Archives for category: regular

I’ve been managing some brief family events and too quick a jaunt to western Massachusetts, which has made me scarce since Thursday, and in fact a little before.  But since I wrote this as a comment on TedQuarters, I figured I’d re-post the mini-review here.  The previous post will show you the burger in question…

“I had the Mex Burger on Thursday, bottom of the 7th. 

Maybe they were off their game after an entire evening of slinging meat, but I wasn’t impressed.  Cheddar wasn’t melted to the burger.  Jack cheese dropped unceremoniously atop.  Bacon had been marinating in its own grease since, seemingly, the Cashen administration (though it was still bacon and therefore awesome).  Jalapenos with no bite.  Guacamole and chipotle aioli would’ve been fine apart, but together as a lumpen pile of goo not altogether appetizing, and in fact heartburn-inducing when mingling with the bacon grease. 

All of this on a patty unfortunately not up to the task of supporting the toppings.  You need a half-pound of burger for such Herculean proportions of everything else.  (I intend to attempt to recreate the Mex Burger at Jackson Hole on the East Side someday.)

To top it off, the brioche bun was greasy, so the damn thing was sliding every which way.  There was no way to pin it all down and take a bite.

The experience wasn’t wholly negative.  The chips were tasty, and the Tootsie Roll pop a clever touch. 

I’ll try it again, but at the beginning of a game, and not after already having had a pulled pork sandwich.  And maybe with a beer sidecar, which would’ve helped digest the whole thing a little better.  Or not at all, but made me buzzed enough not to care.

—Paul”

It was pretty windy out, and those not braving the cold were huddled under the deck.  The chefs did seem beleaguered, and, like I said, I’d already had a pulled pork sandwich.  Which came after two Guinnesses to support Buy Tug A Beer Night, and before a hot chocolate.  That may sound like a ticking time bomb of awful, but I have quite the iron constitution when it comes to certain things.  Beer, pork, hot chocolate, yes.  Grease?  No.

Anyway, likesay, I will be trying the burger again on a fairer night for assessment.  And when I get a chance to sort through photos of Thursday’s game, I will post them. 

In the meantime, enjoy your off-day.

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This snippet of Neil Simon’s The Odd Couple has been rolling around in my head today…

Oscar: Well they were mine, damn it. I have feet and they make prints. What do you want me to do, climb across the cabinets?

Felix: No! I want you to walk on the floor!

Oscar: I appreciate that; I really do.

They’re arguing, but they aren’t really listening to each other there.  It’s all about their volume and tone.

The baseball season is sixteen games old and while the Mets are performing (forgive me) the way most people expected them to perform, those who are inclined toward rationality and clarity of thought are preaching patience, while pointing out—correctly—that the “most people” referenced herein aren’t necessarily rational or clear minded.

Perhaps it’s because I’ve discovered my favorite daily writers, and they are in fact fairly rational, that I’ve missed most of the drumbeat of Mets negativity.  I regularly suppress the angst of my father, himself a Mets fan, when I read negative commentary, and try my best to do the same while actually watching games.  This is not so easy.  I’m the first-born son of a man who couldn’t even bring himself to cheer Kevin Mitchell tying Game 6 in ‘86.  A formative memory; I was barely four years old. 

(He cheered the winning run—another formative memory.  They’re all lumped in there.)

I do see most of this ping-ponging on Twitter, which I don’t yet take seriously, much like I don’t take Facebook seriously and, hell, much like I don’t take Tumblr seriously.  I’m not one for expressing cogent thoughts in one hundred forty characters.  I’m one for expressing dismay at David Gregory and swearing in one hundred forty characters.  Facebook’s for reposting Times articles and Survivor’s “Eye Of The Tiger” music video.  Don’t ask me what Tumblr’s for; I keep thinking I’m going to break it with this blog “relaunch.” 

But the ping-ponging does make me curious: when is it okay to take the temperature of the season?

That question isn’t rhetorical.  In the face of my slight readership, I ask honestly.  Ten percent of games in the books is not the right time?  Fine; I believe that.  You couldn’t ask me to project budget performance based on ten percent of a fiscal year.  You could ask me a quarter of the way through the year, though I would equivocate like a motherfucker.  “I don’t know what big-ticket items remain to be purchased; I can’t predict what precisely will happen if revenues fall.”  That’s the crux of the work done on budgets, and the work done to reporting against them: analysis of the past to develop plans for the future.  I’ve little desire to equivocate like a motherfucker when it comes to my one of my leisure activities, though. 

Y’know, I occasionally enjoy assembling model airplanes.  No one sees them because they all SUCK.  In fact, I throw them out after hiding them for a week.  “What grown man hides a crappy model airplane they built?” is what I ask myself.  But the Mets will continue playing. I will succumb to the lure of a Corsair F4U-4. I will crap the bed in building it.  The Mets have crapped the bed in playing.  And twenty-five grown men on the active roster can’t hide their crappy model airplane.  They either get better, or they don’t. 

The reason I bother to ask at all when the right time for analysis will be is that I can see myself growing frustrated at equivocation.  Equivocation isn’t such a bad thing, but regular, repeated equivocation will sound as hollow as regular, repeated negativity.  It’s like saying a word over and over again aloud.  It loses all meaning.

Postage.  Postage.  Postage.  Postage.  Postage.  Postage.  Postage.  Postage.

