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?

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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.

Baseball Metaphor Time!

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7-6 win last night for the Metsies that had a weird harbinger of doom hanging over it; a grayish cloud that resembled Cespedes’ quad, then a potential Reds comeback. But it goes in as a win!

Are the Mets beginning a new “chapter” of the season? Or, an entirely new “novella”? Gary Cohen referenced this once, about how the season is not really made up of different chapters of a book but individual novellas that sometimes don’t have any relation to each other.

The novellas can be divided up in a myriad of ways – a winning or losing streak, an injury-epidemic that begins or ends, the trading away or acquisition of a new player, or sometimes leaving for a road trip.

For this Mets team, it seems they have suffered through something like this already, with the dividing line being the catcher injuries? Or the Atlanta series at home? Sometimes it’s hard to pinpoint the beginning of a new novella. Sometimes you don’t know you’re in a new novella until you’ve already been right in the middle of it. Perhaps they are already in the third novella of the season?

First being 11-1. Then the next being right up to that sloggy Sunday game against the Rockies.

Now a new one? We’ll see. It does feel different already, even from the past weekend. But it’s one game so who knows.

Baseball is so much a metaphor for life and the human existence, I can’t stand it! That’s why I love this sport. That and the dingers, and the first to third dashes.

May Slumps & Harvey Mojo

May slumps are the worst. An icy breeze cuts through the warm air this time of year, and the CitiField sky appears ink-black when the sun goes away. May slumps become ingrained in the psyche of the team, creating a void that appears untenable. Why does a team look so lethargic when they’re not hitting? The Mets in particular seem to have molasses in their pockets when the May slumps set in.

The last few seasons you could set your clock to it: A fast April, zipping out the gate with bats and arms and first to third and all that. Then May slumps.

2-0 Rockies on a brisk-winded Saturday night. Balls hit square right at opposing fielders. Bats barely missing the sweet spot on easy fat pitches. May slumps.

* * *

Harvey has been fired. Awhile back I made a comparison to The Graduate after he was moved to the bullpen; Harvey looking all depressed and Benjamin Braddock-ing himself out there with Paul Sewald. Turns out he wasn’t really depressed. Just angry. And apparently in complete denial.

I guessed that Matt wasn’t thinking very much while trekking out to the bullpen, mostly because I assumed that professional athletes don’t get very introspective unless it is forced upon them. But I couldn’t have imagined just how little he was thinking. About anything.

There’s a weird hole on this team, and it didn’t just appear yesterday when Harvey was DFA’d (fired). My gut tells me that this hole has been there since springtime 2016, when Harvey started losing his mojo. The guy gave this team an edge that they simply haven’t had since the good ‘ol 2015 days. At the time, I thought it was a Murphy-sized hole. And that may well have been a part of it too. The double-whammy of having Murph on the Nats and raking it, and Harvey on the mound sucking it, just gave the 2016 Mets weird vibes all season. Kelly Johnson showed up to bring back some faint 2015 vibes, “Lugo & Gsellman” helped recreate “Johnson & Urine” vibes, and the season was almost something interesting, until it wasn’t. What was missing was the Harvey mojo.

And even now, as the Mets slump through May, I wonder what that missing Harvey mojo would do to help them. Probably nothing, because “mojo” is a made-up thing that sounds good when you’re writing about sports.

It would have been nice to experience a new kind of Harvey mojo: the Finesse Pitcher Harvey mojo. I actually convinced myself we would see that at some point this season.

Matt Harvey is Us

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What do you suppose Matt Harvey was thinking about as he trekked from the clubhouse to the bullpen? Probably wasn’t something like “This is what I need. This will help me.”

In fact, he probably wasn’t thinking anything at all.

What do athletes think about when they’re not pitching? Or actually, what do athletes think about after they’ve just been told they are no longer a starting pitcher and now must sit in a small box at the other side of the stadium and may or may not be called on that night to pitch, most likely in a situation in which they are not a factor in the outcome of the game?

Probably nothing. But what do they look like in that second scenario?

Probably this.

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Simon & Garfunkel has already been referenced, so I’ll save that one.

Instead I’ll call your attention to this “JIFF”, which is from The Graduate, the movie which Simon & Garfunkel soundtracked, and which the song “Sound of Silence” is prominently featured.

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Side note – never understood why that movie uses the same like 2 or 3 songs through the whole thing. It was one of the first films to use almost all pop music on its soundtrack, so I guess I gotta cut it some slack. But it’s like Mike Nichols was in the shower while they cut together the second half of that movie.

“Hey we need some music here. What can we put in?”

“Mike’s not here. Just put in Scarborough Fair again.”

(Pause)

“Ok.”

That pic of Dustin Hoffman gives me such Matt Harvey vibes now. And I don’t think I’ll ever be able to watch The Graduate again without thinking of this.

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***

This whole team gives me a Graduate/Simon & Garfunkel vibe for some reason this year. Like a kind of wistful, autumnal gentleness. A quiet intelligence. Books and smarts. Probably because it is in direct comparison with the previous teams, which always seemed to be run on the fly. Oh Terry. Papa Elf. Bless him.

***

In summation, Harvey is fake emo. Harvey wishes he is emo. He always wishes he is something. He’s always been this way. Even in 2013. He was craving that Dark Knight thing. He put it over his goddamn locker.

Problem is Harvey has the wrong kind of self awareness. It’s not really self-awareness at all. He’s aware only of what people think of him, or really, what he believes people think of him.

We all have this. Some have it more than others.

It’s sort of disappointing to see it. Simply put, I thought he was better than this. But I’m sure we all want our athletes to be better than us. That’s why they’re on that field under the lights. When an athlete shows signs of being just like us, the dreaded us, we get disappointed. Kind of pissed. Angry at the player. People don’t come out and say it, but it’s underneath everything they say: How could you? How could you have feelings? How could you let those feelings affect your behavior? What’s wrong with you?

We used to love Bartolo Colon because we thought he was us. Beer-belly and all. But Bartolo wasn’t us. Bartolo had a peaceful zen-shine to him. A razor-sharp, mellow-yellow aura that most of us only dream of having in our everyday lives.

Matt Harvey is us.

 

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?