Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Pelfrey pregame

"Glarb nobbit!" yelled Pelfrey as he punctured a coconut before pouring its contents into a glass. "Every time, and I mean EVERY time I go to Puerto Rico, we lose two to the Marlins and then the third one gets rained on! It's liked this place is cursed!"

"How many times have you been here?" asked Jesus (Feliciano).

"This is my first," said Pelfrey, "and I love it."

"But you just said-"

"Never mind all that. You guys like baseball?"

"Mike, we all play for the Mets with you."

"Of course you do. It's what binds us together."

The other Mets were avoiding Pelfrey. They didn't dislike him, but he would get into these modes and they wouldn't know what to say to him. He was moody and sharp, and there was little consistency between his statements.

"One time in Puerto Rico, I challenged a man to a duel. He said the duel's already happening. It's been happening for years. It will continue to happen long after we're whale food. I still think about that guy sometimes." Though he was in a narrow locker room, he still found enough room to stare off into space.

"That was last night," said Jason Bay. "I was with you. You were talking to Dan Uggla."

Pelfrey nodded. "I'm gonna throw bad today," he said. "No, don't try to stop me. There's nothing that can be done now. Someone told me years ago that I have inadequate elbows, and it didn't bother me then, and it hadn't bothered me until now, and I'm sure I'll be over it by tomorrow, but dang, what a thing to say to someone. Inadequate! Yeah, two runs in the first, and that's if no one takes me deep. Deal with it boys. It's reality."

Friday, June 25, 2010

Enter Thole

"Be thee Met or be thee not? For only Met shall pass." Josh Thole always flinched unconsciously at the question. He did the same thing when going through scanners at the front of stores and anytime someone mentioned standardized tests.

"Met sir," he told Pops the doorman. "Thole, number 30, emergency catcher." Pops sat up, his bushy white mustache still bearing the shape of the table on one side where he had been resting his face.

"Is this an emergency?" he asked.

"Well, if it is, I'm here to catch it." Thole had a personal policy of saying jokes when he thought of them. It was a way of being sociable and combatting bashfulness. Still, it had made him a touch self-conscious, and he chuckled quietly at his own joke to fill the space directly after it. This turned out to be unnecessary. Pops fell into fits of laughter. He rotated in his seat. He bunched up sections of his newspaper, barely present enough to aim for the parts he had already read. He laughed for long enough that Thole considered leaving, because he wanted some time to settle in before the game against the Twins, and it was not at all clear when the laughing would end. Pops did stop though, and Thole was glad he hadn't walked off.

"Do you have memories?" Pops asked him when he'd returned.

"I do."

"So do I. Sometimes they get tickled."

"Doesn't everyone have memories?"

"Yes, but some only a little. Francouer for instance. Don't tell him I said this, but he remembers the smell of toast, but not how it's made. You get me?"

Thole was surprised, perplexed even by how well he did understand Pops. He nodded. Pops nodded back and tossed him his room key. The key flew fast and straight into Josh's hand. He caught it instinctively before he was fully aware of what had happened.


"Elevators just there. It's slow and steady, but it gets there."

Thole nodded and stepped over to the elevator. He pushed the button, the door opened and he entered. The key in his hand was still hot with life.

The ride to the 30th floor felt like a brief safari. As he passed the 4th floor, he heard the nasal buzz of Henry Blanco's oboe playing. At the fifth floor, "Who's right? I'M WRIGHT!" The seventh floor brought the unmistakable sound of a dozen ping pong balls all kept in constant motion. At the twelfth floor, half a conversation about whether or not the other half existed. At the 29th floor, he heard an old audio recording of what sounded like Dwight Eisenhower.

At last he arrived at the 30th floor. Thole tossed his bag on the couch and sat down next to it. He went to the refrigerator which had been stocked ahead of time with young coconuts. He absentmindedly opened one with a machete, and sipped the water inside.

"Met," he said, half-intentionally. The door knocked. Thole scampered over. It was Rod Barajas.

"Mr. Barajas! This is an honor! Come in, may I offer you a coconut?"

"Got my own," said Barajas, lifting one with a straw sticking out of it.

"So, I here you're a little dinged up," said Thole, once they were seated and comfortable.

