Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Pedro vs. Smoltzie, Baseball vs. Reality

Games 134 through 137 - Mets
Marlins 4, Mets 2
Marlins 5, Mets 4
Mets 7, Marlins 1
Braves 4, Mets 2
Record: 70-67

It's time to stop the bleeding, gents, and tonight's marquee match-up would be just the right setting to create some momentum in a different direction -- and by different, I mean any direction other than the free-falling southward direction in which the Mets are currently plummeting. Pedro Martinez goes tonight in Atlanta against John Smoltz with the franchise needing him to be the go-to guy they paid for last winter. If there's a sense of déjà vu creeping into your conscious about now, it's not surprising.

Back on April 10, the Mets were lying prostrate after having taken it in the prostate for the first (I just typo-ed that word "fist" and chuckled audibly at the context; school's back in session and it's 5th-Grade Humor Day at MLC) five games of the season. The Mets media and particularly the Township were collectively calling for Pedro to step in and save us from 0-162, or at least 0-6. That's precisely what he did, topping a spectacular John Smoltz outing in Atlanta with a brilliant complete game victory. It sparked a true turn-around, a six-game winning streak to follow the skid. The Bat-signal has again been illuminated, and that's the Pedro we need to save the day once more.

The problem is, of course, that it won't be that easy. Although Smoltz has allowed four and a half runs per nine since August 1 and has suffered from a stiff neck of late, he's still generally the same stud pitcher he's always been, and he's always capable of stymieing the Mets. Meanwhile, as Mike at (the hemi-resurrected, at last) ECA notes, Pedro's been off a bit in his last couple of starts. Nothing you can see in the box score, but it's something you could tell by watching those games. Missing his spots, walking guys, just being a wee bit un-Pedro-ish.

This is a call for the real Pedro Martinez, the ace, the Hall of Fame candidate, the guy with the swagger and the grin and the goofy gesturing. We're looking for the guy whose fastball defies the limitations of that slim frame and slender arm, whose command is pinpoint, and whose artistry and valor soar along with the importance of the moment. With Pedro, hyperbole is always in excess, so let's cue the INXS: Petey, . . . Need You Tonight.

* * *

Just a few words in response to Rob's sentiments below. He's obviously right, and most of our attention should be directed towards a pressing and real crisis; still, what I do know of tragedy is that dwelling on it can buckle your knees after a while, and that every person, no matter how strong, needs a break from the sad realities of life at certain times. Sports provide those breaks in reality; though the mass media would add elements of melodrama and heavy-handedness to a simple game result, episodes like last week's in New Orleans shed all the night we need to rediscover sports as the children's games that they are. The enjoyment of these games while countless Americans are losing lives, homes, and hope isn't sacrilege, to me; it's a necessary outlet for people searching for a moment of levity in a world of gravity.

Sports -- especially baseball -- and their coverage -- especially here at Misery Loves Company -- are entertainment, despite all of the business headaches, clubhouse histrionics, and human stories behind them. While you can take the perspective gained by widespread tragedy and temporarily discard sports as relatively meaningless, I prefer to apply that perspective toward the pursuit of a slice of something purely amusing, carved out between waves of sadder and sadder reports emanating from CNN's reporting desk. MLC has churned out its faux pearls of wisdom throughout wars, natural disasters, and times of deep mourning. Even if this work doesn't provide one iota of fleeting solace for its readers, I can assure you that it does so for its writer.

Though the New Orleans dwellers I'm closest with are safely away from the wreckage, anyone who knows me knows that the Crescent City has had a lock on my heart since the first time I went there almost ten years ago to the day that the hurricane blew through. The people there and the places around town have come to mean more to me than most would surmise, and I can only hope against hope for as speedy and complete a return to its previous form as possible. In the meantime, I'll be writing about the Mets and keeping my fingers crossed. (And using the excuse that it takes twice as long to type that way when my posts are tardy.)

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