TROUBLE FUNK. [7-3-10]
It’s all fun and games until somebody pokes an eye out. Or, to put it another way, until Frankie comes in for the save on the road.
I had rejected a trip to DC this year because I am about to leave on a 11-day, 6 ballpark west coast roadtrip, and had just returned from seeing Target Field. It was Stras-exaggerated-word-to-describe-otherwise-promising-rookie-pitcher-whatever. It was 4th of July weekend. Prices were out of control. All of these reasons for not going made uncommon good sense until TBF presented me with the existence of two tickets in row 1 of the upper level, just off home plate, reasonably priced considering, at 8pm Friday night.
In the back of my mind I was thinking “I am not sure I want to spend 12 hours traveling and watching a game to see the Mets lose on the road” but I also wanted to see the rookie phenom and the chances of us seeing him later in the season were slim, since he’s working to a strict pitch count and they were going to shut him down once he’d reached that. Of course, I said something like, “Why are we sitting here discussing this” and the tickets were purchased.
This was my first visit to Nationals Park. I will save the full writeup for my other site (some time tomorrow), but will say that while I found it an exceedingly pleasant experience to watch a game there, and like how the Nationals rejected the big fancy restaurant in place of the open bar/socializing space instead, I was not wowed by the facility. I appreciated its immediate proximity to public transportation (we drove to a suburban Metro station and took public transit to the game) and its excellent scoreboard, which presented every piece of information you could want or need to know in one place. It bothered me to a great extent that every pillar on the concourse commemorated “Hall of Fame Legends” (mostly Negro Leagues players) but yet the franchise completely abandoned the Expos and their history. (More, again, to come later in a separate piece.)
On the way into the park, TBF got his photograph taken with Teddy Roosevelt (of the Racing Presidents), to add to the ‘photographs with mascots’ collection. Teddy was representative because, of course, Teddy is the one that never wins (and today was no different). I have seen the Racing Presidents before, and still find them creepy. I do not have an aversion to costumed characters, but there is something odd and ungainly about them. We did appreciate that they now wear Nationals jerseys with appropriate numbers on the back (Teddy was 26, for example). They do circulate out in the center field gate area and are freely available for your photographic needs, as mascots go. They also now sell Racing President dolls and Racing President action figures, should your needs require.
One of the signature food items at Nats Park is a gigantic pretzel they call “The Victory Knot”. I had the camera on the wrong setting when TBF got it up to our seats, so here is the 4 second movie of the pretzel before we started eating it. We got to this point before the game started, convinced we would never finish it. (We did, but we didn’t need to eat anything else for the duration of the game.) It comes with three toppings – mustard, pub cheese, and a sweet cinnamon spread (which sounds like it wouldn’t be delicious, but it was). (Again, more details will be on the other site at some point over the weekend.)
Strasburg is undeniably impressive. However, this was (luckily for us) not his best outing. He had to shave off some of his velocity to get back some control, and even then, there was movement in the Nats bullpen twice during his first few innings. When we got the first run, I was hopeful that that was going to be sufficient. When we got the second run, I was absolutely overjoyed. When we loaded the bases and Jeff Francoeur stepped to the plate, I was optimistic, but given the lack of offensive production from our $$$ left fielder, I was not exactly doing the hula boola, especially after Jason Bay was unable to be at all productive in a similar situation earlier in the lineup.
“Hey, Jeff Francoeur, how about some production for a change,” I said.
“C’mon, he could do it. All he’d have to do is get a little pine under that and boom,” TBF said.
“Your theory interests me and I would like to receive your literature,” I said, as Frenchy managed to not do anything, as usual.
R.A. Dickey was also impressive today. It is impressive how he continues to be impressive. He gets up, he does his job, he sits back down. It is not sexy and it is not STAR PITCHING PHENOM, but I will take Dickey’s quiet workmanlike approach as long as it continues to be effective for us. He is smart; I like him on our team. (I liked his post-game comment to David Lennon about Strasburg: “It was kind of anti-climactic. He’s good, but I felt like the ball was going to be invisible. I saw it.”