(For you Simpsons fans, pretend I just wrote “Jiminy Jillickers.”  For my friend Nora, pretend it was “rice pilaf.”)

This kind of annihilation of real meaning has the potential to seep into analysis within a game.  It has for me, already.  David Wright struck out twice against Tommy Hanson?  Doesn’t necessarily mean he will when he’s next up to bat.  Jose Reyes scorching the ball?  He may come down to earth before the game is out.

Cripes; I KNOW.  I watch this game to be entertained.  Not to be reminded how random life is.  I’m experiencing a particularly fantastic reminder of same, that has me relentlessly positive these days.  Forgive me if I don’t actively seek the patient middle.

In the end, I suppose I’m feathering the nest here for when I feel the need to come down on somebody hard.  I feel I’m allowed to do so as long as I don’t spin it into dogma (unless and until someone becomes another Oliver Perez, but I’ll never let that kind of thing go).  And I do respect statistical analysis and the pitfalls of small sample size.  In fact, I respect it so much, I’m concerned for the time I decide these guys are going somewhere or not; I don’t want to be lumped in with all the Negative Nellies or Positive Petes in the Mets Commentary Echo Chamber. 

I think I’ll know the difference between a good model airplane and an abortion of one.  I’m not saying I can tell with this one yet, but, you know, you really can tell before you finish, and generally well before.  And then after that, it’s all over but the yelling.

**

I wondered indirectly via Twitter yesterday when a Mets starting pitcher had last put together back-to-back 1-2-3 innings.  Including Dillon Gee doing it yesterday in the 4th and 5th against Atlanta, they’ve done it six times:

Game One: Pelfrey, in the 2nd and 3rd against Florida.

Game Two: Niese, in the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th (Florida, again).

Game Four: Young, in the 2nd and 3rd against Philadelphia.

Game Nine: Young, again, in the 3rd and 4th, then the 6th and 7th against the Nationals.

Game Thirteen: Capuano, in the 4th and the 5th against the Rockies.

Why did I check?  Ron Darling had mentioned something about Tommy Hanson’s elevated pitch count owing, at least in part, to his tendency to be a strikeout pitcher and thus requiring at least three pitches per batter to record an out.  Mix in some balls and fouls, and your minimum number of 54 pitches in six very quality innings rises, naturally. 

So why does it matter?  I figure a Mets starting pitcher who can wipe out an order in short order can save a bullpen some work, and get an offense back to the plate.

Not that it necessarily matters, or that such a “morale boost” is quantifiable.

But I ignored relief pitchers who could come in for consecutive quick innings (only Games 8 and 15); I ignored quick innings after a single or a homer or a walk; I didn’t get to the heart of the matter, which might be pitch count, or flyball-to-groundball ratio; I didn’t take into consideration that maybe a pitcher could throw 150 pitches in a game—hell, they did it years ago; though they were facing different competition…

Annihilation of meaning.  Or maybe call it statistical relativism.  This is not a negative.  It’s how we deal with the questions we ask and the answers such investigation produces that defines us as having any cache.  I remain concerned that Mets starting pitching can’t put together outs in bunches.  The Mets make outs in bunches and they’re 5-11.  If making outs in bunches reduces the number of chances to score, then doing the same to the opposing team should reduce their number of chances.

Before too long, I will want to ask questions that inure me to much of the relativism but keep me entertained.  This will require a somewhat different vantage point on the whole enterprise.  But this is fine; I’ve been looking for a way to work the phrase “perturbation analysis” into a post.

(The following is based on gut reaction, and NOT on in-depth analysis. Not at all.)

Willie Harris is a goddamned double agent for the Nationals. “Loses a ball in the lights.” “Bogeys an at-bat with the bases loaded.” “Dives for a ball playable on a hop.”

So what if each result is understandable in isolation? The preponderance of evidence suggests he’s trying to sabotage the 2011 Mets, just like he did from the outside in years past. It’s the oldest gambit in the book.

As far as I’m concerned, it goes: Hitler, Pol Pot, Harris.

The guy sitting next to me on the 7 train, a Rockies fan, is reading over my shoulder, and grinning. Laugh it up, guy. Carlos Gonzales may get hurt, and this may be you someday.

Screw this. I’m going home and having a soak in the tub.

I’m populating my ballpark iPod for the season. It’s one of those Trident-gum-shaped Shuffles, that helps me travel light enough to skip bag check lines without feeling like I weigh two hundred pounds. Also, if it cracks or gets lost in a frenzy, I won’t feel too bad. Thing cost me all of thirty dollars and has given all of itself countless times.

Anyway, a ballpark playlist needs to be a driver. No weak tracks allowed. As I scan my music collection as a whole, I’ve found a couple more songs I’d charge out to as I was being called from the bullpen.

And given the past few games, I think I have a non-zero shot of this prep being somewhat useful. (Ownership and Alderson: I’ll be in Section 325 tomorrow. I’m an out of shape right-hander who only throws eephus pitches.)

I was remiss in not noting the following songs as excellent options:

—“Up For The Downstroke,” by Parliament

—“Life During Wartime,” Talking Heads

—“Bottles To The Ground,” NOFX (that one’s a thinker; I’m tossing my bottle of water to the ground…)

—“Red Right Hand,” Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds.

