Baseball is a unique sport.
“You can’t sit on a lead and run a few plays into the line and just kill the clock. You’ve got to throw the ball over the damn plate and give the other man his chance. That’s why baseball is the greatest game of them all.”-Earl Weaver
Sixty feet, six inches. 216 stitches. 300 wins, .400 average. 6-4-3, 2632 games. 3000 hits. Ninety feet. 100 miles an hour.
These are all numbers that are ingrained into the DNA of all baseball fans. Personally, I still go with 755, but that’s a discussion for another day.
Tonight, the Mets travel to Los Angeles to take on the Dodgers. Jacob deGrom takes the ball against Clayton Kershaw in what will be a rematch of Game One of the National League Division Series in 2015.
The Dodgers have MLB’s second best record and have represented the National League in the World Series twice in a row. This 4 game set is a tall order for the shorthanded Amazin’s.
I want the Mets to win. Obviously. I want them to sweep the Dodgers and then storm into Arizona. But, in my heart, I know that whatever happens I’ll continue to watch them all summer.
Because baseball is perfect.
The Mets knocked off the Dodgers in the playoffs in 2006 and then again in 2015. You couldn’t truly appreciate 2015 if you didn’t experience 2007-2014 though. I’m not trying to exclude younger or casual fans. What I want to say here is that 2015 was so sweet, because 2007-2014 was hell on earth.
So, watching the Mets celebrate in Dodger Stadium was euphoric. It was almost worth watching games played by Josh Satin and Omar Quintinilla. For a moment, it was as if the Madoff scandal never existed. Neither did the collapses in 2007 and 2008. David Wright’s game winning single looked like it was hit by someone who would be playing for years to come. Stars were born and legends were made .
Sure, sunny days are great after a long spell of rainy ones. But, it was the intricacies of the games played in that 2015 series that reminded me why I love this game so much.
The most common complaint you hear is that baseball is too slow. There’s not enough action, there’s too much standing around. I do my best not to argue with these people anymore. Live and let live.
Kidding. I love nothing more than to pick apart silly opinions people have. It’s just that in this case, the very same reasons which cause them to hate the game are the reasons why I worship it.
2015. NLDS. Fall baseball under the bright lights. It’s the eighth inning and the score is close. The batter steps out of the box. The pitcher steps off the mound. If baseball isn’t your bag that may make you roll your eyes. Throw the ball already!
For me? Every ball that gets fouled off. Every time the pitcher pauses to wipe his brow. Every pause in action while the hitter adjusts his batting gloves. It builds suspense. It turns a regular old at bat into a chase scene in an action movie.
So, when Justin Turner came up in the 7th inning of Game 5, the tension was already thick. The ex-Met was impossible to get out the whole series. Noah Syndergaard, a rookie, was called on to face him. Maybe casual fans would like baseball more if dramatic music was playing behind these at bats. All I know is that these at bats took years off my life and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I love the way the game becomes a part of you after watching long enough. On any given play, there are a ton of moving parts that you begin to factor in while it’s unfolding in real time.
Is that ball gonna drop? Can he get him? Should he let it roll foul? Can they get two? Can he get to third? Can he score?
Daniel Murphy singled. Lucas Duda walked. But wait! The Dodgers had the shift on for Duda. Turner is in right field. Murphy is gonna try and take third! Seager is not gonna get there in time! D’Arnaud comes up next. Sacrifice fly, tie game. Poetry in motion.
It wouldn’t be a proper NLDS discussion if we didn’t mention Murphy again, right?
Our second baseman who had morphed into Babe Ruth that October, took Zack Greinke deep in the final game of the series and gave the Mets the lead. Jeurys Familia retired the final six Dodgers and victory belonged to the Mets.
Suddenly, it was all worth it. The endless debates that turned into arguments. The extra inning losses. The spring training games. The losing streaks. The questionable decisions by the manager. The bullpen implosions. In that moment, all was right in the world. Our dedication to such a tumultuous relationship had paid off.
We had put the last decade behind us. We had avenged Ruben Tejada and made sure Chase Utley went home unhappy. The future was bright.
There’s an alternate version of the ensuing story playing out in some far away universe. Yoenis Céspedes and David Wright would be in the lineup tonight. Matt Harvey would be the listed pitcher.
We know that isn’t the case, but we have deGrom tonight. We have Syndergaard going in the series. He’s been struggling but he should be able to put it together. Baseball will always give you hope. Some may call it delusion. I call it hope.
The Cubs series was a lot of fun, but it happened so fast. The Wildcard game was a blip on the radar. Personally, I remember the Mets celebrating in the clubhouse in Dodger Stadium, then a whole lot of misery.
We all wish that things turned out differently after that series against Los Angeles. But I remember it fondly. It’s something tangible I can point to and say this is why I love baseball.