Friday, May 27, 2005

Need Me Tonight*

Games 42 through 48 - Mets

Yankees 5, Mets 2
Mets 7, Yankees 1
Yankees 5, Mets 3
Braves 8, Mets 6
Braves 4, Mets 0
Braves 3, Mets 0
Mets 12, Marlins 4
Record: 24-24

I'm back from a hardly-deserved beach vacation in sunny Wrightsville Beach, NC -- and just in time, it seems. New England and the Mid-Atlantic north of where I was reclined on the warm sand were cold and rainy, every piece of Mets footage seemed to have Bizet's Carmen playing in the background, and once more my little friend strayed just a wee bit from the mission, sprinkling politics (and scatological humor) into the mix. Had I stayed through the weekend . . . well, we don't even want to think about those consequences. And if you think my self-importance is a bit inflated even for me . . . well, sure, but here's the topical application (not to be confused with what Carlos Beltran is rubbing on his right quad about now) of the elephantitic ego: The New York Mets need me.

In Episodes I and II of the Misery Loves Company saga, I wrestled with a bizarrely frustrating dilemma -- the Mets seemed to thrive when I ignored them and tank the worst when I followed them the most closely. It's well documented in the archives, most painfully in this June 2004 post, a passage of which reads:
We've tried this before, and the evidence is mounting. When I follow the Mets'
progress closely, they lose. When I hunker down and tune in for the duration,
they lose badly. If I were to go to a game, they might fold the franchise. When
Rob applauds the Red Sox, they lose. When he trashes them, they win. And the
level of vitriol therein is directly proportional to the level of solid play
soon thereafter. It's beyond uncanny. It's odder than The Odd Couple, it's
weirder than Weird Science, it's stranger than L'√Čtranger. It's not just
bizarre, though, it's painful.
To me, the 2005 Mets season has seemed intangibly different than the two previous pants-stains, and by "different" I mean better, for the most part. Mike Piazza was quoted in the early part of last season as saying that that team was different than its predecessor, but as it turned out, it was different in a "chronic migraines are different than extreme nausea and vomiting" sort of way. I've had trouble clearly spelling out what is, in fact, better about the current campaign of jokers than the parade of bozos who came before them. Certainly their record is no indication, just a game better through 48 contests than last year's bunch and two games better than 2003. Last night, though, it occurred to me that part of my pleasure with the way the '05 term has gone has had to do with my personal timing of attention to them. In contrast to the horrible pattern of the past described above, this year I've missed the lowest lows but tuned in primarily to exciting, adept performances of "the new Mets," i.e., wins, and impressive ones at that. I was stuck at the beach (woe is me) with access only to box scores and a scant highlight here and there for nearly a week, and the Mets folded like a beach chair in five of six games. At the time, the slump was only fleetingly disheartening, as a vacationer's climate doesn't cloud with such trifles. I returned yesterday, ready to rant about the belly flop the Mets were in the midst of executing with all the ire of someone with sand in their shorts. Alas, I sat down to watch the (conveniently rain-delayed) Mets-Marlins game, and within five minutes the Metros had lemons-to-lemonaded a 1-0 hole into a 3-1 lead. By the time the game had ended, I had no fuel for a barrage of complaints. Instead, I could only come up with one concrete, unwavering truth: The New York Mets need me.

It just looks like the Mets need me if they're going to win this year. Everybody likes to feel needed, and I'm no exception; it makes my tuning in even more enjoyable, knowing that I'm doing my part for the cause -- instead of bogging the wagon down, like in years past. Sure, there will be times when doubt is cast upon this hypothesis; the Opening Day debacle is one example, though now I'm thinking that was just a "for old times' sake" tribute to the old Mets. Two months in, now, I'm feeling the tug of responsibility coming from this team, and I'm here to answer the call, at least until I go back on vacation to another beach in three weeks. Hey, it's not like they're paying me.

While this fortuitous shift in my own timing doesn't necessarily reflect an improvement on the team's fortunes, it does (a) help explain my brighter outlook and (b) continue a growing theme of opportunistic flashes of success that mark a change from years past. The Mets themselves have demonstrated a newfound timeliness that has resulted in heretofore unseen rallies and a frequent statistical conversion of LOB into 2-out RBI. This trend was shelved for much of the past week, undoubtedly, but we've still seen a sea change from the "if there's a way to lose, we'll find it" credo of the past few levels of Dante's Hell -- um, I mean past few Mets seasons. Now that the timing is synched between the Metropolitans and me, we're teaming up like the Wonder Twins (okay, there's a chance the Mets are a full-fledged superhero and I'm Gleek, the Space Monkey), so look out, people. It could get good.

For the record, how I managed to return with anything positive after a six-game baseball equivalent of tripping over feet and falling down stairs is well beyond me. Sunshine really is therapeutic, I guess.

* And finally, it should be noted that the more fitting but far less palatable headline "You Needed Me" and its corollary "Cue the Anne Murray" were dropped in favor of this weak INXS alteration -- just to prove once again to the doubting masses, that yes, there are some depths of loserdom to which we simply will not stoop here, even if they're rarer than a mint condition Fantastic Four #2 "graphic novel."

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