Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Just when I thought I was out...

In The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell (who in a baseball cap would look a lot like Bake McBride), writes about the 'epidemic' of teen smoking and points out that addiction to nicotine isn't the same for everyone. Which is one reason why some people can give up smoking soon after starting, others smoke less frequently, and others kill themselves with three packs a day.

Which is to say, if the Mets were cigarettes, I'd have a hole in my trachea by now.

For several years I was the primary writer for Mets Fan Club, a site very near and dear to my heart. But after enduring the NLCS Game 7 loss and the called third strike in 2006, the collapse of 2007 and the World's Most Dangerous Bullpen in 2008, I couldn't find the strength to write about the Mets in 2009. I did a season preview, but a few weeks in, I was done. Spent. Toast. So I took the season off.

Good call.

It was refreshing to just be a fan and not have to post about every win or loss, or speculate about why the Mets were getting injured so often, or why Mets fans in general were getting more and more defeatist and annoying. And with the way last season went, I would have been lucky to have not had a breakdown by the Fourth of July.

Now it's 2010. The hot stove period is all but over and pitchers and catchers report in a little more than two weeks. The Mets added a power bat in left field with Jason Bay, but haven't yet added a starting pitcher. Carlos Delgado is thankfully gone, Luis Castillo is still here, and with any luck Daniel Murphy will be given a real chance to play at first base.

I could have continued to be just another fan. But the call of the blog is a strong one, and of the pro teams I root for (Jets, Mets and Islanders -- yikes), the Mets are the team that I think about, worry about and enjoy talking about the most.

Maybe it's because my first real sports memory was of playing baseball in the street at age six in 1975 and thinking that a third-place finish for the Mets wasn't so bad. (Little did I know what the next few years would bring). Maybe it's all the games of Strat-O-Matic I played where the Mets always were much better than they were in real life. Maybe it's because baseball's season is so long, there's always plenty to think and talk about.

But there's another reason I got back into the blogging game. I try my best to be positive, without drinking the Kool-Aid. I was also a reporter and editor for many years, so I've learned to look at things objectively, the opposite of a fan.

Of course, it's been tough to remain optimistic or even objective about the Mets given the last three-plus years, but Mets-bashing has become a little too popular for my taste. And while I can almost forgive the media from piling on, what gets me is how many Mets fans are so quick to lay the blame or drive the next nail into the coffin.

Believe me, I understand the frustration. I feel the pain. I was there when Endy Chavez made The Catch, and Yadier Molina homered, and Carlos Beltran struck out. The collapse was sheer water torture. But had the Mets' bullpen been able to avoid just a couple of its mind-boggling 29 blown saves (and had Brad Lidge not been friggin' perfect), the Mets would have won the division in '08. And while everyone loves to say "injuries aren't an excuse," when your starters and their backups also get hurt, there's no way to compete. No one's bench is that deep and talented. Not even the Yankees.

Yes, the Mets have issues in 2010. I admit I'm not completely confident in the front office.
But while patience is in short supply surrounding this team, I'll do my best to retain mine.

(And just a note on Citi Field. If I am at a Mets game, wearing my Mets gear, surrounded by thousands of other fans wearing their Mets colors and cheering for the Mets, who are on the field below me, I do not need to see Mets logos and colors everywhere I turn to remind me that I am, in fact, at a Mets game. I don't care what color the outfield wall is.)

So, somewhere between sanity and insanity is Metsanity. An island of calm in a roiling sea of blather and bombast.

Where we recall Jon Matlack, Bruce Boisclair and Doug Flynn as fondly as Nails, Backman, Keith, Straw or Doc.

Where we remember the Grand Slam single (and still hear the ringing in our ears) -- but never did see the ball clear the wall from our seats in the Mezzanine.

Where Mike Piazza's No. 31 and Keith Hernandez' No. 17 are retired on our outfield wall and a statue of Tom Seaver stands proudly before the rotunda, its right arm cocked and right knee scraping dirt off a bronze mound.

Where we enjoy a pulled pork sandwich from Blue Smoke and shed no tears for Shea.

Where The Curly Shuffle and Luna Mezzo Mare are the only songs allowed to be played during the seventh inning stretch.

Where I'll be for the rest of the year and maybe longer, depending on how my nerves and my heart hold out.

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