Of all those, I’m feeling the Nick Cave the most. I’m sure it has nothing to do with the impending release of Scream 4, which I am in no way embarrassingly excited about.

Jon Niese on the mound tomorrow for my first game at Citi since the Ike Davis game that was so damned cathartic, if fleetingly so. As I said, I’ll be in Section 325, and make a decent wage these days, so if you read this and are at the park tomorrow, come by, shout for Paul, and I’ll buy you a drink.

Let’s go Mets!

Hey.

Boo if you want.

I can’t recall if I’ve come out against booing in the past. If I have, I can’t find the post. But at the risk if being what Aaron Sorkin might describe as “conversationally anal-retentive,” I’ll state my case (in the second person because it’s late):

—you paid good money to be entertained. You deserve to be presented with an entertaining product.

—your Q-Zone could give a fuck if one game’s been played or one hundred games have been played. At present, the only link I can find between endorphins and the vicissitudes of sample size exists within dismissing sample size as a reason to do anything when your functional universe begins and ends with the one game.

—if you boo, you’re one of the staggering majority of bipeds on this planet whose emotional gauge runs from gut-busting, orgasmic joy to near-suicidal despair. And mostly you reside in the safe zone, within a standard deviation under the bell curve. You are probably not someone whose scale goes from gut-busting, orgasmic joy to “meh.”

So it stands to reason that if you can jump up and cheer a David Wright homer in the eighth inning of game number 10, you can boo the crap out of Scott Hairston, who has something like 15 at bats and one hit.

I get, get, get that some people suck and always will, and some people only suck because their girlfriend left them the night before or they stopped selling their favorite ice cream flavor (“Play Me Off Cat” Cookies & Cream, with little chunks of… wait for it… marsh-mall”eow”).

But much like there are highs and lows in all of us that must be acknowledged, there are highs and lows in this game that must be acknowledged, too. We acknowledge the highs with cheers because we paid good money to go in and cheer that stuff. It seems disingenuous, then, to lambaste those who, when faced with a shit-tastic play, have an equally strong negative reaction.

And either the guys on the field have a thick skin, or not. They can’t have it both ways, and you, the fan, shouldn’t feel you have to keep that stuff bottled up.

Now, go boo responsibly. Understand when the offending play is over, and move on. CHEER every good play and possibility as often as you jeer every I-Knew-It. Watch the game, know the plays.

And never, under ANY circumstances, do the wave.

When I roll back into New York, I imagine a reception not unlike the sort a warrior receives in an epic film as he rejoins the battle.  I feel a twinge of megalomania, but can brush that aside by turning up the volume on my iPod.  Usually something appropriate to my mood is playing as I hit the streets.  Yesterday, at 32nd Street and Eighth Avenue, that song was the theme from Superman.

Of course then I couldn’t catch a cab to save my life.  If I’d only been born under the red sun of Krypton.  I could’ve reversed the rotation of the earth and made it so that I’d arrive well before shift-change.  (That my ability to fly would make a cab superfluous is missing the point ENTIRELY.  Spoilsport.) 

I got a cab eventually, and as I read back through the more incidental Mets posts on some of my favorite blogs, I caught one on Tim Byrdak soliciting reliever music.

As cool a dude as that makes Mr. Byrdak in a sense, I have to say I was somewhat disappointed.  Naming choices for either spot-on or totally outre reliever music is a delightful way my baseball-loving friends and I have passed the time on the 7 train to or from a game.  I’ve got a list as long as my arm.  Is Tim not into it?  Did he draw the short straw in some Mets front-office public relations game?  Neither question answered in the affirmative means a pox for either house, of course.  Just… c’mon, man.  This is your moment.  Be selfish.

Ted Berg of SNY and TedQuarters listed his choice as “Keep Their Heads Ringin’” by Dr. Dre, which is a favorite in my group’s parlor game.  Also a favorite in my game is “Shut ‘Em Down,” by Public Enemy, which if I recall correctly is Metsblog’s Matt Cerrone’s desired jam if he should ever come through the gates. (He’d probably want the remix, whose hook I think is more crowd-pleasing.)  John Maine once said he had his reliever music all picked out should he ever be sent to the bullpen: Sir Mix-A-Lot’s “Posse On Broadway.”  Serviceable, especially when you consider a reliever’s music only plays for so long.  Any jokes you want to make about how long Maine himself would last out there you can post to my Twitter account: @omniality.

Every rap/hip hop choice I’d make would never play for family crowds: Tupac’s “Shorty Wanna Be A Thug”; “Machine Gun Funk,” by The Notorious B.I.G.; even “King Of New York,” by Dan The Automator (none of these have worthwhile YouTube links, so I’ve skipped them).  And Bobby Parnell should come out to “B.O.B.B.Y.” by the RZA, so I can have an excuse to wear my “DIGITAL 36” retro jersey to the park.

Rock-wise, I think “Icky Thump” by The White Stripes should be on everyone’s short list.  But I’ve been a whore for the White Stripes since they played at Bennington College in February 2001.  I was one of maybe six people there, yet two years later someone stole my copy of De Stijl from my room.  They’d best be dead, as I’m still hunting them.

…To that short list I’ll add “Fire” by Jimi Hendrix (what is it with YouTube “videos” that are merely image stills with music behind them?) and Radiohead’s “Electioneering.”

