Archive for November, 2006

Thanksgiving

Thursday, November 23rd, 2006

I give thanks for: 

David Wright dripping and running on the field with his cigar. 

Pedro’s pointing to the heavens, which I want to see again. 

The way Paulie LoDuca looks like a thick and capable Pee-Wee Herman. 

The way Carlos Delgado can stroke a ball so high to the right or slap it so far to center. 

The way Jose Reyes hits the ground with his chest when he slides and bounces up in a single movement as if he were Gumby. 

The way Tom Glavine reminds me of the adult you really need to have along with you on the field trip. 

The way Endy Chavez has the largest smile I have ever seen as a proportion of the face and the way he has the mobility of an electron. 

The way Shawn Green looks so quiet and thoughtful and a little lost, which makes you wonder if he’ll suddenly remember how to hit 40 home runs. 

The way Carlos Beltran found what he had lost. 

The way Ron Darling clearly knows what he is talking about. 

The way Willie Randolph will sometimes manage with his imagination and won’t care if the whole world thinks he is wrong. 

The way Mets fans are such geeks, reading blogs, posting on forums; the way they are so desperate for baseball news in November when almost nothing is happening. 

 

And I am so sad about: 

Steve Trachsel’s five years of hard work and what he will feel like when he cleans out his locker. 

The way poor Cliff Floyd has to leave us now and can’t come with us. 

The way Shea will become dust. 

 

Does this Ring a Bell?

Thursday, November 16th, 2006

Goodbye Royce and Heath.  I guess the Mets roster will now read just a little less like a historical romance novel.

Citifield

Friday, November 10th, 2006

I’ve just learned, from the impeccable web sources Hotfoot and Metsblog, that a sign has been seen at Shea that indicates that the name of the new stadium is to be “Citifield.”  As soon as I learned this, I had my doubts.  “No Way!”  I thought,  “I’m not calling it that!  I’ll cut my tongue off first!” 

I’ve calmed down.  A big part of me still can’t accept the fact that Shea is coming down.      But I realize that, since it is, and since you knew that they were going to take a corporate name, we’ve probably dodged a bullet.  Just think of what they could have called our stadium.

What are the stages of mourning again?  I think I’m in the resignation part.  Not the acceptance part yet.  Citifield is at least innocuous.  It could have been Citibank Park.  Citifield is better.  It will, you have to admit, be easy for our adversaries to call it “Shittifield.”  But what can you do?   They think that calling the Mets the “Mutts” is funny.  Let them have their fun.

We all at least like the idea of “city.”  “City” is good.  “Citi” is cute and annoying.  But, as I said, it could be worse.  They weren’t going to call it Bob Murphy stadium.  Or Doris from Rego Park stadium.  That’s not the way things work. 
 
 

The Mets of Japan

Thursday, November 9th, 2006

As some of the Mets are finishing their series in Japan, playing with the MLB All-Stars against the Japanese All-Stars, I was thinking about how little any of us in this country know about Japanese baseball.

I don’t know much about Japanese baseball.  In America, we just “know” that Japan is a place where a decent, not particularly high level of the game is played, where Bobby Valentine feels very much at home, and where has-beens go to end their careers.  We know that Japan produces several players that are capable of playing in MLB at a very high level, and we know that the Mets end up with several who can’t.  We know that in spite of the large population of Japan, they are, in general, no match for the Dominicans.

But what I’d really like to know about is what baseball means to people in Japan.  How is it similar to and different from what it means to people in the U.S.?  I don’t know and I don’t really have the time to look into this right now.  But here’s something I do know.

I’m a big fan of a Japanese writer named Haruki Murakami.  I think he’s one of the three or four best writers in the world today and I am confident that someday he is going to win a Nobel Prize.  He’s the most popular serious writer in Japan and he is increasingly popular in the U.S.  His writings are extremely accessible, yet brilliant and mysterious.  If you read a book like The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle or Kafka on the Shore, you will feel as if you have dreamed it, and it will never leave you.  Read them.  You won’t regret it.

Anyway, Haruki Murakami is a big baseball fan, like many literary geniuses.  A year ago, my department at Hofstra University brought him to campus to give a reading.  At a gathering before the reading, he told us that he was a fan of the Yakult Swallows and he explained that rooting for the Yakult Swallows had a certain meaning.  The Yakult Swallows were a Tokyo team, but they were a little obscure compared to the big Tokyo team, the Yomiuri Giants, who are often called the Yankees of Japan and who have won far more championships than any other team.  The Swallows, Murakami explained, are not normally very good, and they are not as popular as the Giants.   But their fans are famous for being particularly fanatical die-hards.  They don’t expect to win, as fans of the Giants expect to win.  But when the Swallows do win, their fans really enjoy it.  And when they don’t win, they enjoy their sense of defiance.  They enjoy their sense that they are loyal to the Swallows and that they are not among the throngs cheering for the Giants.

A lot of us listening to him recognized this dynamic.  The Yakult Swallows are the Mets of Japan.  Lets Go Swallows!  Murakami told another story.  Someone asked him how he decided to become a novelist.  He told us that when he was 29 years old, with his life on a certain track, managing a jazz club, absorbed in the consuming details of everyday life, he went to a baseball game between his Swallows and the Hiroshima Carp.  Sitting in the Swallows stadium, drinking a beer, he watched as a Swallows player hit a double.  At that moment he decided that it was time for him to write a novel.

Exactly.

 

45,000 seats is not big enough

Monday, November 6th, 2006

The Mets drew 3.4 million fans to Shea stadium in the breakout year of 2006.  As long as they stay in contention, it is a fair bet that the Mets will draw close to 4 million in each of the next two years.   In 2009, their attendance will drop.  The Mets, in that year, will open a stadium that will limit their annual attendance to 3.6 million.  I think this is terrible.

Because they can raise ticket prices in response to the demand for their tickets, and because there will be luxury boxes in the new stadium, the Mets will continue to make as much or more money in a stadium that has an annual capacity of 3.6 million than they would have made had they kept the current stadium, which has an annual capacity of 4.4 million.  But the experience of being a Mets fan will change forever.

Unless the Mets get bad again, it may soon be impossible to go to a game on the spur of the moment.  Going to games will become what it is for Red Sox fans, something analogous to getting tickets in the first few months for a smash Broadway hit.  It will be something managed by scalpers and concierges.  It won’t be showing up to see a ball game.  It will feel like a privilege, something mainly within the grasp of the wealthy, and those who are willing to make the commitment to buy a season ticket.

My life is too complicated for me to commit to a Saturday plan.   I also live too far away (about an hour and a quarter if there is no traffic at all).  I make it to about ten games per year.  And I am so glad that I can always get a seat to any game I want to attend except for games against the Yankees.

I made it to two playoff games this year.  I won the lottery once.  And I was able to use a ticket won by someone else who won the lottery.  Will they have a lottery for future playoff games, if they have 11,000 fewer seats in the stadium and more people have purchased season ticket plans?  Don’t bet on it.

45,000 seats is too small for a stadium in the largest metropolitan area in the United States.  I don’t care how cute and lovely the new stadium will be.  I don’t care how great the sightlines will be from almost every seat.  I don’t care how much the stadium will remind people of Ebbett’s Field.  If I can’t get into the stadium and if I can never see a playoff game again, my experience as a Mets fan will change for the worse. 

Being a Mets fan is important to me.  Don’t do this to me.  Don’t do this to all of us.  Add more seats.