Soul Man

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Wilma walk-off fever last night through the mushy gray mist, and I can’t believe I’m letting myself get amped a little for this team again.

Just to recap: since an 11-1 start, this Mets group has floundered and flopped like a fish on the sidewalk and literally has not won back-to-back games, the definition of mediocre. And geez has it been depressing. It was sometime around the Braves series at Citi that I started to suffer through the stages of grief; culminating in the acceptance of a team that will probably never be outstanding unless the ownership, you know, goes away forever.

So when Beanpole deGrom whirled his 13 K game Friday I was pleasant but not ecstatic. But now after a Wilma Walk-off is it possible I’m letting this team get me amped up again? No, probably not. They’re deeply flawed, structurally speaking, and not as fun to watch as a team like the Cubs or the Braves. Too bad I don’t watch the Cubs or the Braves.

But the Cubs and Braves don’t have Wilmer.

Go with me on this one, because it has been my feeling for quite awhile, and it’s a little out there but if you hear me out you’ll probably agree.

Wilmer is the Soul of this team. Don’t know when it started, but that fateful night against the Padres in 2015 sure didn’t hurt his soulfulness. That raw-nerved night was like someone opened the compartment of a powerful electric machine and futzed with the wires, causing sparks and making the machine spin out of control. Wilmer was caught in the middle of something, and somewhere along the way developed into what I can only refer to as “soulfulness personified”.

He’s like the Ringo Starr of the Mets. Not the most talented but could you imagine the Mets without him?

Ringo-Starr-smoking

I’ll do other Mets examples if that makes you feel better…

He’s like the Mookie Wilson of the Mets.

He’s like the Endy Chavez of the Mets.

He’s the Soul. The minute he is traded or fired or god knows what (knowing Wilmer’s penchant for the unreal, he will probably be brought down at the gates of some inter-dimensional portal by a two-headed dragon) this team will lose it’s soul, and things will feel very different. The 2015 vibes, the ones that echoed and bounced off the cave walls throughout 2016 and helped get them to a Wild Card game, the ones that were faintly heard from a distance in 2017, the ones that seemed to come right back and plop themselves into our laps during 11-1, will be gone forever.

Uncanny 2018 Wormhole Shit

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The Mets are 12-2 now, as the great Bright/Kauffman/Crane swung low in the zone, and propelled a ninth inning walk-off, arms extended. High Flying! How you doin?

But I want to talk about the image above, because it fascinates and repels me in an Alex DeLarge-type way; in a creepy, dead-eye stare at the Korova Milk Bar-type way. Uncanny valley to the extreme. Unsettling and unnerving; the image wouldn’t stop creeping around a corner in my mind, won’t stop hovering above me silently as I try to sleep. Like I’m standing in my kitchen and the lights have just flashed and William Friedkin has spliced in a face over the stove hood.

Seriously, what the fuck is going on in this picture?

Couple of things. First, the faces directly behind Wilmer seem to be lit differently, more naturally; as if they are actually standing in an outdoor stadium at four o’clock on an overcast early spring day. Whereas Wilmer’s face is….not? Not lit the same way at all. Wilmer’s face appears to be lit from the side, unnaturally lit.

Second, notice Wilmer’s eyes. Notice his eyes in relation to his body. He’s high-fiving someone to his right, touching hands with this person, only he’s not looking at this person at all. He’s looking straight ahead, dead-eye-staring in the distance.

Not to mention there’s a strange arm that appears to belong to no one reaching across his body. And his neck seems to be farther above his shoulders than realistically possible.

The whole thing has a great high-contrast, deep-shadow vibe that initially attracted me; reminded me of older baseball photos shot on film. But this photo is strange, man. Some other-worldly stuff is happening here. Perhaps it’s 2015 vibes forcing themselves into the conversation, like they travelled through a wormhole and tried to make us think they were 2018 vibes but they got some shit wrong. Some shit that just doesn’t feel right. Uncanny valley shit.

2015 vibes

2015 vibes all over the place right now.

2015 somehow felt like the worst Mets season and the best Mets season simultaneously. There was a wire-tensed electric current running through it, underground ley lines linking one month to the next. Cave walls found in the outskirts of a small town near the Cape of Good Hope bore the ancient scrawl: “Flores, 2-for-4”.

I remember the night I thought “this is the worst Mets season I’ve ever experienced.” It was the night that Kershaw almost threw a perfect game against them. Everyone was saying before the game that the Mets would be lucky to even smell a hit against Kershaw, and they were almost right. My brother and I took a drive through the late evening sun to the local sporting goods store, with the broadcast sort of half-on in the car, and then sort of half-followed on the Twitter feed while we wandered around the place. I remember the setting orange sunlight coming through the big front windows, and I had that thought. “This is the worst Mets season ever”.

It got better from there.

***

There’s too much about 2015 that feels pointless to talk about now. Flores. Cespedes. Murph. Tejada. Neon sleeves. Wright’s slow-mo fist pump. The Washington sweeps that bookended perhaps the most exhilarating month in the team’s history (hyperbole!). All these and more moments that seemed to constantly burst the red seams of some metaphoric baseball (except in this case it’s not really a metaphor).

There were moments where I truly thought the team had transcended their physical bodies, playing in some hyper-reality. Some other-world that alternated between sun-soaked daylight and bright HID-lit nights. This wasn’t our reality. This was 2015 reality.

What 2015 was really about, in my mind, were the players who had been there forever, with the losing teams and the empty stadium and constant feeling that they were not ‘championship-caliber’. These were not the players that would be on the team when it finally found itself winning again.  Murphy? Tejada? Duda? Nieuwenhuis? Eric Campbell? Jon Niese? They were biding time on the roster until space was cleared for the Keith Hernandez’s, the Edgardo Alfonzo’s, the Buddy Harrelson’s. Winning players. But somehow all had found themselves in the middle of a pennant race.

I’m sure every time a team starts winning after years of losing there are always a handful of players left over from said losing seasons, contributing, making big plays, getting a hit or two in the clutch. When Nieuwenhuis hit that tie-breaking blast off Papelbon in DC I think every unlucky player who ever found themselves suddenly helping a winning team probably looked up wherever they were, stopping whatever they were doing, with a goose-pimply feeling rippling down their arms, somehow knowing it had happened again.

***

I think 2015 ended up being a very singular season for me, and most Mets fans. I think if they had pulled it off, it would have felt right to put it up there with ‘69 and ‘86.

When I say “put it up there”, I mean have it sit next to those other two championships in the history books. I think it would have felt ok to put it there. Notice I’m saying “I think”.

Why do I even care about this? Why can’t I just enjoy my team’s success? I notice it happening this year too. They’re off to an 11-1 start and I’m half-worried about whether or not it ‘feels’ as good as their past winning seasons. What’s the deal? Do other fans think this?