I got called out, recently, for wearing my black Mets jersey.

“They’re no expansion team!  Where’s your pride?”

Must’ve left it in my other pocket.

I do own a black Mets jersey–the home alternate, which reads “Mets” on the front–and I wear it sometimes.  Always to ball games, with the black cap that I’ve whirled around so often in celebration of a run scored for the home team that it’s starting to buckle.  And underneath the jersey, my “I’m Calling It Shea” T-shirt which I ordered in late April yet arrived late May, taking the slow boat to Bay Ridge.  (I kid; there was a run on production.  It was well worth the wait.)

More on the jersey: it has the Shea patch on it; there’s no name or number on the back.  When The Wife got it for me as a Christmas gift, I was still unsure of what player to pick. 

I’ve seen people wear black with “Seaver” on the back.  Incorrect.  Incorrect, too, is the one black “Ryan” jersey I’ve seen, with the number 30.  I can’t believe one’s allowed to order such things.  Perhaps their wearer’s names were, respectively, Seaver and Ryan, but somehow I doubt it.

I’d considered a “Shea” with the number 08 on it, but while I must’ve gone to a couple dozen games at Shea (there were some very lean years in the Vargas household), I never felt like I owned the place: my best memory was a game I caught in the Mezzanine, sometime during my senior year of high school, and fearing the upper deck would collapse on me when chants began for Benny Agbayani. 

“AG-BA-YA-NI!” ::clap, clap, clap clap clap:: “AG-BA-YA-NI!” ::stomp, stomp, stomp stomp stomp:: 

I think he got a hit.  I don’t think the fear would be so terribly ingrained if cheers and foot-stomping hadn’t come, and that because of a hit with some impact on the game.  I’m somewhat ashamed for my fear, I admit.  Nothing to be done now; place be gone, yo.

I strongly considered getting “Franco,” 45, with perhaps the “C.”  These, I was told, were unavailable.  Perhaps for the best.

So the back remains blank.  I wear a black Mets home alt jersey from the last season at Shea Stadium.  This does not bother me.  The Wife, an alert and astute woman as ever there was, figured I wanted a jersey for going to ball games, where ketchup from hot dogs and grease from sausage-and-pepper sandwiches are attracted to me like bees to ball girls.  Rightfully, she thought black would better hide the stains of beer and pity and triumph and whatever coats the seats of the Coney Island-bound N train at night, as it leaves Queensboro Plaza.  NB: I’m told “it’s sweat and nothing else.”  Okay, buddy.

I have little excuse for the cap except to say that black goes with most things, until it’s faded.  Then it goes with almost nothing, but you’re committed.  But that’s my retort to the guy walking past me on Shore Road: my wife got it for me.  I eat like a five year-old.  You’re not wearing it.  Go about your business.

However, the Mets are a currently team full of rookies and super-rookies, and tired veterans past their prime, with a couple of superstar names doing the best they can.  They’re playing under-.500 ball in a brand-new ball park sagging under the weight of garish advertisements, and dripping with the sarcasm of fans who denote an appalling lack of history represented within its confines.  The park, in fact, is named after a bank.  I posit that this is about as close to an expansion team as I hope the Mets ever get.  Besides, to be truly authentic I’d have to wear a wool pinstriped Mets jersey.  I’m not wearing a wool pinstriped Mets jersey.

That’s enough about the jersey.

The Mets start their 10-game post-All Star Break road trip tonight in Atlanta.  Oliver Perez will face off against Derek Lowe, in my absolute worst nightmare. 

Derek Lowe is 8-7 over 19 games started and almost 113 innings pitched.  He’s walked a bit more than half the players he’s struck out (37 BB to 61 Ks), and he’s earning $15 million this year.

Oliver Perez is 2-2 over 6 games started and almost 27 innings pitched.  He’s walked 28.  Struck out 22.  He’s earning $12 million this year.

But he’s a lefty.

…I considered writing a paragraph here about extrapolating Perez’s stats to be comparable to Lowe’s in number of games pitched.  But that would be roundly unscientific; as stats-lite as this site is, I decline to presume borderline-sub-mediocrity as strongly as I decline to presume success.  I can’t predict the lights-out performance from Perez and fold that in there; neither can I swear that we’ll see the same thing start in and start out (though history’s on my side, there).  Do what I was going to do if you want: multiply each number in Ollie’s line by three.  See where it gets you.

As it stands, what stands out are the walks.  Follow the back-of-the-envelope logic here that walks are committed when a pitcher cannot get the ball to the catcher through the strike zone for a looking-or-swinging strike or a foul ball.  The fault for that pitch can either be with the pitcher, the catcher, the batter (especially if he’s Eddie Gaedel, I guess), or the umpire, who couldn’t tell a damned strike if he caught it in bed with his dog.  Where was that one, Blue?

Where was that one, indeed.

Eliminating the catcher from fault, and the batter, who’s a variable anyway, and the ump, who has every idea what a strike is and what a ball is (and leave my dog out of it, thank you very much) we’re left with the pitcher. 

Why is the pitcher at fault?  Does something hurt?  Does he not have the skill with which a professional can usually determine what pitch is appropriate to throw?  Something wrong at home?  What?  Tell us what it is, and we’ll do our best to fix it, by God.  We’re paying you all this money.  Imagine how much more we have invested in the rest of these mugs.

“My knee, Coach.  It’s my knee.  It hurts somewhere in the back, there.  That’s why I can’t make my pitches.”

Fine.  DL it is.  Perez walked seven of those 28 after missing about two months, for rehab.

$36 million over three years (Perez) is a long way from $60 million over four years (Lowe), but two months for seven walks and a victory is a long way, too, from two months and six victories, which is about the number Lowe collected in that span, along with a decent number of innings, saving your perhaps expensive, perhaps rebuilt bullpen. 

There’s a fiduciary myopia, there.

I will no doubt expound on this more tonight, following whatever happens in Atlanta.  I know it will be pouring in New York, both outside and inside Foley’s NY by the Empire State Building.  Frank Messina will be reading some Mets poetry.  As a student of letters, this I gotta see.

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