That Radiohead jam has led to one of the more unusual suggestions I’ve heard: “Nobody Does It Better.”  NOT the Carly Simon version, but the cover by Thom Yorke and Radiohead for MTV Europe.  Now, this friend was drunk, and he’d also come out to any Brahms piece as played by Glenn Gould, if he could get the crowd to stand stockstill and silent, and come out in streetclothes, which would be exchanged for his uniform by age-appropriate female ushers.  But that “Nobody Does It Better” is by no means an appropriate choice when stone sober makes me feel sad for our culture.  We lack in bulk the sense of humor I appreciate; furthermore, I’d imagine the reliever’s sexuality would be called into question, and it’s that kind of nonsense we should get past quick.  Hell, Stevie Nicks’s “Edge Of Seventeen“ would be hilarious AND intense. 

Then again, if you’ve gone that far, choose Europe’s “The Final Countdown,” hide some pyrotechnic smoke bombs up your sleeves, and roll out to the mound on a Segway.

There’s a debate that kicks up every once in awhile as to whether “Sabotage” by the Beastie Boys is appropriate, given that the sabotage in question could be construed as self-inflicted, especially if the whole appearance blows up in your face.  While it’s a terrific song, I think I’d shy away.  The papers would have a field day.

**

Speaking of the papers: Chris Young acquitted himself well last night against the Philadelphia Phillies, of whom I’ve heard in the past.  These ”Phillies” play in the NL East, and seem to think there’s some manner of heated rivalry going on.  Which is odd, because I know for a fact our team’s rivals are the Atlanta Braves. 

Sure, if you want to get technical, you could state that every team playing in the divison is a rival.  But then I could state that every team in the league is battling for a wild-card spot just as much as they’re battling for the division championship.  So every podunk burg and has-been town with a ball club could be considered a rival.  Pfft.

Anyway, I missed the back cover of the Daily News, but the Post announced Chris Young’s victory with the headline, “CHRIS ROCKS!” 

And this got me to thinking: Chris Young’s name is generic enough to play headline games with ‘til the end of time.  Which, depending on what hysterical prophet you encounter at Penn Station, could be in a month or so, or about twenty months, or eight-plus years ago, after the cancellation of Greg The Bunny.

Anyway, I look forward to these:

“YOUNG IS RESTLESS: Blows Up On Mound After Getting Yanked In 5th vs. Bombers”

“YOUNG AT HURT: Mets Pitcher Battles To Victory Despite Injury To Heel”

“ST. CHRISTOPHER: Chris Young Pitches 2-Hit Gem To Keep Mets In Hunt”

“CHRIS-TAL BALL: Young Predicts Mets Win NLCS In 5”

“MERRY CHRIS-MAS: Young, Mets Win Series At End Of Longest Playoffs In MLB History”

“FOREVER YOUNG: Mets WS Pitcher Signs Eight-Year Deal”

…You’re welcome, tabloids.

(Apologies for the crap Twitter lede. I don’t know how to adjust it on Tumblr Mobile.)

Always, ALWAYS check your travel documents the night before you travel.

I’m writing from the Albany bus station, waiting to head a ways south before juking east to Boston tomorrow. And I’m not late. I’m spectacularly early. A bus I thought would depart at 9 is actually departing at 9:40. So a slumber that ended at 5:45 really could have ended at 6:30, and, point of fact, it took only 45 minutes to get here from Bennington, so 6:30 really could have been 6:45, or even 7. (All times AM.) In the words of the inimitable Mayor Mike Bloomberg, “I regret everything in the world.”

…If you’ve yet to see it, by the by, hop over to YouTube, and in the search field, enter “Bloomberg Spider Man Inner Circle.” Then, after watching the three-minute clip, carve the words “HOT MESS” into your desk, and hold your hand over an open flame. That’ll take care of the aftereffects.

Yes, that was a little dark, but as I said, I’m too early for Albany. And was out too late with the Mets to manage the good night’s sleep whose borders I misjudged. I’d be happier if they won, but I understand why they didn’t. And if you don’t, you haven’t watched Josh Johnson pitch against the team. Plenty of clear-eyed analysis to that effect on the interwebs.

I’d also be happier if I could keep from being swarmed by religious proselytizers. I get that Saturday morning is kind of this particular group’s thing, but I’m a young man wearing a shiny tie tapping words into a phone. Even if I’m the perfect candidate for salvation, isn’t waiting until I can dismiss you with my full attention the polite thing to do?

It’s empty here. Empty, with the faint smell of cedar chips. But I imagine that’s what the ’70s smelled like, and this place couldn’t be any more dated if the walls sported wood paneling. The sort that made people wearing Aviator-sized eyeglasses look like death warmed over.

Pelfrey looked like death warmed over last night, but I’ve come to expect that from him when he’s not getting calls early. I Tweeted (gads) something to this effect last night, and I’m willing to grant that my vantage point and surroundings made excoriating the home plate umpire for a wacky zone a less-than-honest endeavor, but I think I was sharp enough to call Pelf getting squeezed. Pitches at the knees were invariably balls unless perfectly placed. If they caught the lower third of the letters, same effect. Pelfrey needed the lower strikes to get the Marlins to fish, and it wasn’t happening with a strike zone tighter than…

Tighter than…

A hipster’s skinny jeans on Friday.

A family’s budget during heating season.

