Sunday, October 7, 2007

Miscellaneous Post-Season Observations:

First off: hell yeah, Kaz Matsui. I feel very good about the big hits that Kaz got in game two to sink the Phillies; it seems like fitting closure to the troubled Kaz-Mets relationship. It was nice that Kaz could help avenge the team that he utterly disappointed—and I think that the fact that he did it in a way that was not actually useful to the Mets at all (i.e., he could have hit a lot against the Phillies in the regular season and hurt their playoff chances) reflects nicely on the horrible treatment that Kaz got at Shea. I had these thoughts before it happened, and actually spent the morning of game two trying to visualize Kaz coming up big against the Phillies—I was picturing a game winner off of Bret Myers in the ninth, but I’ll still take credit for having predicted a brilliant Kaz performance.

Whenever I watch a relief pitcher in the playoffs, I hope he gets lit-up, resulting in a decrease in trade value, and making him more likely to end up on the Mets.

Earlier in this blog, I might have implied that Bob Feller is either a hypocrite or a moron. This is probably true, but I approve of his recent threat to show up at a Cleveland Cavaliers game wearing a Pistons hat. This was made in response to Cavaliers Superstar Lebron James attending the Indians-Yankees series wearing a Yankees hat. It was revealed, when King James was questioned re: hat, that he had grown up a Yankees fan, because he rooted for all the teams that consistently won championships in his youth, the Cowboys, Bulls and Yankees. While I am not very dogmatic about fandom, and feel that people should root for whoever they want to (unless it’s the Braves, Yankees or Phillies) I think that just rooting for frontrunners is a kind of voluntary admission of an utter lack of character—which in this case jives with my overall perception of Lebron James. James is about as good at basketball as you can possibly be, but, more than another heavily marketed sports figure, James projects an aura of pure success that is almost hostile to any ideological concerns. When former minor NBA player John Amaechi came out of the closet and wrote a book about it, James was quoted as saying that he would not feel comfortable hearing such an admission from a teammate, for the peculiar reason that keeping one’s sexual orientation secret would violate the level of trust necessary in a basketball locker-room. In essence, James would never want to hear about a teammate coming out because James feels that being in the closet in the first place is a violation of trust; James is hostile to admissions of homosexuality because he is too accepting. Fortunately, before people confused themselves trying to figure out what he meant, and if it could possibly be anything other than a very underhanded and gutless way of supporting the somewhat hateful status quo while claiming a moral high ground, Tim Hardway went and said that he hated gay people, which was a significantly easier sentiment to dissect. Anyway, I hope that Feller follows through with his threat; leading James to wonder for about a second and a half what that weird old man in a Pistons hat was doing at a Cavaliers-Heat game.

John Amaechi/politicol correctness footnote: After Amaechi came out, a gay friend of mine asked me what his career numbers had been like, since he knew that looking them up was the sort of thing that I would do. I told him that they had not been very good at all, and added “but it’s probably pretty hard to put up dominant numbers when you’re going to gay bars every night and getting fucked in the ass with a paper bag over your head.” My friend said, “you know, I really wasn’t cool with what you were saying until you got to the phrase ‘paper-bag.’”

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Scott Schoenewies: Took Steroids, Still Sucked

I guess I feel vindicated. I am fucking infuriated that they signed this guy for three damn years, and let Chad Bradford go because three years was too long of a contract for a relief pitcher: the Mets were Chad Bradford away from a playoff birth.

Gilbert Arenas (whose blog is excellent)feels very strongly that the Marc Ecco/Barry Bonds baseball/ asterisk incident is a travesty for a variety of reasons, some of them valid and some of them unhinged. I pretty much agree; I think that Ecco’s involvement is moralistic, pompous and obnoxious. First off, the thin pretense of making his judgments a popular decision is crummy and degenerate: of his three options, the asterisk is the only one that could ever conceivably be chosen by a popular vote. Shooting something to into space could never appeal to a large enough mass of people: the voters have been told by the baseball establishment, the media, themselves, and even Mark Ecco’s stupid poll that the ball is valuable, they want to keep it on earth—relinquishing it to the void of space would never gather enough popular support. Also, doing nothing to it is not an interesting enough option to get people to vote for it en-mass. Because the poll was conducted by voluntary participants, the only people likely to vote were those who felt that Bonds had tainted the legacy of baseball, and that his ball needed to be marked by an asterisk, to ensure his infamy into the age of the robot ball-player.

The asterisk is fucking stupid. Look, one hundred years after the fact I know that Ty Cobb was a racist motherfucker; I also know that he probably bet on and fixed a game or two; I know this despite the fact that there was no interest or effort made by the baseball establishment or anyone else to keep either of these aspects of Cobb’s history in the public consciousness-- the latter fact was actively suppressed by Commissioner Kennesaw Mountain Landis, who banned all the Black Sox participants for life, in order to avoid the disastrous fallout that would come from the utter disgrace of the best (white) baseball player of all godamn time. I somehow think that people will be able to remember the doubts about Bonds and his record for as long as there is an interest in the sport.

And really, Marc Ecco, how do you see the asterisk functioning? Eons in the future when archaeologists or aliens uncover the Hall of Fame, do you actually imagine some pith-helmet wearing motherfucker picking up the ball and saying “well, other artifacts indicate that this was a baseball, part of a vaguely incoherent game played on a diamond shaped field—however, the presence of the branded on asterisk indicates that the player who hit this ball might have done so with the aid of performance enhancing drugs.” Does this strike you as fucking likely? If that is the scenario that you are preparing for, they should start branding all of Babe Ruth’s bats with a hotdog, just so the future archaeologists will have more insight into our ancient sport. Or are you more thinking: “look, son, that asterisk got on the ball after Marc Ecco bought it and let people vote on the Internet.”