"It's my mind," said Barajas, staring straight ahead at the wall. "The catcher is the mind of the whole team. That is why we sit by home plate. We wear our mental burden like catching gear. For me though," he made jagged gestures, "cracks in the armor. I read the mind of the pitcher, batter and umpire, but lately I can't tell them apart. Is it my friend or my opponent who wants the curveball. Someone is focusing on the batter's footwork, but who? Me? Who is thinking of Montana? I have memories that feel as though someone is else is remembering them. People tell me things, and I think it is I who have told them. I am excited when I have nothing to do, and bored when I am stimulated. Some days I blame the media. Other days the weather, America, Howard Megdal, parking regulations, an uneventful canoe trip I took as a boy."

Silence took over. They finished their coconuts.

"Why did you tell me all this?" Thole asked Barajas.

"Because if I don't get my mind back, you will have to become the mind of the Mets. And if I do, this conversation will have meant little, but you will have had an interesting afternoon."

As Thole closed the door, he suddenly felt very certain his phone was about to ring. It would be Razor Shines. He would want Josh to come up to see him. Part of him was very surprised to have this realization, and another part was not surprised at all.

Monday, June 21, 2010

An Unexpected Free Agent the Mets Fully Intend to Sign

Basketball's top free agent may have an unlikely suitor. Lars Metatarsal of Baseball Moonthly is reporting that a conversation with the Brothers Wilpon (speaking in unison from different locations on a conference call) took a surprising turn when the name LeBron James was mentioned.
LM: Who is this year's free agent class' LeBron James?
BW: Lebron James
LM: Pardon my lack of specificity. I meant in baseball.
BW: No, pardon our lack of clarity. The answer is still LeBron James.
LM: I don't follow.
BW: You and everyone from Alger Hiss to Zoroaster. LeBron James is filled with a successful essence. This will transfer to any athletic activity he attempts. He has more Met in him than most of our roster put together.
LM: How do you expect to lure James to a sport that he has no experience with?
BW: LeBron has nothing left to accomplish in basketball. He has already placed the sphere in the assigned location numerous times. When it comes to sporting events, baseball is Shakespeare, the Beatles and Mount Everest. Furthermore, the rules of the NBA will only allow a contract of up to $15 million annually. In baseball we may shower him with gardens of wealth symbols.
LM: What position do you envision James playing?
BW: It would be narrow minded to limit James to one position. We envision a new defensive alignment in which James would cover the entire left side of the field, allowing us to stack the right side with six defenders. He will also be our spot starter, left-handed reliever and emergency catcher.
LM: How do Oliver Perez and John Maine fit into your future plans?
In response question the Brothers Wilpon fell into fits of laughter that lasted a long time, and both of them had to be helped up after toppling over not once but four times. The interview concluded then because the Wilpons had been rendered incoherent. Mets Fan Fiction contacted Omar Minaya about the rumor. He said that he didn't want to risk tampering, but he had been allocated a "significant quantity of Parmensan cheese to lure a certain very talented angler fish." Asked if this was a euphemism, Minaya did not specify.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Truth Behind Beltran's Injury

October 12th, 2009

Carlos Beltran deftly leaps from rock to crag to cliff. The cold bites, but it does not bite him. The wind howls, but it is speaking to someone else. Beltran, as long as he doesn't think too much, can move between the elements in a wordless negotiation. Deft as a cat-monkey, he makes his way up the mountain, dressed from shoes to cap in his Met uniform. There is a man in a cave. The cave is unarguably a cave. Everyone would call it that. Not so much the man. Man is a sort of shorthand used by men. It is not clear what he/she/it is, and it is not given that we, given the range of experience we collectively have, could fully understand it, even if articulated accurately.

Beltran spots a blackness a ways up from him, and recognizes it as the cave mouth. He briefly calculates a cost-benefit between methodical and more efficient but also more dangerous. With a running start, he brings himself part way up a rock face, and from there decides that he can make it up the rest of the way easily enough, which is not to say easily.

Just before he is at the top, a collusion of voices stumbles out of the cave. Wangari Maathai (happy), Arlen Specter (grumpy), Eckhart Tolle (bashful), Bill Bryson (sneezy), Aesop Rock (sleepy), Jayson Stark (dopey) and Oliver Sacks (doc) all came out of the cave among a cloud of bluebirds. Beltran watched them conversing. Sacks and Maathai talked about the ferns around them. Stark made half-meaningless while Bryson took notes. Tolle and Rock walked together, mostly in silence, Eckhart with a casual vest and precise hair, Aesop wrapped in a blanket that he would modulate between covering his nose and not. Specter navigated the rocks and occasionally tried to sociable so that no one could say he wasn't.