My jaw when watching “So You Think You Can Dance.”*

Similes fail me. I’m in the Albany bus station and I have another hour to kill. I’m too tired to string together coherent phrases, and analysis won’t really be this blog’s stock in trade. Obviously, you’ve come here for the wit. Obviously.

But at least Carlos Beltran got to run the basepaths once, the Mets didn’t get no-hit, and there are 161 games left. I remember it’s Gate 12, and I’m an hour closer to leaving than I was when I arrived.

…Meh, mubble, ugh. Sorry. A win would have been nice. And with it, more sleep. I don’t know where to land.

Come and get me, proselytizers. I regret everything in the world.

*I have NEVER watched “So You Think You Can Dance.”

Recently acquired a turntable. 

It’s improved the quality of life in my bedroom tenfold.  I don’t have a quantitative analysis at the ready to demonstrate HOW the quality has increased tenfold, yet still I’m confident.

I set off tomorrow for a week on the road.  Bennington—my college stomping grounds—followed by western Massachusetts, and followed then by Boston.  It’s quite likely that on Friday, I will be enjoying a blackened burger at Kevin’s at Mike’s III and watching, of all things, a Red Sox game.  So this new world goes.  I’ve got the opener set to record on my DVR, but couldn’t get my act sufficiently together to get the SlingBox I’ve had my eye on for a solid year, for just these occasions.

Clear to me as I think of the start of the 2011 baseball season that I’m fairly piss-poor at quantitative baseball analyses that go beyond “He hit more home runs last year than any other year,” or “He’s pitched only 60 innings in five years,” or stub-measures along those lines.  And I’m disappointed that I’m so poor at it.  I made a vague attempt to learn after the ‘09 season, and failed miserably.  I’m sure it had everything to do with me being dense, and nothing to do with the holiday season, and recovering from the holiday season, then being completely distracted with other matters, as recently explained here.

So I don’t know xFIP or ERA+; I get what OPS is and I think I understand WAR.  I wish I had a better grasp of it, because I have an abiding respect for math, calculations of bedroom quality of life notwithstanding.  Moreover, I have an abiding respect for the science of study.

Take cosmology.  I’m reading a book called The Hidden Reality by Dr. Brian Greene, who can only be described as a straight-up stud in the science of understanding how the hell we’re all here in the first place.  A professor at Columbia, Dr. Greene has plied his trade at superstring theory as relates to the evaluation of possible mathematical representations of the multiverse.  In short, he’s helping to develop cutting-edge theories for explaining the nature of our infinite universe.  And buried in Chapter… Seven?  Eight?  (the book’s in the living room; I’m not getting up), Dr. Greene explains how there are different types of infinity.  I had no idea there were different types of infinity, but there are, and understanding which type of infinity we’re dealing with as we observe our universe—and any others that should happen to come into existence—will be a necessary step in determining the true nature of the universe.  Which will help explain why we’re here and open up new avenues of discovery and help us deal with the mindfuck that is a black hole and, with any luck, make transporters happen, among other things.  I’m excited for the transporters, myself.

You have to admire someone who is grappling with such heady matters as their day job.  Apply the sense of his job to the world of baseball: we can say with reasonable surety that Carlos Beltran has a finite number of at-bats in his major league career.  I’m not saying that finite number is small, or limited to this season, or anything of the sort… though watching replays of his slide today in right during the Grapefruit League game against the Nationals, I nearly choked on my dinner. 

I’m saying, rather, that it’s probable no one can play baseball forever.  Even if Carlos Beltran is some sort of Methuselah, or Blade-like vampire, and actually will live forever, one should assume that he’d probably move on to avoid his true nature being exploited, or baseball will cease being played regularly once the zombie Apocalypse hits, or, at the VERY least, cease being a concern when the sun expands into a red giant and swallows us whole.

(I swear I’m not high.)

So Carlos Beltran will have a finite number of at-bats.  That’s calming to me.  I can better deal with that in my head than trying to suss out what kind of infinite loop we’re all stuck in.  (In The Hidden Reality and Greene’s previous book, The Fabric Of The Cosmos, he convincingly posits that, in an infinite universe, the finite number of particles that we have to make up a human and a team and an Earth MUST be repeated, so somewhere within or beyond our cosmic horizon, there’s another Carlos Beltran, perhaps with 2006 knees.  Cue the Zager and Evans.)  Things END.  Other things BEGIN.  Thus is the nature of the beast.  And I have an abiding respect for the science of studying how great Carlos Beltran has been in his career, has been for the Mets, and has been for Baseball. 

And, like the efforts of cosmology to better understand and appreciate our surroundings, I understand and appreciate that the science is evolving.  My understanding is that xFIP hasn’t been around as long as OPS or WAR, and there are many more acronyms for very new statistics, developed by hobbyist and die-hard alike, seeking a common denominator through which the secrets of a remarkable game are revealed.  I’m not one for dogma; anyone who Murray Chass-es their way through a sabermetrics argument isn’t down with the true spirit of bonhomie the sport should spur.

Yet things tug at me.  Two, in particular, which I began to consider as I read more about baseball this week, and thought about what I might do with the down time during my weeklong junket, and read my Dr. Greene.  Matters of infinity.

First, and kind of funny, is that Lino Urdaneta popped into my head. 

Q: Who’s Lino Urdaneta? A: Who’s Elmer Dessens? 

