I am used to the fact that every Mets season finds its own way of becoming the weirdest Mets season ever. The thing is that in many ways I like the current season so far. I know how much there is not to like but if you had told me that all that would happen would happen to our personnel (I don’t need to make a list), I would never expect to be 31-27 at this point. What I like most is the fact that certain new main elements of the team (Rodriguez and most of the new middle-relief configuration) are so good that the Mets should be truly formidable if they get some of their lost players back. I also love Beltran and Wright hitting for batting averages up in George Brett territory. This is a cool experience. Something feels different about the mid-.300s as opposed to the low .300s. This was one of the pleasures of the unheralded 1998 season, when Olerud and Piazza were up on this plane. I loved that sense of unprecedented confidence that there was going to be a hit when the middle of the order came up.
I know perfectly well that these Olympian batting averages from two players (who are also experiencing a power drought) is not enough to enable the Mets to play right now in the same league as the Phillies. But it is a sign of how good Wright and Beltran actually are. And although it isn’t enough, there is something exhilarating about watching the heroics of Cora, Santos, Hernandez, Redding, and to a certain degree Sheffield. Face it, the Mets should be in free fall right now, and although they’re just hanging onto a ledge, they are hanging onto a ledge. They’re screwing up plenty here and there, but they are also playing well considering. If they can hang on, or if fortune starts kicking around the Phillies in the way it’s been kicking us around, I think that this could be a very exciting year.
In the meantime, Father’s Day is coming around and there is a crop of good new Mets books. I had hoped to have read and reviewed all of them by now, but right now I’m in the middle of reading and correcting proofs and making an index for my own book and I’ve got a tight deadline. I will get all those reviews up within the next couple of months.
In the meantime, of course I recommend my own book Mets Fan to anyone whose dad doesn’t have a copy yet. But assuming that most readers of this blog already have given Mets fan dads a copy of Mets Fan, I want to particularly draw your attention to three recent books that would make great Father’s Day presents. The first of these is Greg Prince’s instant classic Faith and Fear in Flushing. You can read my review here. This is my favorite kind of baseball book, one that is about baseball and life. The thing is that in addition to being able to write about baseball and life, Greg Prince also has a richer and more complete knowledge of most of Mets history than anyone with the possible exceptions of Gary Cohen and Howie Rose. Two excellent new books that would also make fine presents are Ron Darling’s The Complete Game and Shea Goodbye, written by Keith Hernandez and Matt Silverman. I admit that I have not had the time I had hoped to have to read these books yet, but I have looked through my copies carefully and I can see that both have great merit and shouldn’t be lumped with the kind of books baseball players often write. Darling (no surprise) is no ordinary ballplayer and he seems to have written a book about the internal and external dynamics of pitching that may very well be the best book anyone has ever written about this infinitely complex activity. What’s great, from what I can see so far, about Shea Goodbye is that the entirely unique voice of Keith Hernandez comes through clearly, with all of its penetrating insight and occasionally too casual inattentiveness, with all of its great charm and offbeat humor. Keith is a piece of work and this is why we love him. Shea Goodbye looks as if it’s a hoot and it looks as if it offers an entertaining privileged perspective on a season that should have turned out better.
Two other books I’d like to recommend to anyone with a serious interest in the history of the Mets are William Ryczek’s The Amazing Mets, 1962-69 and Jacob Kanarek’s From First to Worst: The Mets in the Seventies. I have read the Ryczek book and I made it halfway through the Kanarek book before I had to drop everything to do my page proofs. I’ll review these this summer as well. Both are superb examples of well-researched baseball history by real fans. If you lived with the Mets through the emotional rollercoaster of their first two decades, you’ll love these two books. If you didn’t, you must read them to know the whole story, the whole saga of our team. Both of these books are published by McFarland, the company that published Mets Fan. If you’re not familiar with this publishing house you should be. They publish more good books about baseball than anyone else. The only problem is that because they are essentially an academic or scholarly press, their books are expensive and have to be bought on order or online and not in ordinary bookstores. My new book, The Last Days of Shea, will be published in August, not January as it says on Amazon, by a more traditionally commercial trade press and therefore unlike Mets Fan, it is not expensive at all (list $16.95, on Amazon pre-order for $11.53). Still, check out the McFarland catalog. The books are not that expensive. I know how much some of you pay just to go to a game. You should support good baseball authors too.
P.S. And as always, I’m happy to sell discounted (at cost) inscribed copies of Mets Fan to anyone who’d like one. It’s not too late to get one for this Father’s Day. E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’re interested.