They all descended down the path, and after they were gone, Beltran pulled himself up onto the ridge and, dusted himself off and walked into the cave. There was a blue light within it that seemed to carry invisible frequencies. Beltran sensed them, but he wasn't sure with which sense. Leaves were spread over the cave floor, looking both arranged and blown in as they were.

"I know," came a voice from within. Beltran continued to move inward, waiting to hear if it would reveal what it knew. "I know why you're here and what I will offer you."

"Do you know what I will say?"

"No. That's what I don't know."

Beltran put one hand on the cave wall as he walked. It was surprisingly warm.

"You are here because you want the Mets to be successful this year. I will offer you increased goodness, greatness and wins in exchange for six months of your speed, agility, instincts and muchness. After the six months, they will slowly come back, though in what form, I can't say."

"Six months? The season starts in six months. Spring training before then."

"Not my problem."

"Will the team be even better than they would have been without my help?"


"When would it start?"

"As soon as you left the mountain."

Beltran pondered the offer. The Mets were paying him a lot of money to help them win. He had sacrificed certain comforts to help them achieve this goal. And he would do it again, even if meant lying. Lying to his fans, his team, to everyone except the man. The man who was not a man.

"I'll do it," said Beltran. "Enjoy my gifts."

As Carlos walked away from the foothills, he felt a weakness in his muscles. Walking seemed arduous. Even thinking felt like heavy lifting. "For the Mets," he gasped. "For the Mets."

Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Mysterious Occupant of Floor 45

"Be thee Met or be thee not?" asked Pops the doorman as a man shrouded by a veil that fell from a fedora over his face.

"Oh, I'm Met, I'm Met. I'm kind of a new thing. I'm from nowhere, sometime between today and five thousand years I'll vanish and reappear somewhere else. At least that's how I'll experience it. Sometimes I imagine I'm like an unconscious salmon, blindly fighting the tide, waking up at the top of the mountain and having no idea how I got there. Y'know?"

"I know enough to know Mets. You're Met. Say, Robert, I still have the key to the 45th floor here. Don't you need it?"

"I'll get in," said R.A. Dickey as he boarded the elevator.

The knuckleball is generally not explained properly. The usual explanation involves the ball's lack of spin that makes it interact with the air in ways that pitchers can't predict. The truth is that there are people, it's difficult to say how many, who find various quantum elements to navigable. Where most of us see blind consequence, they see a navigable terrain. Some of them are scientists. Others are artists. A number of them are considered insane. Many are all three. A few of them are knuckleballers.

By reducing the spin of a ball to almost nothingness, its position in space-time becomes fuzzy. After a moment, it "decides" on a more definite location, and it is this temporary indecision followed by the choice that causes the characteristic unpredictable change in direction. Knuckleballers can use these abilities to do things like shimmer through doors or to feel like you are where you are, but also somewhere far away. Perhaps a familiar place. Knuckleballers are sentimental types.

R.A. Dickey stepped out onto the 45th floor balcony. He looked at the shoe that he was not wearing. He tried to move his finger through the sole, but it would not go. "Where did I get these shoes?" he asked himself. "I'm sure glad I did, they're just about the only thing I can't just buzz through." Just to reprove his abilities to himself, he made his exact point in space unexact and moved through the wall to his apartment. Once he was on the other side, he better defined where he was, and poured himself some spinach juice.

Recently, the team had rode an airplane as they so often do. Airplane rides are often stressful to quantum types such as Robert Alan, and it was only now that he was getting the chance to relax as he liked to. He put on some dreamy music, kicked back in the large beach chair in his living room, and made everything about his current state certain except for which reality he occupied. He didn't know much about the other realities, but he always felt refreshed when he returned to his own.

"You pitched a good game against the Orioles," said a friendly lizard who wasn't really there.

"Thanks," said Dickey.

"You're sure they don't mind that I hang out on the mound when you pitch?"

"Not at all. To them you don't exist, and I could use the company."

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Scouting of Matt Harvey

Every time Omar lagged on their trip up the mountain, Jeff Wilpon would admonish him and tell him to hurry up.

"I'd appreciate it if you told me where we were going," said Omar.

"I told you," said Wilpon. "Scouting."

"Scouting what? Douglas firs? Sparrows? Moss?"

