Even before David Wright got beaned yesterday by a Matt Cain 94-mph fastball, I’ve been thinking about the dubious rewards of watching the Mets play out the last third of a season in which they have virtually no chance of reaching post-season.
In fairness to the unlucky ‘09 Mets, before this year, they have been in the championship hunt for the past few seasons—heartwrenchingly so.
Mets fans’ biggest late-season worry was who they’d wind up playing in the LCS, and beyond that, the World Series.
So the whole question—why watch baseball if it’s not about winning everything—hasn’t really crossed my mind much until lately.
I’m still watching the games whenever I can, although now I won’t think twice about missing one when I do.
But with the lineup changing everyday, and (until today) David Wright being the only healthy marquee (non-pitching) player, other than perhaps latecomer Jeff Francouer, it’s been a challenge to stay interested, other than out of habit.
I caught some of the Little League World Series playoffs on tv recently, and those 12-year old kids play with the same intensity and fundamentals as the major leaguers do.
Maybe better, as they know they’ll get yelled at if they don’t do their jobs, and they’re shaped like string beans instead of fullbacks, like so many of the pros.
The kids made me reflect on the game’s essential points of appeal:
The art of hitting a sphere going 95 mph, moving in three dimensions, with a wooden cylinder.
How continually close baserunning plays are, matching entirely different feats (throwing and running) for hairs’-breadth calls.
The strategy of pitching and calling games, and how each pitch to each batter has a purpose and must be chosen as such. Add to this the depth of knowledge required to do so.
The sheer beauty of a balanced baseball stroke, a double the loveliest.
Likewise, the beauty of well-executed pitches, particularly repeated.
The balletic elegance of a well-turned double play.
The emergence of young players as potential future key players, like Daniel Murphy at first base, Omir Santos catching, and the other day, Bobby Parnell’s excellent pitching performance.
And, in watching yesterday’s Aug. 15 Mets/Giants game that turned bitter after Wright got clocked, the duty of pitchers to protect their hit teammates by retaliating, and Santana’s barely controlled ferocity in doing so.
Now that the worst has happened, that David Wright indeed has a concussion and is out for a spell, it will be even more of a challenge to reach deep and appreciate the game on its own merits. I'm hoping I can.
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