); 2000 Wild Card; 2006 NL East.  Now 2015 NL East.  Hopefully more.  Which leads me to…

The 2015 Mets have provided one of the zaniest years I care to remember.  If this team were a movie, we’d never believe it, because it would’ve never been true enough for us.  Think about it.  A relatively “okay” first half.  Great pitching.  Not enough offense.  Getting swept by the Cubs and Pirates…series swept, mind you.  Wilmer Flores “traded to the Brewers.”  Wilmer Flores cries.  Wilmer Flores stays and hits a walk off home run two nights later, proud to be a Met.  YOENIS FUCKING CESPEDES is traded to the Mets.  And bonus points: he MAKES A DIFFERENCE.  That shit happens to other teams; NEVER the Mets.  Imagine if the Carlos Gomez trade DID go through.  I’m certain the Mets wouldn’t have won the division with well over a week to spare.  Matt Harvey saying, oh by the way, I have an innings cap.  When he was like 10 away from said arbitrary cap.  Oh and how could I forget, the whole elusive three home runs by one player in a home game.  Happened TWICE within weeks (and Kirk Nieuwenhuis?  Really?).  And above all, a career year for one of my all time favorite Mets, Daniel Murphy.

They were written off on day one.  They would have an “okay” team, but clearly, 2015 would be the Nationals year.  And they were a decent team, with a top flight ace pitcher and a bona fide MVP candidate.  Yet, the Mets treated them this year they way the Phillies treated the Mets in 2007.  IT WAS FUCKING BEAUTIFUL MAN.

When I say “Zany,” if you were around for 1986, you might remember the game against the Reds, which featured an easy fly ball out that was dropped by Dave Parker, that led to extra innings, that led to Ray Knight punching Eric Davis, which led to Roger McDowell and Jesse Orosco platooning in the outfield and pitching, AND ultimately led to George Foster (former Red) to be released from the team.

In a year where the impossible was possible, that game pretty much encapsulated what it was like to be a Mets fan and following that great team in 1986.

I’ve seen a lot of the Mets, and the Reds have figured into a lot of their history.  Probably most significant happened before I was born, and that was when Buddy Harrelson and Pete Rose got into a scuffle on the baseball diamond in 1973.  Then the fight in 1986.  Then the one game playoff in 1999.  There were many Reds who became Mets, and vice versa.  Foster, Knight, Steve Henderson, to name a few.  Of course, there was Tom Seaver, Randy Myers.

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The stadium was pretty nondescript, as far as more of the “recent stadiums” go.  This was stadium number 22 for me.  (Twenty-two is also my lucky number, go figure).  We also didn’t eat at the stadium at either game.  We ended up meeting my godmother before one game, and she bought us dinner.  The area by the stadium was pretty cool, lots of bars and restaurants to hang out at.  The Ohio River was pretty cool to see.  The only thing I really wanted was to try the infamous funnel cake fries at GABP.  But they were up in the 400 levels.  Really?  I was not walking to the upper deck to get funnel cake fries!

The Skyline Chili is supposed to be the bomb…however, our friend Fred “Stradamus” introduced us to Camp Washington and well, we didn’t need to be convinced that Coneys and chili cheese fries were meant to be consumed anywhere else.  (But the chili in Cincy is a ritual, so you must have it if you do visit).

And definitely visit the Reds Hall of Fame beforehand.  It is worth every price of admission to see it.  So much bad assery with Reds history.

We literally stayed to watch baseball.  Which is weird because in recent years while we’ve traveled or even been to home games, we rarely sat in our seats.  The New York Mets are playing can’t miss baseball right now.  It’s insane.  The last six years could have defeated me.  But as I said on Twitter a few weeks back, I’m going to ENJOY this shit.  Good or bad or ugly.  Sometimes all three…

In 1988, I thought the Mets were going to win it all.  I mean, that’s what dominant teams do, right?  After the Mets clinched the NL East on September 22, 1988, Uncle Gene, Aunt Melissa and Mr. E were drinking champagne.  They said I could have some.  I was only 12, you guys.  But I did what the team did: I started spraying it everywhere in the Shea parking lot we were parked.  My dad got upset with me; probably thought I was wasting some good alcohol.  After seeing the 1986 party hearty Mets, I was waiting a LONG ass two years to do that myself, like the big guys did.  But the champagne toasts were halted that year.  We’ve been waiting for the World Series ever since.

I managed to get champagne sprayed on me while the Mets fans who stayed behind after the win were greeted by the team.  This year may have been zany; it’s also been one of the most fun years I’ve had since 2006, when I’d get so drunk after a Jose Lima start, I’d have to be carried out of the stadium.  Hey, none of us are perfect.

But I couldn’t help but think of the song I was listening to several times in the car on the way to, where I’d think of my favorite television show and one of my favorite television characters of all time.

“There was a passage from one of those trifle songs that I feel is the keynote for this evening…

Everybody have fun tonight.

Everybody Wang Chung tonight.”

Just like the show, the 2015 Mets make me smile every time.  Sure, they aggravate me (what love affair of 30+ years doesn’t?).  But so much more to smile about than be angry about.

As someone said a few nights ago, this is the 2015 Mets.  They’ll either get swept out of the first round, or win the whole damn thing.

Tune in to see what’s next…