March 08, 2012
The request we're sending to bloggers of all 30 teams this spring is a simple one: What are the 10 best things about being a fan of your favorite team? What features of the franchise have you excited for opening day and what keeps you coming back year after year?
We're about halfway through our little experiment and we're glad to hear that so many of you are enjoying the ride. Up next are two of our favorites, Jason Fry and Greg Prince from Faith and Fear in Flushing.
1. Homes are where the heart is. Shea Stadium exists in a state of grace now that it is no longer called on to host baseball games. When it comes up in Mets talk, it's not to complain about the organically occurring puddles or the cramped accommodations or the food the local day camp cafeteria would have rejected, but is instead remembered — to borrow a phrase from MTV Cribs — as the place where the magic happened. The night Gary Carter died, Mets cable outlet SNY reaired the Kid's Met debut from 1985, and it was another reminder of Shea in its glory, which was considerable (particularly when viewed in hindsight). Meanwhile, Citi Field, for all its creature comforts, spent its first seasons lacking that lived-in feel. But the Mets have steadily peeled the slipcovers from the proverbial furniture and have made it feel more like home. The next step is bringing back Shea favorite Banner Day, AWOL since 1996, this May. An even better step will be bringing back October baseball, but let's go with one Met miracle at a time.
2. Days like these call for Mr. Met. There's always been something endearingly slapdash about the Mets' idea of a good time. In his first incarnation, Mr. Met was a guy wearing a paper-mâché head that looked like a high school class slapped it together the night before the play, and Shea's home run apple was without its leaf for years because the team lost it. (How does that even happen?) Mr. Met's head is now made of material that doesn't threaten to melt in the rain, and Citi Field's apple emerges from something that looks like a missile silo, but both still give you the feeling that everyone's making it up as they go. Which fits the 2012 Mets perfectly.
3. Lucas Duda could be the best Rocky sequel yet. In the spring of 1965, Casey Stengel marveled over an unpolished gem of a 19-year-old slugger named Ron Swoboda. Known lovingly as Rocky, Swoboda never quite put it all together, but when he did something fantastic — such as make perhaps the greatest catch in World Series history — it was forever. Intermittently since Rocky's heyday, Met camp has buzzed with the sight of a raw kid who can hit 'em as far as Swoboda and maybe figure out the rest as he goes along. The roll call in the past two decades has included Jeromy Burnitz, Ryan Thompson, Butch Huskey, Benny Agbayani, Victor Diaz and now Lucas Duda, who has tantalized Mets fans over two extended auditions and now appears set to take hold of right field. Duda can hit 'em as far as anybody ... and maybe he'll figure out the rest as he goes along.
4. If R.A. Dickey didn't exist, we'd have had to make him up. He peppers his postgame interviews with words like "mellifluous," "traverse," "nuances," "propensity" and "druthers," names his bats after weapons wielded by Tolkien heroes, climbs mountains to raise awareness of desperate conditions in Mumbai, and is also really, really good at what he does — which is to walk the earth as baseball's last active knuckleballer. He seems like a character George Plimpton would have made up if given another crack at the Sidd Finch gambit, but happily he's 100 percent real and 100 percent a New York Met.
5. Out of the black and into the blue. Basic black has long been a staple of the New York fashion scene, and it definitely enjoyed a good run as the foundation hue of the Mike Piazza era. But whatever marketing-chic that Met management saw in going dark long ago turned passé. While black uniform tops and two-tone hats lingered past their expiration date, deep within the Metsian soul, something yearned for the orange and the blue to ride once more unadorned. A groundswell of griping created a critical mass and, eventually, the Mets brass listened to its patrons. In 2012, everything from the lettering on the jerseys to the field of the caps to the BP get-ups to the outfield walls is coming down with a welcome case of the blues ... and oranges. The return to a full, tacit acknowledgement of the Mets' original blend arrives just in time for the franchise's 50th anniversary season, commemorating the first time the fans — per "Meet The Mets" — decided to be true to the orange and blue. Nice to have the Mets appear true to themselves.
6. Oh yeah? Well, our GM's funnier than your GM. No really — he is.
7. We've done it before and we can do it again. The 1969 Mets were declared in spring training a 100-to-1 shot to win the National League pennant and they went on to win the World Series. The 1973 Mets were in last place on the next-to-last day of August; they finished their season one game shy of a second world championship. The 1986 Mets were two runs down in the bottom of the 10th inning of the sixth game of the World Series with nobody on base; they scored three runs, won Game 6 and then Game 7. The 1999 Mets were two out of the wild card with three to play; they proceeded to force a tiebreaker on a ninth-inning wild pitch, win the tiebreaker on a two-hitter, take the first round of the playoffs on a 10th-inning walkoff home run from their backup catcher and roar back from a hopeless 15th-inning deficit in the fifth game of the ensuing NLCS on something instantly memorialized as the Grand Slam Single. When your family history is bulging with incidents of the impossible becoming reality, You Gotta Believe.
8. Have you watched Gary, Keith and Ron? Gary Cohen, Ron Darling and Keith Hernandez are the best trio of game-callers in the business. Cohen's a wry observer with a jaw-dropping grasp of every game and every situation — witness his flawless call of the game-ending unassisted triple play hit into by Jeff Francoeur a couple of years back, a once-in-several-lifetimes situation no announcer can possibly rehearse. Darling is superb at dissecting game situations and pitching mechanics; Hernandez is just as smart, but the guilty pleasure is watching him become unglued when confronted with inept baseball, blowouts or extra-inning grinds.
9. Daniel Murphy wobbles but he won't fall down. They call him Murph. They don't call him a left fielder, a first baseman, a third baseman or a second baseman because, honestly, he's not any of these. He has played them all and spanned the defensive spectrum from atrocious to adequate. He's been a magnet for season-killing injuries two years in a row. Yet damned if Daniel Murphy isn't always out there willing to give whatever his manager asks him to do a shot and damned if Daniel Murphy isn't one of the most indefatigable Mets that Flushing has ever gotten behind. It helps that he keeps hitting despite leaving his glove on the bus. It helps even more that he never gives up. With Murph trying (again) to master second base in 2012, that's the quality that's likely to serve him best between at-bats.
10. Someday we'll look back on this and it will all seem funny. Mets fans have lived through Marvelous Marv, Don Bosch, Mettle the Mule, the Mercury Mets, Art Howe lighting up rooms, John Pacella's hat, Tony Bernazard's shirt, and a host of other indignities. We'll live through this too. The swaggering '86 team, while beloved, is actually the exception that proves the Metsian rule — being a Mets fan has always been less about cockiness and certainty than desperate hope and occasionally wild joy. One day Bernie Madoff will be no more threatening a bogeyman than M. Donald Grant. We just wish that day would hurry up and arrive.
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Previous "10 Best Things": Detroit Tigers, Cincinnati Reds, Kansas City Royals, Oakland Athletics, Minnesota Twins, Los Angeles Angels, Arizona Diamondbacks, San Francisco Giants,Baltimore Orioles, Milwaukee Brewers, New York Yankees, Colorado Rockies, St. Louis Cardinals, Houston Astros
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