For this reporter, the pandemic and social unrest drained some excitement from blockbuster Francisco Lindor to Mets trade

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Andy Martino
·5 min read
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Francisco Lindor and Carlos Carrasco at the mound
Francisco Lindor and Carlos Carrasco at the mound

At first I wasn’t going to say anything about it on air, in print, or anywhere else publicly.

When I hustled into the SNY studios on Thursday afternoon to help with our broadcast of the blockbuster Francisco Lindor trade, our anchor Doug Williams -- wiseacre that he is -- teased me by asking if I would sneak in references to the unrest in Washington that occurred the day before. Because I’m apparently the annoying Politics Guy in the office, it was a fair shot.

But no, I told him -- in this instance it was our job to cover the big trade and nothing else. Any reference to outside events risked being too glib and disrespectful to the seriousness of those events. We didn’t have anything of value to add to the story.

But as it turned out, Sandy Alderson did.

Toward the end of the Zoom news conference, Bradford Davis of the Daily News asked Alderson if he or the organization had a reaction to the events in Washington. It was a wholly appropriate question, and Alderson responded in kind.

“From an organizational standpoint, we’ve reached out to our employees today about what happened,” he said. “If there’s a need to communicate with us about that, they should feel free to do so.”

“My view on that situation -- I found yesterday disturbing on many different levels. And I’m sure most people did for reasons that come into play and questions that need to be answered.

“For somebody like myself who’s spent a few years defending democracy in some way [Alderson is a Vietnam veteran and former Marine], not just yesterday, but the last few years have been extraordinarily disappointing. But we have institutions that protect us from individuals in most cases. And it seems that those institutions not only have survived, but have guaranteed our survival as a democracy. So that’s my view.”

It wasn’t Alderson’s first time addressing unsettling events beyond the scope of his job in baseball. Last year, he wrote an editorial criticizing the president and several generals for injecting the military into politics.

But the intrusion of outside news on this particular day -- one that should have been only trilling for New York baseball -- helped to clarify why it felt less than fully exuberant.

It wasn’t just the violation of Congress by Americans angry about the election. It was the long year of social isolation and the fear of catching a deadly virus. The disruption to our lives and pleasures like sports.

The death (Covid-19 claimed 197 people in New York City on Thursday alone) and violence and political tension. On some days, it’s possible to feel normal. On others, it’s just … exhausting.

I can only speak for myself. This was a personal reaction for me, one likely shared by some but not all readers. Some of you were surely able to find pleasant distraction in the Lindor news. Take that feeling wherever you can get it and hold on tightly.

But over the past year it has often been the big events that underscore how much of the luster is missing from things I typically enjoy.

In local sports, this was recently reinforced by the Knicks’ win at the Garden on Wednesday night, when New York stormed back from an 18-point deficit in the second quarter to beat Utah, 112-100.

As Julius Randle pointed out, the Garden should have been “rocking.” It should have been one of those special, sublime nights. And instead it was a great win in an empty arena: Not as fun.

A similar malaise crept into the Mets’ big day. They traded for Francisco freaking Lindor. One of the most exciting players in baseball, with a smile and electricity made for the big city. He was not a Dodger or Yankee, but a Met. For the team and its fans, this was truly a moment to savor.

The news conference was fine, I guess. It was a Zoom into Alderson’s home and a room somewhere that Jared Porter was in. There was no pageantry at Citi Field, just as there will be none when the team formally introduces Lindor and Carlos Carrasco. The building is shuttered because of the pandemic and will not reopen until next month at the earliest.

When you think it through, you realize that Lindor will almost certainly make his New York debut in front of cardboard fans. When he steps in the box for the first time, the staffer in charge of fake crowd noise will raise the volume into an ovation.

It will be better one day. You’ll be there to cheer in person. Until then, your absence will be a bummer.

With any luck, the temperature of the country will cool along with the virus’ progression. At the moment, that seems like a lot to ask.

As then-Nationals reliever Sean Doolittle put it last June, “Sports are like the reward of a functioning society.”

On Wednesday, New York Times photographer Erin Schaff was in the Capitol when she was assaulted.

“Grabbing my press pass, they saw that my ID said The New York Times and became really angry,” Schaff later wrote. “They threw me to the floor, trying to take my cameras. I started screaming for help as loudly as I could. No one came. People just watched. At this point, I thought I could be killed and no one would stop them. They ripped one of my cameras away from me, broke a lens on the other and ran away.”

The next day, the Mets traded for Lindor. It was great, truly. But forgive me for being too distracted to feel it.