In conclusion, Scott Schoenewies is a crappy pitcher, a fact that was completely unchanged by his taking steroids. This, and several other things, indicates that the relationship between taking steroids and not sucking at baseball is a little more complicated than any idea that can be effectively conveyed by an asterisk.

If Scott Schoenewies feels like proving me wrong and being amazingly damn useful for the Mets next year, I’ll send him a letter of apology.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

What was it like?

Examining recent history, I feel as if I ought to have turned this blog into some kind of anatomy of despair a week or so ago, and the posts in that time should paint a grim portrait of futility and desperation climaxing in the Sunday’s fiasco. Indeed, the progression of recent games seemed almost exquisitely calculated for baseball fan torture: the ray of hope that lasted with the lead, finally replaced with resignation, and then despair following Perez on Sunday, only to be suddenly re-kindled with Maine’s no hit-bid, followed by the perfectly disastrous game on Sunday.

The termination of the Met’s seasons raises ‘important’ questions that I would like to think Sam’s Mets blog’ had been in a unique position to answer: what does it feel like to be on the bad end of the worst collapse ever, in sports? What does it say about you when your team fails so miserably? What can be learned from the absolute depths of baseball misery?

First off, and one of the reasons that these questions are not readily answered, I have to say that denial and selective perceptions of reality play a significant role. On some level, I think everyone who closely followed the Mets saw the seeds of futility all along, but chose not to pay them too much attention. There were problems with the team, the inability of the offense to pick up the pitching, the occasional ineffectiveness of the bullpen, the perceived lack of spirit on the squad, that were there all along. Everyone remembered the 2006 Mets, the energy, the rallies, and the excitement. We knew that we weren’t getting that this year, but chose to emphasize the fact that the team was in first—the extent to which that might have also been true of the players is impossible to determine. Indeed, the coverage, both among blogers and print journalists, always hinted at a need for the team to pick things up—but felt that the failure to do so would hurt the team in the playoffs and not the regular season. Much of the difference between ’06 and ’07 was chalked up to an improved NL east, yet at the same time the other contenders, the Braves and the Phillies, were both demonstrably flawed teams, and nothing really made the notion of either of them surpassing the Mets seem like a certainty. Indeed, up until the final game, the possibility of success had never been completely removed, and it was always easiest to focus on that possibility, rather then the unpleasant options.

On a personal level, the 2007 baseball season was when I began to develop a minor interest in advanced baseball statistics, particularly the ones relating to the debate about the existence of clutch hitting. At some point, it became reasonably clear that I was looking for some sort of excuse for the Mets players, for a model of the baseball world that would attribute their shortcomings to bad luck rather than a deficiency of character or ability. In other fans, I think a similar anxiety expressed itself in the debate about Willie Randolph’s competence.

Perhaps, for me, a final moment of despair happened last week when I realized that I was on the Knicks website, looking up the date of the first game of the season; when I saw what I was doing, I somehow finally understood that things with the poor Metropolitans had gotten very, very, bad indeed.

Posted late (Blame my neighbor's wireless)

This was written between the pen-ultimate and ultimate games of the season:

At some point it occurred to me that I have a valid passport, a little money in the bank account: hop a buss to LaGuardia, get on the first plane out of the country, away, anywhere where it would take only a minor act of will power to never learn the results of tomorrow’s game, or at least put it off until I had had time to grasp its irrelevance, to realize that my self and the game were separate, independent things, to be able to view it as a random, incidental occurrence.

It was an idea that was amazingly tempting and viscerally repulsive-- perhaps because I knew, from the instant that I had it, that there was no conceivable way that I would actually act on it. Still the realization that I had it in my power to step away, to turn my back on baseball, completely disassociate myself from whatever despair or triumph tomorrow might yield, was at once sobering and awkward.

There was something seductive in the idea of completely uprooting myself from something that I had followed so closely—abruptly amputating something that had almost become part of me; the idea of knowing nothing at all about tomorrow’s outcome seemed weirdly reminiscent of freedom.

For, after all, what really are the Mets? Are they simply the record, the box score? The twenty-five men on the roster? Perhaps. Also the coaches, the players in the minor league, the administrative offices, Omar Minaya, the Wilpons. Gary Cohen, Howe Rose, are not entirely Mets, but then again, perhaps they are more the Mets than the team itself, since it is mainly through their accounts (and not the Mets themselves) that the team reaches the world. Keith Hernandez and Ron Darling have to be considered in a slightly different light since they are former players, and helped form part of the history that had makes the franchise what it is. Are Wally Backman in his trailer, Doc Godden in prison, Roger McDowell-- now the Braves pitching coach, still Mets? The images of them in blue and orange, the memories that they still evoke, are, perhaps, more real and vibrant than whatever they might be currently doing with themselves.

And then there are the fans, the seething unwieldy mass that calls the team into existence. It is their capitol that ultimately finances the Mets, through tickets, hotdogs, and commercial time. More important, perhaps, than any financial investment, is the emotional investment, the desires and fears that they have projected onto the ball club. All of them see the team in a marginally different light, experiences the team in a slightly different way—and what could the team really be, other than the aggregate of all these feelings, the amalgamation of the impression that it leaves in the minds of its followers.

Then again, there is the feeling that all that is grotesquely too complicated; that the Mets are, in fact, merely the instant of play, in the moment that it happens. They are men standing on a field, and if we, and they, attach a certain importance to certain of their actions, if when one of them goes to a certain place we call it a ‘run,’ if when a ball is caught or falls we view it as either a success or a triumph, it is a dimension and a vocabulary that we have created ourselves, and that reflects but vaguely on the actuality of the situation: that a man in a uniform has been either aided or hindered in his efforts to run around in a circle.