Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Really? A Three-Game Winning Streak? Really?

I hate that the Knicks beat the Bobcats, 109-107, at the Garden. I hate it.

"The Mets have found ways of losing that I never knew existed."~Casey Stengel

A Photo Essay of the Mets 2008 Home Opener
Part Seven
Actually there wasn't really anything new for Casey in this one. This loss was eerily similar to so many losses from the end of last year. Timid bats and terrible relief pitching. To be honest, I'd kind of like the team to find a new way of losing.

"I've come to the conclusion that the two most important things in life are good friends and a good bullpen."~Bob Lemon

A Photo Essay of the Mets 2008 Home Opener
Part Six
And, here's the moment when it started to feel like September all over again. When the sense of inevitability crept into my chest. When Willy went to the bullpen and called out #60.

The first home-team-directed chorus of boos for the 2008 season rained down upon none other than Scotty Schoeneweis. After coming on and sort-of starting the seventh inning (after Joe Smith took the hill but never threw a pitch) the Show gave up to 2 hits and a hit-by-pitch before almost escaping the jam on a tailor-made double-play ball to Delgado at first. Unfortunately, Delgado pegged Utley while making his throw to second. Everyone was safe and two runs scored. Tie ballgame. And, boos. Lots of them.   

Down a run heading into the eighth things were not nearly as bad as they felt. Especially since Heillman, arguably the team's best reliever, was on the hill. Wright was leading off bottom of the inning. There was plenty of time to turn this around.

False. Heillman gave up 2 runs on 2 hits in his one inning of work.

"A baseball game is simply a nervous breakdown divided into nine innings."~Earl Wilson

A Photo Essay of the Mets 2008 Home Opener
Part Five

Sometimes you can just sense that it's not your day. Looking at this picture you might think that either Shane Victorino or Jayson Werth had such a sense after their collision in centerfield. But you'd be wrong. That sense was in the seats and at second base. Where us Mets fans and David Wright all felt robbed of at least a double. For what's worth, I thought that Victorino dropped the ball from my perch ten zillion feet away. Apparently the Umpire who was much closer disagreed. 
 
While all the talk heading in to the game was about the looming presence of CitiField no one knew about the last addition at Shea. The future. You can apparently see it through a hole in the wall on the Mezzanine level. And, it seems to have scared this guy.

Meanwhile, back in the stands fans are much more concerned with the present and with the drunk guy presently punching them in their faces. By the midpoint of the game it was getting rough upstairs. Phillies pitcher Jamie Moyer had slowed down the game in a Trachselian manner and the natives were getting restless. This skirmish actually featured someone throwing a cop down a few stairs. 

This drunk wasn't throwing any cops, he was just throwing up. He casually threw up beneath his seat and didn't tell his friends, who didn't notice. He would soon grind the vomit into the floor with his shoe so that no one would be the wiser. Classy. 

We can only hope that these two can reconcile their differences. 

"A hot dog at the ballgame beats roast beef at the Ritz."~Humphrey Bogart

A Photo Essay of the Mets 2008 Home Opener
Part Four

Agreed.

And, yes, this hot dog actually costs as much as a steak at the Ritz did in Bogie's day.

"They usually show movies on a flight like that."~Ken Coleman

A Photo Essay of the Mets 2008 Home Opener
Part Three

In his first "real" at-bat since that devastating second half slump Jose Reyes grounds out to Jimmy Rollins. That's fitting. 

Howard at first. Utley at second. Rollins at shortstop. That's a pretty impressive infield. Pedro Feliz (who's at third) just needs to remember to show up each day and not accidentally injure any of them and that foursome is as good as they come. 

The second-best first baseman in today's game steps up to the plate to lead off the bottom of the second inning and to the surprise of everyone in the stadium cracks Jamie Moyer's second pitch over the right-center-field wall. Perhaps rumors of his demise are greatly exaggerated. Or, perhaps he guessed right on a tepid fastball from an old lefty. 

Either way, HOME RUN!!!!!!!

Mets lead, 1-0 after two innings.

"When they start the game, they don't yell, 'Work ball.' They say, 'Play ball.'"~Willie Stargell

A Photo Essay of the Mets 2008 Home Opener
Part Two
Shea is packed up this afternoon. Our seats are on the aisle in the upper-deck, way down the third base line. The sun is shining on my face and the beers are in commemorative plastic bottles. So far, so good.

And, Citi Field is really right there in left. Taunting all of us at Shea. You've got to wonder how that structure is going to affect balls hit to left field. Is the wind effectively blocked by the team's new digs? Does this mean it will be easy to hit one over that wall? I feel like that used to be the hardest spot to get one out. Or will be there be some new, unnatural wind current pushing balls even farther back into the field of play? You've also go to wonder where I'll be watching the home opener this time next season. Citi Field doesn't rise nearly as tall as Shea does and you know that more seats are going to be downstairs rather than in the upper deck. I hope the last home opener at Shea doesn't turn out to be my last home opener too. 