"I'm glad you're paying attention to your surroundings," said Wilpon. "But no, what we're here to see is just up by this ridge." They hiked up a little further and reached a stunning vista.

"What a stunning vista," gasped Wilpon. "Makes you happy the great shoemaker made you. And this. And shoes."

"Nice stuff. So we're scouting mountains?"

"Damnit Omar, listen. Don't you hear anything unusual?"

Reluctantly, Omar stopped and listened. He heard birds and a breeze swishing through... and, okay, now he was hearing something unusual. A semi-rhythmic thwap somewhere in the distance.

"What is that?" Wilpon was ready with the binoculars.

"Who is this kid? Does he live up here?"

"Matt Harvey, and no idea."

"Matt who?"

"Doesn't matter. We're drafting him with our first pick."

"Him? What about Kvasnicka? I've been scouting that guy for- damn that's an easy delivery. He's commanding it too. He's that same rock four times in a row now."

"You should see him bend sliders around the side of the mountain."

"Does he know you've been watching him?"

"Omar, I'm not sure this kid knows the rules of baseball. What I do know is that he is a Met. He's more Met than you or me. Now we just have to make it official."

"Did you look at my Kvas report?"

"Omar if you say that name one more time I will Kvasnicka your face."

"Understood boss. Any idea about Harvey's signing demands."

"Money is unimportant to him. A mil should do it."

Two weeks later, somewhere in New Jersey, Bud Selig took the stage at the MLB draft and announced:
"With the seventh pick in the first round of the 2010 draft, the New York Mets select Matt Harvey from the mountains of North Carolina."

"Harvey can hit any rock within a 130 ft radius of where he is standing. He's got that hard slider, and he's working on a change to keep hitters honest," said Peter Gammons with his instanalysis. "The only question is how he'll react to living among other humans for long stretches of time."

"I've been to mountains," John Kruk chimed in. "Believe me, if you can survive there, you can survive on a baseball team. Believe me, the kid's going to be just fine."

"The Mets are going out of their way to make this kid feel at home," said Gammons. "Reyes baked him blueberry muffins, Bay is showing him his favorite dance move, and Francouer- get this- has spent all day on the phone with the demon that torments him, just so the demon won't have time to bug the new kid."

"That's really something," said Krukky. "Francouer is streaky on the field, but he's a good clubhouse guy day-in day-out."

Sunday, June 6, 2010

How Little Sarge Found Out He's Not a Met Anymore

Jerry Manuel hummed to himself as he posted pictures on the walls of the Mets' clubhouse.

"What's the haps Manuel Transmission?" David Wright had shown up early for work that day.

"David. Glad you are here. Today I'm going to motivate everyone so much it will burn their eyes."

"Gee Jerry, that sounds painful. Are you sure we can handle that much motivation."

"Are YOU sure?"

"Damn WRIGHT I'm sure!"

"That's what I like to here. Say, is this one centered?"

When all the Mets had assembled, and Razor Shines had passed around coconuts for all of them. Jerry displayed the two pictures, while a third was hidden by a Met jersey.

"A nest!" declared Francouer.

"You got it!" said Jerry. Frenchy high-fived his neighbors. "But what kind of nest?"

The Mets fell into a deep sea of contemplation. A bird, certainly, that much was obvious. But what sort of bird?

"A falcon!" declared Pagan.
"A crow," murmured Barajas.
"A sparrow?" tried Niese.
"I believe this egg will produce a dog," said Blanco, who had his eyes closed.

Jerry just smiled and shook his head. Then he removed the Mets jersey that was hanging on the wall.
"OH MY GOD IT'S HEAD IS SO SHINY!" screamed Frenchy.

"This calls for the Bay Bridge, baby!" shouted Jason Bay, who did the Bay Bridge, punched the air, then high-fived the entire bullpen.

"It has no feet!" exclaimed Ike Davis.

"Nice observation Ike Sauce!" said Wright!

"That beak could fit between the stones of the Pyramid of Giza!" announced Johan Santana.

"This thing can fly underwater!" shouted Castillo.

"It knows our thoughts. That's for damn sure." Pelfrey punctuated this point by ripping open his coconut and feasting on the meat inside.

"And," said Dan Warthen, putting on his didactic face, "it's the only bird that can fly backwards."

The Mets looked at each other incredulously. Backwards? What?

The umpring crew burst into the clubhouse.