I rode the train, running over the Manhattan Bridge, thinking about infinity, and then thinking about a Mets game I watched wherein Elmer Dessens pitched, and was desperately trying to remember the joke I made to myself when I saw him jog to the mound.  As we pulled into Canal Street, I remembered: “Least he can’t be as bad as Lino Urdaneta.”

Lino Urdaneta (here’s the link to Ben Shpigel’s story in the Times, for fun) had an infinite ERA.  Pitched for the Tigers in September of 2004, his ML debut, and gave up five hits and a walk before getting yanked, without retiring a batter.  After kicking around the minors and the Mexican League, he was given a look by the Mets in ‘07, and actually pitched in two games.  In a ROW! 

And I watched the first, on May 6th, at Flight 151 Bar on Eighth Avenue in Chelsea.  Looked up at the TV, and I don’t recall if there was a double dash or an “INF” where his career ERA should’ve been displayed, but I do remember asking someone next to me why they were groaning.

“His ERA is infinite.”

Well, no shit.

Lino got two Diamondback groundouts and gave up a single before turning the ball over to Scott Schoeneweis.  Mets lost, 3-1; winning pitcher one Livan Hernandez.  Coda is the next game he pitched, against the Giants, after a classic Oliver Perez atrocity that gave San Francisco a six-spot.  Lino was dropped in for Ollie and promptly gave up a three-run homer before inducing Pedro Feliz to groundout to third.  He threw four pitches in his last major league game, and brought his career ERA to 63.00. 

Baseball’s a trip.  Math’s a trip.  Man throws twenty-six pitches and is saddled with infinity; two and a half years later or thereabouts he throws seventeen pitches, and is then only saddled with crippling mediocrity.  I mean no insult to Lino Urdaneta, and I wonder if he’s plotting a comeback to bring that ERA down a bit more.  I’ll bet that unless he’s figured out how to be the second coming of Christy Mathewson and the dead-ball comes back, no one’ll give him a shot and he should maybe try and do something with that communications degree.

…I’m being a smart-ass.  Sorry.

So I thought about that, and then I caught something in the paper about the PawSox and the Rochester Red Wings, which is perhaps one of my favorite baseball stories.  (This in a Dan Barry write-up of former Sox manager Joe Morgan.)  The game was played by, among others, Wade Boggs and Cal Ripken, Jr., and it went THIRTY-THREE INNINGS.  Started at night on April 18th, and wasn’t stopped until 4 AM on the 19th, and resumed in June, where the 33rd inning came and went in a relative blink. 

THIRTY-THREE INNINGS.  I’ve been to two Mets-Cardinals games that have stretched into the 13th and 14th or 15th, and I did catch some of last year’s 20-inning bonanza of fecklessness.  But THIRTY-THREE INNINGS?  Jesus.

And that’s the funny thing: a baseball game can’t end in a tie.  It is an improbability, but not an impossibility, that a game can go on forever.  Thirty-three innings, three hundred thirty-three innings, three thousand three-hundred thirty-three innings.  Until, one supposes, your eighty-five year-old pitcher, who’s the last possible guy you can throw out there, can’t get the ball to the plate, and it’s best leaving him out there than swapping him for the first baseman.  Or if the park holds a Ten Cent Beer Night, and the game is forfeited.  Or the earlier mentioned zombie Apocalypse, or expansion of the sun, engulfing the planet.  Which would probably be, but not definitely be, unavoidable.

If it’s not clear to the reader, this kind of thinking makes me a bit of a jerk.  I have a tough time saying things are definite, because I know, in my head and my heart, that they are not.  Nothing is sure in this world, except rules which can themselves be flaunted by the only possible certainty: that existence is unending; that somewhere, very far away, it’s 2006 and Carlos Beltran is tearing it up.

So whether the Mets contend this year or next, win 37 or 74 or 148 games… who knows?  Plenty of stats out there to tell us that they’re in line for a better season than they had last year (with the projected Opening Day line-up, anyway), just as there are stats and mitigating circumstances that suggest the Metropolitan Nine may have other things on their mind.  Things which will have a deleterious effect on their performance.  Who. Is. To. Say. Who’s. Right?

Nobody.  Because, as Dr. Greene would point out, we’re still not sure whether we’re spinning about in a Landscape Multiverse, or ruled by a Braneworld Scenario.  The best we can do is build the science, and debate, and bear in mind that we should keep in mind the bonhomie.

So, in the spirit of trying to be better at the science of study, and understanding that, were I watching the Mets, I’d have difficulty separating myself from the enjoyment of the game to study, I’m going to find the site bearing the most direct explanation of saber-style statistics I can, hoist a beer, and watch the Sox do whatever it is they call baseball.

Which is some horseshit, because they don’t even let the pitcher BAT.

I’ll keep this brief, because I don’t like the man.

And I think it’s okay to state that: I don’t like Oliver Perez.  No, I’ve not met him.  Frankly, I hope I never do.  It would be phenomenally awkward for me to meet someone who was so baldly ignorant of his inability to get better at his job, inhabiting the environment in which he then operated, that he refused to go elsewhere to get better.

What data did he have to support his belief that he could get better in the majors?  What about his study of the game of baseball made him think that the BEST thing for the team was to toss innings his way?  It’s as though he believed—shit, maybe STILL believes—that baseball is a game played in a vacuum.  A perpetual intrasquad game.

