Sunday, April 16, 2006

Making Perry Proud, or Accentuating the Positive

My wife, six months pregnant, has entered the stage where she can see movement as well as feel it. It's amazing, or so I hear. Everytime she puts my hand to her belly, junior stops stirring. It's disappointing--I want to witness what I'm hearing so much about, afterall--but I try to put a positive spin on the situation, telling myself that junior's inactivity is due to my calming effect.

On a different scale, the same goes for the Mets. I've heard a lot about this 2006 Mets team--the impressive balance of hitting, pitching, and defense; the swagger that emerges with an 8-1 start--but prior to yesterday I hadn't been able to watch one of the games. Then my friend Jake called with an extra ticket to Saturday's day game against the Brewers. Steve Trachsel vs. Nationals castoff Tomo Ohka. This was a game an 8-1 team should win, I thought as the 7 train wound its way through Queens. Turned out to be a game where an 8-1 team got thumped 8-2.

Trachsel was flat, coughing up four runs over five innings. Cliff Floyd was dogging it in left. Beltran and Nady misjudged routine line drives in center and right, respectively. Wright looked overly aggressive, twice swinging at the first pitch with runners on base. And then there was the bullpen. Darren Oliver and Chad Bradford were all right, combining for one earned run over three innings, but in between their stints came Jorge Julio, he of 16.88 ERA. The only good thing about such a zeppelin-like ERA is that it's nearly impossible to raise such a stat. Plunking the leadoff hitter, as Julio did in top of the eighth, certainly helps. By the time Geoff Jenkins clubbed a 3-run homerun off the rightfield scoreboard, Julio had succeeded in raising his ERA to 19.64 (causing Omar Minaya to order one of his lackeys to check out for flights to Norfolk).

It wasn't just on the field where it felt like the Art Howe era, though. The fans were restless but inattentive. Sure, they booed Jorge Julio on cue ("Bring Back Benson!"), but it seemed like most of the energy flowing from the stands was spent critiquing various attempts at the wave (booing a wave that stalled out in the bottom of the sixth, for example, which may have been due to the fact that it was a 4-1 game and Wright was coming to the plate with Beltran already perched on second). I was waiting for a beachball to rear its ugly rainbow colored head.

But Jake, a White Sox fan in town from Chicago, was all about focusing on other elements of the game--the beautiful 80 degree day, the pinch hitting attempts by Julio Franco and Jose Valetin (the man whose moustache restored Jake's faith in baseball), the hitting display put on by the Brewers' Prince Fielder. My guess is that some of Jake's enthusiasm stems from the fact that his ChiSox are defending champs, but regardless, it's all about looking for the positives and if this was the 2006 Mets at their worst, we're in for a great summer.

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