"Let's play some baseball!" they cried in unison.

The Mets all cheered and ran out of the clubhouse and onto the field. Many of them crying "My eyes!" in painful jubilation. When the chaos cleared, only one player remained. The other Mets had not noticed him. He had been sitting quietly, studying the pictures the entire time. He and Jerry looked at each other, exchanging memories through unconscious eye movements. At last he spoke.

"That's a hummingbird," said Gary Matthews Jr. "They can flap their wings up to 80 times a second, and they hover by flapping them in a figure eight pattern. They eat nectar, sap and insects, and they must eat frequently because they expend so much energy in flight. They are considered symbols of purity and good luck in several cultures."

"Yes," said Manuel. "That is all correct. You see the facts and not the dreams. And that is why you are not a Met."

GMJ nodded. "Is that why Razor didn't offer me a coconut?"


"What do I have to do Jerry? I've given this team so much!"

"Wait, you do know we DFA'd you, right?"


"Yeah, it was a few days ago, how do you not know that?"

"So when you say I'm not a Met..."

"Yes, I mean you are literally not on the roster."

"Oh. Dang."

Gary Matthews Jr. left the clubhouse, with no balls, mitts or bats, only his woe. Only his disappointment in himself, the system, our culture of expectations, our artificial zero-sum games, our unnecessary expectations of warriorship and the assumptions of putting emotions aside. He felt these emotions in his back, his right thigh, the top of his rib cage, and a vague pressure in his sinuses. He was comforted only by the consistency of the sun, the support of his friends and family, and an underlying recognition of good in the world. Also, that despite his getting kicked off the team, he will still be paid $23 million dollars over this year and next. Yes, the world was so often harsh, but as always, he would manage.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Demon is Getting More Press Than Francouer

The phone rang on floor #12. Jeff Francouer picked it up. Even after all these years, he never expected the demon when the phone rang, even though that's who called him the most. Instead, he simply gave his standard telephone greeting:

"Why hello there!"

"I've been getting some press," said the low rasp of the demon's voice.

"Maybe. Maybe not though. I still don't know if you're real."

"How do you explain the article, if I'm not real."

"Voices in one's head is often used poetically to refer to a mental struggle or conflict."

"I'm real to you, doesn't that count?"

"Only a little."

"Only a little to everyone else, a lot to you."

"Everything counts a lot to me."

"Isn't that the same as everything counting a little?"

"Only if you have a set idea of the total amount things can count for someone. Maybe I just count higher than your average person."

Silence trickled into the conversation. They would always argue and debate like this, but now that they had reached this impasse, neither was sure if a new debate should start, Francouer should hang up or...

"Why do we always fight?"


"We're always bickering, never really talking about real stuff."

"I'm a demon."

"So? Are you going to let that define you all the time?"

"It does define me all the time."

"There's more to life than that, demon."

"Do you even know what a demon is? You're lucky you only hear from me over the phone."

"Yeah, that's another thing, why always the phone? I don't even know what you look like. That's another reason I'm not sure you're real."

"I'm real to you."

"But-" Francouer stopped himself. "Bye demon," he said, and hung up. A plan was formulating in his mind. He would find out where the calls were coming from. He would gather whatever evidence he had, and one day, he would find the demon.

There was a knock on the door. Francouer went cold. What if the demon heard his thoughts and preempted him. What if he was to face the beast here and now. He wasn't prepared. He didn't even have a bat nearby. He picked up a dinner plate. It would have to do. He opened the door. It was...

David Wright.

"Hey French Man! We're going to get banana splits and play four-square! Are you in or are you in?" Frenchy could see Pedro Feliciano forcefully bouncing a ball in the hallway behind Wright.

"Yeah man. Where's the four-square court?"


Frenchy let out a huge, assenting, exorcising scream. He jumped out the door. Nearly barreling over Wright in the process. The three Met catchers, Barajas, Blanco and Thole, as well as Tatis, the emergency catcher, who was drinking a mysterious blue liquid, were all leaning against the wall waiting for him.

"Told you," said Blanco.

"You were correct," said Barajas.

"You guys are geniuses," said Thole.

Tatis silently sipped his blue drink. The catchers had convinced Wright to put together this game in the hopes it would break Frenchy's slump.

"Why four-square?" Wright had asked.

"Catchers are mysterious," Barajas and Blanco would say in unison.

"Damn Wright they are. Damn Wright."