That baseball is not played in a vacuum makes his story still viable, after his release by the Mets today.  Until Oliver Perez announces his retirement from the game, he floats out there as a potential tomato can.  One who right-handers can see fit to bash with impunity if he ever sees action in another ML park.  The schadenfreude gift of the 2011 season is the laugh you’ll have if Oliver Perez is signed by a team to make a spot start or two.

Let’s not feel sorry for the man, please.  He leaves quite wealthy, and even if he’s been as careless with his money as he was with the admittedly meager fortunes of his team, it would only speak to his only consistent characteristics: ignorance and goldbricking.

Mr. Perez: your actions last year were an affront to logic.  And that I cannot abide.  The worst employees who still respect a smidge of logic would not earn this enmity.  You, however, are the guy who refuses to understand what a paper tray is, even after overstuffing it ‘til it jams the copier.  And then demands to make more copies, knowing that the machine’s busted.  Where do you get the nerve?

It is okay to dislike you without having met you.  Success in your business environment is predicated on wins and losses, and your actions showed a blatant disregard for that logic.  I fear your inability to apply basic rules carries over into our greater society, and that scares and offends me.  We’re trying to manage a society here, and it’s people like you, and line-cutters, and Tea Party activists that are fucking it up for the rest of us.

Being “released” was too soft.  You should’ve been fired.

Good riddance.

I’d made the decision to rejoin the Kuiper Belt of Mets Periphery on Opening Day this year, but Mr. Greg Prince of Faith And Fear In Flushing forced gently nudged my hand when discussing the endgame for woeful left-hander Oliver Perez on Twitter.  I said I’d buy tickets for this season if Ollie were released. Mr. Prince replied:

@omniality Even better, revive Section 528 this season. I miss it.

Mr. Prince certainly isn’t responsible for what I’m about to write (though know my thoughts are forever positive toward you, sir; fear not).  As a writer, and a human who struggles mightily both with procrastination and excuses for same, I feel I should explain myself.  So forgive me for what’s to follow.  It will link to the Mets, I assure you, but certainly drips with Too Much Information.  I don’t care.  You’re either one of those people who slows down to investigate a car wreck across the median, or you shout at those who do, from within your Camry.  Or you drive a different car.

There should be a joke there.  Volkswagen, something about college and term papers.  That’s as far as I got.

**

I’ve been away from writing in a (semi) daily, blogging sense for quite awhile because I’ve been busy breaking up with my wife.  Difficulties began in April of ‘09, ten months into our marriage, and progressed; the last post I wrote was on Ike Davis’s first day as a Major-League Met, in April of 2010.

That’s notable only because the day following the evening when we called things off for good, I could only think to go to a Mets game.  It was the day after our two-year anniversary, and the game against the San Diego Padres was tied at 1 going into the 11th.  My sister—always a champ—stuck around with me, and the crowd in our particular section heard me loud and clear when I (rather drunkenly) announced: “Right here.  Right here.  Davis wins it right here.  Bomb over the Porch.” 

Sure enough.

When that ball was hit, I dropped to my knees on the concrete before my seat, and screamed.  Everybody was screaming; my sister and a few guys behind us were pounding me on the back.  At some point, she wound up on the shoulders of some stranger, and someone else tried to lift me up.  Pandemonium.

My sister is the one on the left; I’m the slovenly bastard on the right.  “Mike,” an events A/V consultant we met that night, is behind the camera and his forefinger mildly obscures the lower left-hand corner.

Eventually, June 8th, 2010 became June 9th, 2010, and I had to move on. 

Breaking up with a wife is… bizarre.  I’d had one live-in girlfriend before her, and that was difficult to end, but not impossible.  That it took as long as it did to finally break things off should demonstrate just how impossible it felt to me to be. 

Like the Mets last year, I had more bad days than good, but understand I was far from using the Mets to cope in any real way.  Maybe if they’d been better I’d’ve tried, but none of it seemed to have a point to me beyond a superficial soothe or container for rage.  When I felt like myself, I’d watch a game.  When I felt very much NOT like myself, which was often, I’d go running until my calves begged for release, or watch the same episode of Sports Night over and over (“Shoe Money Tonight,” if interested), or—and this did no one any real favors—go out and get drunk.  Or stay in and get drunk.  Or get drunk, then run, or stay in, watch Sports Night, and get drunk, or mix in all three with a healthy dose of going somewhere to spend as much on two pints as I could on a six-pack.  And games were incidental.

Now: I am not to be pitied.  The remarkable safety valve of my particular procrastination is designed to make me lazy in all respects.  I kept myself alive, but by expending the least energy possible.  Did the job I work for pay.  Came home.  Made a sandwich.  Any beer in the fridge?  Drank that.  That Sports Night disc in the player?  Turned that on.  When the cold cuts or bread ran out, or the beer ran out, or the disc had been replaced by Down By Law, I spent the least amount of energy possible to keep me marginally sustained.  Nine times out of ten, this meant my walking only a block and a half to a newish and delightful Welsh pub, and they took care of me.  If I lived in a different neighborhood—hell, even a different part of Bay Ridge, such as where I am now, closer to the Verrazano—I’d’ve gotten into a fistfight at some point.  I’m not to be pitied.  I’m to be thought of as really fucking lucky.

