Here we are, a scant two weeks into the 2010 baseball season, and already the general consensus among Yankee fans is that their defending champs are going to merrily cruise to, at the very least, another well-deserved berth in the World Series, while the general consensus among Met fans is that their defending chumps are going to excruciatingly stumble to, at the very most, another equally well-deserved one-way ticket to Palookaville.
As fate would have it, I found myself contemplating both sides of this mirrored Superman-Bizarro relationship last weekend. On Saturday, I spent the day in the Bronx watching in person as the Yankees demolished the Texas Rangers 7-3 in a game that was for all intents and purposes over and done with by the third inning. And then I spent the night (thankfully) at home watching on TV as the Mets eked out a 2-1 win over the Cardinals in St. Louis in an agonizing game that took 20 innings and nearly seven full hours to complete.
Being fortunate enough to have a friend who'd gotten business-related free tickets, I can now and without any irony whatsoever honestly say this: I went to an all-you-can-eat buffet and a Yankee game broke out. At least that's how it seemed soon as we hit the special Legends Suite entrance and found ourselves escorted to a huge dining room where we could avail ourselves of a complimentary buffet meal that included everything from barbecued brisket and short rib sliders to sushi/sashimi platters and even lobster rolls (take that, Red Sox Nation!). By the time we got to our fully cushioned seats behind the third base dugout, we'd already eaten enough to make even Mo Vaughn jealous.
(It didn't stop there, either: with these tickets, you can keep right on gorging yourself throughout the game via [again] free "In Seat" Service. Waiters run up and down the aisles faster than Brett Gardner on the basepaths, fulfilling orders for sandwiches, nachos, chicken tenders, milk shakes, onion rings, cheesesteaks [take that Phillie Phanatic!], and for stadium food "purists," even hot dogs [Hebrew National, thank you]. And if you feel somehow compelled to actually try and get up and move around between innings, there are the under-the-stands private Legends Lounges, with [and I quote] "hot, cold and snack grab 'n go items" - implying, however subtly, that reaching across the counter for a meatball sub or six Chuckles bars constitutes exercise.]
In any event, somewhere out on the field between all the eating and drinking (it should be noted that you do pay extra for alcoholic beverages and, perhaps as a punitive measure, they charge for an O'Doul's) - there was a baseball game in which the Yankees quickly made, er, mincemeat out of manager Ron Washington's Rangers, who seemed about as out of sync and unprepared for this early season matchup as the Yankee Stadium Bleacher Bums, who pretty much botched the player shout-outs (they have yet to figure out how to say Curtis Granderson's name with any acceptable rhythm; Randy Winn, take hope for more playing time!) As stated before, by the end of the third inning the score was 6-0, and for the remainder of the game - which, it should be noted, included home runs by Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez, several double-digit at-bats by the Patience and Prudence boys, Nicks Johnson and Swisher, and three infield hits by the speedy Gardner that collectively traveled roughly 100 feet - well, just about everyone in my section seemed far more concerned with their next menu selections than their scorecards. Which, when all is said and done, may well be the best way to psychologically handle paying $225 to see a baseball game.
By the time I got home at around 5 PM, the Mets-Cards game was already in progress - or should I say stasis. Only a true baseball fan could enjoy a 0-0 game, especially one that stayed that way until more extra innings than even Cardinals manager Tony "The Brain" LaRussa seemed interested in dealing with. Clearly annoyed that his own team couldn't muster any offense while the pathetic Mets were making him use up his whole bullpen, LaRussa decided to basically hand the Mets the game by putting starter Kyle Lohse in to play leftfield and telling infielder Felipe Lopez to go pitch rather than "waste" his entire staff on one measly game this early in the season. Unfortunately for him, Mets manager Jerry Manuel (why do I keep humming the theme to Sanford & Son every time the man runs out to the mound?) crossed up the strategy by giving his batters the hit sign even though Lopez seemed generally incapable of throwing the baseball over the plate for strikes. Then again, he had won the previous night's game with a grand slam homer, so theoretically LaRussa was rewarding him by insuring he'd make the day-into-night's highlight reels no matter what happened.
When the Mets didn't score off Lopez, that only seemed to piss LaRussa off even more, so he sent Lopez back to third base and now dispatched outfielder Joe Mather to take over the hurling chores. Try as they might to again screw everything up by swinging at nearly everything within a mile of the strike zone (which, like Lopez before him, was generally about as close as Mather got with most of his pitches), the Mets did somehow push one across in the top of the 19th - only to see closer Frankie Rodriguez give it right back in the bottom of the inning. Not to be outmaneuvered in reverse, LaRussa had Mather pitch another inning, the Mets scored another run, and this time the last man standing in the Mets pitching corps, Mike Pelfrey (and at 6-7, that's a lot of standing) mercifully made it hold up.
After the final out was registered, the Mets jumped around, smiling, laughing and congratulating each other like they'd just won the World Series. It seemed to me that Jerry Manuel and his club should have instead been really angry that the opposing manager thought so little of them as to not want to, so to speak, throw good arms at bad teams. But with victories at such a premium for these hapless 2010 Mets, such was not the case. They were happy to win a game - any game - even one that had devolved into what broadcaster Tim McCarver described as seeming more "beer league" than major league. Given their listless 4-8 play through the first 12 games of the season, I guess that positions the 2010 Mets to be the O'Douls of baseball.