Wednesday, April 21, 2010

It's Hard to Be a Yankee Fan In the Citi

Every season, I try to make it to all 3 "local teams": The Yankees, the Mets, and the Phillies.

The Yankees, even with the cost, are the easy part. I've been with them for a third of a century now. And even with all the difficulties (the Mattingly Drought, Steinbrenner's managerial musical chairs, the Roid Sox Era), it's been a pretty successful era.

The Phillies are not a problem, either, unless you count the long train ride from Center City back to New Brunswick and then having to get back to the old home town around midnight, which is not fun, which is why I usually prefer a Sunday afternoon game at Broad & Pattison (and it's now actually 11th & Pattison, but who's counting).

The Mets are the hard part. It's often been hard to figure out what stunk more: The Mets, their fans, or Shea Stadium. With Shea replaced by Citi Field, it's a little clearer.

You know the joke: The field at Citi Field looks great. It should, considering the Mets put $150 million worth of fertilizer on it every day!

Ah, but tonight, the Mets played the Chicago Cubs. Two legendary losers, with lousy bullpens, both known for blowing games they should have won? Something had to give.

Why did I go to Citi Field tonight? A, To get it out of the way. B, To see this miracle boy named Ike Davis. C, Because, in their current condition (hopeless), Met fans were unlikely to be the arrogant schmucks they have so often been, even when they weren't all that good.

This was my 2nd trip to Citi Field, and, both times, Mike Pelfrey has started and pitched well. This time, he even took a no-hitter into the 6th inning. However, in Year 49, the Mets still do not have a no-hitter in their history. For crying out loud, even the Colorado Rockies -- formerly known as the Rocky Horror Pitching Show -- have one now!

I actually ran into the Mets' answer to "Freddy Sez" Schuman and Bleacher Creature Milton Ousland, their Cow-Bell Man, Eddie Boison. (Milton's name is always "Cowbell Man." It isn't hyphenated. As Yogi Berra would say, it isn't even carbonated.) I said to him, "I really thought that was gonna be the no-hitter." THE no-hitter. He didn't say anything to me, he just shook his head.

His jersey was Number 21. Last year, when I saw him at Citi (but didn't say anything to him), it was Number 15. I don't know why he switched.

I said to the fans around me, "Where were you when Ike Davis hit his first major league home run?" Well, it wasn't tonight. When he struck out, my reaction was Yankee Fan (in real life, a Met fan in City Slickers) Billy Crystal's, imitating Edward G. Robinson in The Ten Commandments: "Where's your Messiah now? Where's your Moses now, see?"

I still don't know if Davis, son of former Yankee reliever Ron Davis, will turn out to be another Gregg Jeffries, who doesn't live up to the Met hype; or another Jeff Kent, who gets hurt, comes back too soon, and then the Mets give up on him, trade him for somebody once great but now washed up, and then he'll become a star elsewhere. But he ain't gonna become the next Mike Piazza, that's for damn sure. (Of course, he's probably not on steroids, and I doubt he'll date international supermodels to, uh, overcompensate.)

Thanks to a monster day from Jose Reyes, who went 4-for-5 and tripled in 2 runs in the second, it was 2-0 Mets in the 8th, when Fernando Tatis pinch-hit for the pitcher, and got booed like hell. But he hit a home run, to make it 4-0. Francisco "K-Rod" Rodriguez got into a little trouble in the 9th -- seriously, how do you walk Alfonso Soriano? -- but got some good D and got out of it. In the words of the immortal Bob Murphy, "The Mets win the damn thing! We'll be back with the happy recap after these messages."

To which Ralph Kiner would probably say, "We'll be right back, after this message from Manufacturer's Hangover." Gotta love Ralph.

Have the Mets turned the corner? I don't know. But if Pelfrey can pitch well with me in the yard, why can't he do it without me? Has Reyes come fully back? Who knows. Carlos Beltran is still out. John Maine and Oliver Perez are still big question marks. And can the bullpen really be trusted? Tonight, it could.

Attendance was 27,502. I'll bet 5,000 of those were there just to see Ike Davis. And another 5,000 or so were Cub fans. And I saw 9 Yankee caps, 1 Yankee sweatshirt, 2 Yankee jackets, and 1 Yankee jersey, a Mariano Rivera Number 42. I didn't bring a cap. I had to hide the fact that I was root, root, rooting for the Cubbies. If they don't win, it's the same. But that was a lot of Yankee Fans in Flushing.

Speaking of whom, at last check, the Yankees were up 6-3 over the A's in the 6th. (Update: They won, 7-3, thanks to A-Rod's 585th homer and, surprise, the pitching of Javier Vazquez.) But the Devils lost in Philly, and now trail the Flyers 3 games to 1. Game 5 is at the Prudential on Thursday night, and I am not optimistic.

I'm glad the Mets "Mets-ified" their ballpark. The Shea version of the Home Run Apple has been restored, and is outside the home plate gate, serving as a meeting place, their equivalent to the old Yankee Stadium's Big Bat. The Mets Hall of Fame, just off the Jackie Robinson Rotunda, is done well, with their World Series trophies (both of them), World Series rings (Bud Harrelson's from 1969 and Fred Wilpon's from 1986), the original Mr. Met costume, and several items from their history (including the Cleon Jones shoe-polish ball from '69 and the Mookie Wilson/Bill Buckner ball from '86).

As Tom Seaver might say, "Terrific." Now, recognizing their own history, and the Dodgers', all they need to do is remember that the Giants once played in New York as well.

And they gotta open a 2nd Shake Shack. These new ballparks are supposed to prevent losing 2 innings on line for food!

I'm not sure when I'll get to the new Yankee Stadium -- I tried last Thursday night, but the only tickets they had left were in the really expensive section -- or Citizens Bank Park, 70 miles away (as opposed to 44 to The Stadium and 46 to Citi). But I will get there.

I don't just love my team, best in the world though it is. I love this game.

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