(Sidebar: this blog has moved in part because MLBlogs, for all their positives, doesn’t allow profanity.  It’s stifling, especially when writing about the Mets.  And I appreciate well-timed cussin’.  If this remains on Tumblr or goes someplace else, expect a smattering or an occasional explosion of same.)

This all came upon me gradually.  Bad days mixing in with good from April of 2009 until it was really that the good days were mixing with the bad.  For about three weeks, though, from late August through mid-September last year, I will admit the wheels came off. 

I remember most nights but not all.  I’m fairly certain I let more than one carton of milk slide past its expiration date.  Again, I was fucking lucky: the people whose company I kept were close and aware, and kept me from doing half the silly shit I really wanted to do.  The other half amounted to: let him stay out late.  Let him talk ‘til he’s hoarse.  It was the non-boxing equivalent of punching oneself out.   

Again: breaking up with a wife is bizarre.  The things I thought I should’ve changed about myself are things I either fixated on sadly, or lionized.  I was the one to revive her Mets fandom.  We’d gone to Opening Days.  We’d watched and napped on weekends before she left the state for school, and after that, we’d watched when she was in town.  So I would either watch Mets games with a lump in my throat, or watch them with pride and a snide quiet comment about how she never understood the damn game, anyway.  (Which is not true.  She does understand the game, even if she needed Baseball For Dummies to supplement her knowledge.  She knows enough to hate Joe Morgan’s blessedly-departed commentary.)

I barely noticed the departure of baseball.  I moved on to football, a sport that seems to demand bingeing of some kind or another, whether it’s on food or drink or noise or commentary.   I moved on to Rex Ryan and Mark Sanchez and Darrelle Revis and everybody that was against them as they attempted to get that 42 year-old monkey off their collective back. 

In a messy situation, borders are rarely defined and there are few red-letter days.  I remember the final breakup conversation.  I remember Ike’s home run.  I remember the last time I woke up beside my toilet.  I remember the Jets winning in the last seconds of overtime more times than I thought I could handle.  And there’s no one day when I sat up and said to myself, “Well, shit.  You should probably clean up, make sure everything about you is in one piece, and then see what you can do about living within the conventional bounds of society again.”  The hangover from those weeks in August and September lasted a month or more, and digging out from under all the foolish things I said and planned to do took some time as well.  I had a weeklong relapse of idiocy when my father took ill (he’s now fine), and tacked that recovery onto the principal.

Yes, borders are rarely defined and there are few red-letter days.  I can’t tell you whether I felt like myself at the end of November or the beginning of December; I can’t tell you if everything clicked when I finally got out of the city for a couple days or when the decorations went up for Christmas.  Jesus—I’m not sure I can tell you everything’s absolutely fine.  Some parts certainly aren’t: I have such a blind spot for a specific television project I’ve been working on since 2003 that in describing it for the first time to someone last night, I briefly froze.  Do I tell her?  Will she stomp all over it?

When I was married, most things didn’t bother me, and when I stopped being married, most things bothered the hell out of me.  And the difference isn’t the absence of a “good woman”; it’s the crippling realization that a break-up of that sort fixes what was more wrong than it was right.  I’m glad no one was waiting for me to wake up and declare I was fine, because I’d’ve blown the hell out of the deadline.

I simply grew secure in talking about all this, and secure in the knowledge that what was mine was mine, and what we shared I had just as much a right to, whether it originated from me or my wants, or hers.  It happened too late to prevent some things said in haste.  But, despite my momentary hesitations, it has happened in time to really appreciate what I have.

And I have more than enough to count myself as a lucky bastard.  Despite the terribly foggy nights I’ve lived through recently, I’ve got a clean bill of health.  Moved to a gorgeous new apartment in my still-amazing neighborhood, and have a home office to boot.  Work has settled, and indeed I have more and new opportunities to do good things.  While we don’t talk often, my ex-wife and I exchange occasional messages and, when I’m in her neck of the woods—she’s still out-of-state—we’ll have a meal.  Other aspects of moving on proceed delightfully apace.

I don’t know that I could have done all this, or become who I am at present, without the 2010 Mets being as lousy as they were.  I mean that.  If they’d’ve been better, chances are good that I would’ve missed it, or hitched my wagon too closely to their star.  As September turned to October, if the Mets were in the postseason, I’d’ve tacked several more years onto my liver.  If the Mets achieved the playoffs only to lose, I’d’ve hit a tailspin.  Instead, while baseball is an important part of my life, I now believe I can do without it.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’d be the poorer for not having it.  Baseball is a remarkable part of our society; a great diversion most of the time and great to get lost in whenever it won’t just cause you more harm.  There is nothing wrong with getting heated about things in a space where the consequences aren’t thermonuclear war or a theological schism or the separation, for good, of all dogs and all cats.  But if I didn’t exactly know where I end and baseball begins, I certainly do now.  And I’m grateful for that.  I now know what the hell I’m doing.

I have to thank the Mets for making sure I missed very little last season.  In a way, their mediocrity saved me from myself.  I hope your experiences differ greatly: that in 2010, you lived an interesting and satisfying life, and the Mets made you want to tear your hair out or throw something at the TV, or check in on NASCAR and soccer instead.  (Maybe not NASCAR.)  (Maybe not soccer.)  I had to go for awhile.  Now I’m back.

And oh, buddy, do I wanna have some fun.