After a few pitches by Oliver Perez we're right back into the thick of it. The season is on. The red, white and blue bunting already seems out of place. The subway hope is already replaced by upper-deck expectation. And Ryan Howard and the division rival Phillies are already in town. Howard is a big dude. Still, I'm not terrified while he is in the batter's box. He strikes out too much for me to be too scared of him.  

On the other hand, Pat "the Bat" Burrell does scare me. He rakes against the Mets. He just kills us. Ollie and Schneider seem to be aware of this too as they meet on the mound before taking on The Bat with two on and two out in the top of the first. It's totally awesome that we're having mound meetings during inning No. 1 of the home opener. Totally. Awesome.

Well, whatever those two talked about out there it worked because Perez struck Burrell out looking. "Oll-lly! Oll-lly!"

"You always get a special kick on opening day, no matter how many you go through. You look forward to it like a birthday party when you're a kid...

...You think something wonderful is going to happen."~Joe DiMaggio

A Photo Essay of the Mets 2008 Home Opener
Part One

And, yes, I just used a quote from the Yankee Clipper to open a photo essay about the Mets. And, I'm mostly fine with it. Joe D captures the feeling of possibility that permeates a home opener (even if it's not actually the true opening day of the season). You look forward to it for so many reasons and there is an awesome sense of possibility that each fan in attendance gets along with the refrigerator schedule.

The 7-train is pulling up to Shea. And, doesn't she look terrific?

Well, at least until you see her much more attractive roommate...

I see the first of, presumably, many Santana jerseys on the platform after getting off the 7. The "Let's Go Mets" chants are starting up as we all head downstairs. After a morning in the office it finally feels like Opening Day. I still think I need a beer before I'm yelling anything.
Leaving the subway station you no longer walk across that small concrete bridge and down those spiral staircases. The stairwell descends right from the station this season and deposits you at ground level standing face-to-face with Citi Field. It looks classy and comfortable and expensive. In other words, it looks nothing like Shea. 

Wednesday's Starting Five

1. Deron Williams. The other point guard from the top of the class of 2005. In fact, he was chosen one spot ahead of Chris Paul. And, whenever the two meet, Williams plays like it. He had 16 assists last night to lead the Jazz over the Hornets in New Orleans. Utah has won 3 of 4 meetings between the two teams this season and they clinched the Northwest Division title last night.

2. Candace Parker. The two-time NCCA Tournament Most Outstanding Player led the Lady Vols of Tennessee to their second straight national championship by beating Stanford, 64-48. Parker netted 17 and her team obliterated the Cardinal in Tampa. Parker dislocated her shoulder twice during the tournament and kept on playing. I haven't heard of someone powering through a dislocated shoulder like that since Sgt. Martin Riggs in the Lethal Weapon movies. With two titles on her resume and her toughness proven beyond a shadow of a doubt she is forgoing her last year of college eligibility to enter the WNBA draft. It's sort of a shame that there is nothing but the WNBA available for such an amazing basketball player. I'd think that she should still be eligible for inclusion in those "going pro in something other than sports" commercials. At least then I'd hear about her occasionally.

3. Dirk Nowitzki. It's a shame that this team will likely not do much once they reach the playoffs. Because when they bow out meekly in two weeks time everyone is going to forget about what Dirk is doing right now. 10 days after crumpling to the floor with a sprained knee and a high ankle sprain he made a surprise comeback against the Warriors. When everyone thought his team would be the one to fall to the dreaded 9-spot, Dirk made an unexpected return to the court. He scored 18 points that night and his team got the W. They are currently in the seven-hole with a two game lead over both Denver and Golden State. The Mavs have won two of three since his return, including a win @ Phoenix in which Dirk went for 30+. For a guy who is supposed to be soft he is doing something pretty impressive just to get his team to the playoffs.

4. The 8th Seed in the West. The drama brought to all of us by this spot has been the best part of the last two weeks of the season. Once the Rockets' streak ended and everyone realized that New Orleans might actually take the top seed, this became the story. And, the 8th seed is so hot partially because many believe that whomever lands here has a solid chance of taking out the Hornets in Round One. Right now Denver and Golden State are tied. And, they play tomorrow night in a game that could end up deciding it all. I hope that thing is televised.

5. Al Jefferson. The Big Replacement is back in the Starting Five after a long absence. He dropped 40 points last night and snagged 10 boards. And, most importantly, he missed an open jumper that would have sent his team to OT against the Bobcats! Why is a miss worthy of an exclamation point? Because it keeps his team in the running for the #1 draft pick. A costly win (see Knicks, New York) would have been a terrible way to end such a great night for Jefferson.

Benched. The New York Mets bullpen. These guys made it feel a lot like September at Shea yesterday. It all started when Joe Smith came in to relieve Ollie Perez in the sixth. The Mets led the game, 2-0. By the time Jose Reyes made the last out in the bottom of the ninth the score was 5-2. The Phillies had won. The Mets 'pen allowed 5 runs on 5 hits and 3 walks in 3.1 innings. And, for some reason I felt like raking leaves and drinking fresh apple cider after leaving.