Sunday, September 30, 2007

The Clash

Game 161 - Mets

Mets 13, Marlins 0
Record: 88-73

I generally don't "ask" for stuff for my birthday, much to my family's chagrin, but this year I did -- and when that day rolled around a week or so ago, I pretty much got everything I'd asked for and then some. Great birthday, for many more reasons than great gifts.

I generally ask for a million things during the course of a Mets season, and yesterday I pretty much got everything I'd asked for and then some. Great day, for a few reasons other than Mets-related gifts, but it was mostly about baseball results.

The problem is, there's one more day in the regular season (at least). Between the razor-sharp pitching of John Maine, no chance for the bullpen to blow it and not even a step in that direction, a massive attack of hits and runs, and the fisticuffs I half-heartedly suggested two months ago to light a fire under our guys . . . well, let's just hope they Mets didn't blow their wad in one glorious afternoon. Somehow we have to find a way to keep the adrenaline circulating for at least one more day.

The Marlins, as if paid off by the Wilpon trust, seem to be helping to do just that. Not only did they ignite a spark by throwing at, around, and behind Luis Castillo, and not only did Marlin catcher and Kevin Millar's batting instructor Miguel Olivo start a mini-mêlée with a misinformed exchange with Jose Reyes that led to him punching Sandy Sr., but the quotables they issued after the game are just the potables the Mets can slug back to keep the fire in their belly. Thanks, guys.

Olivo talked about having his manhood challenged (by a grinning, goofing Reyes); it's standard LaRussian fare, trite and almost laughable in this context, loosely translated as "I don't like the way this game or this season is going, so I'll blame someone else and lead with my fist." He's Ike Clanton in Tombstone. Well played. Meanwhile, Hanley Ramirez sent a few foul words the Mets' way as well, indicating that he plans to lead the charge to give our boys a beatdown. We'll see.

But thank you, Marlins. A million thank yous. I can only hope you've woken up a slumbering beast.

Meanwhile, down in Brother-Love town, Brett Myers and others have indicated a similar distaste for the Amazins. The '07 team of mild-mannered stars is a far, far cry from the moustaches, smirks, fist-pumps, and finger-points of the brash '86 team, and yet there's similar venom swelling in the others. Unlike the Marlins' misdirected pouting over an overblown occurrence, though, the Phils' hate is less about an incident or a player, it's that "I hate the Mets, their fans, their town, their organization, everything about them." God bless 'em. That's what rivalries are all about.

One of our cousin-blogs had a running commentary about football's NFC East and the rivalries and mutual loathings that bounce around the division. The fans feel the decades-old "hatred," if such a word is suitable for sports (and I think it is), and all we really want is for the players to sense it, tap into it, get a charge from it, and if we're really lucky, feel the hate, too. That's rare these days. It would be hard for the Mets and Phillies to have that mutual bitterness, if only because this is virtually the first time in their 46 years of divisional co-existence that they've grappled each other for the crown. Still, fans of both sides already have buckets full of the contempt that familiarity brings, largely fueled by other showdowns in other sports. That the players themselves might also be tiring quickly of the opponent's antics can't help but elevate the excitement.

It would be a real shame if yesterday's mild bench-clearer was the event to unite the guys on the New York Mets, but it was too late to make a difference. Highly-paid professionals certainly shouldn't need an extraneous circumstance to foster the drive and determination to excel when there's this much on the line this afternoon, but human beings are peculiar animals. The hari-kari of the last few weeks has eluded comprehension, so logic and rational points have no place here.

I'm frazzled and out of it and nervous and jittery and to be honest, I'm not sure what day it is. The opening chords and lines of the first song on Jane's Addiction's album Ritual de lo Habitual seem to be the quintessential rev-up to this game . . . "Here we go!" Problem is, the song is called "Stop." My head is spinning about just about everything right now.

I'm only focused on one thing today, and all I can ask is that the same can be said of a dugout full of guys wearing blue & orange as they strap it on for either the epilogue to a tragedy or the key scene in a multi-part heroic saga.

Stay tuned. I will. Here we go.