I’m a naturally disputatious sort. Put me in a room full of liberals and I’ll state the case for an invasion of Iran. Put me in a room full of conservatives and I’ll make a passionate defense of gay marriage. Sometimes, like an Olympic diver I’ll increase the degree of difficulty just for fun. I’ll make the liberal case for invading Iran (women’s rights, gay rights) and the conservative case for gay marriage (what could be more conservative than marriage?).
As you might imagine, I’m not always welcome at cocktail parties.
Several years back, I decided to take on a particularly contentious issue, one that was guaranteed to arouse ire in nearly all of my peers. I made a very conscious decision to become a relentlessly optimistic sports fan.
This is not an easy thing, you see, because I live in New York. In places like St. Louis and Boston, fans give their favorite team unconditional love. But in New York, that love is highly conditional. Only a few months before winning the Super Bowl, it appeared that every single Giants fan hated every single Giants player. And coach. With beloved owner Wellington Mara in the Eternal Luxury Box in the sky, it was even safe to hate management. Yankee fans were nightly booing Alex Rodriguez, whose two MVPs with the Yanks in four seasons are two more than Derek Jeter has won in fourteen seasons.
So I chose to regard the glass as half full. In nearly every conversation with a grumbling, sour-pussed, scowling New York fan, I was Mr. Brightside.
Meet the Mets
These days, though, the New York Mets, based in the section of Queens named after the active verb of toilets in action, are testing my optimism.
2006 ended in a heart-breaking playoff loss (seriously: Yadier Molina?). 2007 ended in one of the great September collapses in baseball history (up 7 with 17 to go, two numbers seared into every Mets fan’ cortex). And in 2008, with nearly every national publication and the very reliable Pecota computer picking them for 95 wins and a division title, they’re just, well, blah...
My faith in the Mets has been so sorely tested that last night, moments after the Mets completed a 3-of-4 series win against the first place Phils, I texted a friend this message: “Have you ever felt worse after winning 3 of 4?” (his reply: “Not with Billy Benitez “)
Let’s review the 4 game series:
Game 1: The Mets started Johan Santana, owner of multiple Cy Young awards. The Phillies started some guy named J.A. Happ, or J.B. Rapp, or R.A. Japp – I forget his name already. I think it was his second major league start, and in the first he was ripped pretty badly. The Mets lost.
Game 2: Mets win 9-4. Yay. But John Maine and Ryan Church both leave the game with injuries. (Update: Maine seems to be fine but Church has been Dled).
Game 3: Mets are up 2-0, with 2 out and 2 strikes in the bottom of the 9th. Billy Wagner gives up a game-tying homer. Mets win in 12, 4-2.
Game 4: Mets explode early and go up 10-1. But the Phils creep back to 10-7, and then then Billy Wags gives up 2 more runs in the 9th. Mets hang on to win 10-9, their fingernails worn to the nub.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m still more optimistic than the average Mets fan.
Consider that this particular Mets team has the most prolific base stealer of his era (Jose Reyes has 266 career steals at age 25) and the most efficient base stealer of all time (Carlos Beltran has 264 lifetime steals in only 299 attempts). So do Mets fans rejoice at the bounty of base thiefs on their roster? No, they bitch and moan that Reyes is too aggressive and Beltran not aggressive enough.
So I’m going to keep focusing on the positive. They’re only 2 games over .500 but a game and a half out, the Phillies pitching is awful, and Johan Santana is about to reel off 5 straight Ws.
Let’s Go Mets!