[TBF wants me to work his vacuum cleaner joke into the piece. We were watching Twitter, where Julie from Chicago Mets Fan was discussing the Roomba she and her new husband (Mazel tov, again) received as a wedding present, and how they were watching it go around the room like a pet. I mentioned that I always wanted a Roomba, but that I felt they were expensive and you could buy a good vacuum cleaner for the same price. "You already have a good vacuum cleaner," he noted. I said that I did, that I had spent quite a lot of time researching it before I bought it, and I wanted a really, really good vacuum. "No," he said, barely able to contain himself (you know where this is going already, right?) - "You wanted one that sucked really, really hard."
There. I have done my duty. I will point out that he did all the driving on the trip today and I am feeling particularly indebted.]
I would rate the Nats as about average when it comes to music. Nothing to love particularly and nothing to hate, except for two things that must be mentioned:
- The song in the stretch was – wait for it – KC And the Sunshine Band’s “That’s The Way I Like It”. Maybe the Nats music director wasn’t alive when this song came out, but I’m not even sure the meaning is ambiguous: it’s about snorting cocaine and having sex at the discoteque. I cannot find anything even remotely appropriate about this usage of this song, and I have been trying hard to come up with one in the few hours we have been driving home from DC.
- The usage of “Dancing In The Street” not once, but twice. Once in a video with Screech the Eagle running around the District and getting people to dance with him, and second and more important, as the NATS WIN song. Hello, the DETROIT Tigers called and want their song back. You cannot use a Top 10 Motown Classic as a “we win!” song in Washington, DC, I am sorry. There are laws against this sort of thing (and if there aren’t, there should be. Kind of like how it’s a misdemeanor in 35 states to turn off the radio if the Rolling Stones are on – or at least I used to insist to the clueless.) I realize that there’s nothing in the Minor Threat or Fugazi catalog that would be appropriate and there isn’t a lot of other well-known local DC music but I do think there might be some awesome DC go-go song you could pull out in a retro kind of way.
I’m done now. (And will save you the Rob Gordon-esque ‘MetsGrrl’s Top 10 Motown Songs – this time.)
There was actually a lot to like about this game. There was a lot to like about consistent, solid at bats from several players in the lineup, including Josh Thole. If the Jedi Mind Trick actually worked, Josh Thole would already be traded to Seattle for Cliff Lee, because every Mets fan on Planet Earth was thinking about how he was increasing his trade value every time he stepped up to the plate. Alex Cora, he in whose name many regularly don sackcloth and ashes and bemoan as to why he is on the team let alone in the lineup, was some kind of offensive production machine.
And even when the Nats tied it up and sent out Storen and then, in a presentation of delightful Karma, Tyler Clippard, we eked out more runs. There was a lead. Things were good. We were confident.
Honestly, everything that happened next was actually all my fault. It was all my fault because when the Nats blogger behind me (Hi, Let Teddy Win) said something about leaving early, that the game was over, I reminded him that they were still facing the Mets and we had ways of messing up perfectly fine leads.
And then Francisco Rodriguez came into the game.
I propped my feet up on the ledge in front of me, pulled my hat down tighter, and my t-shirt up over my nose. At home I tend to cover my eyes with both hands and peek through my fingers. TBF will go sit at his desk so he can hear but can’t see, but will then run over when something bad (or good) happens. Instead, I had screaming 7 year olds hollering LET’S GO NATS and the older couple next to me suddenly very interested in the game (to their credit, their teenage kids left but they didn’t) and the fan camera was a couple of sections over with the two fans who were on their feet applauding their team.
(Nats fans were pretty all right, I have to say. There was some good-natured ribbing and they seemed like they were paying attention and aware as to what was going on. They’re not particularly loud as a fan group, but it was very, very hot today.)
Just when you thought things couldn’t get worse, they did. Just when you thought it really couldn’t get any worse, it did. Just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse but might actually be over soon, thus putting you out of your live-and-in-person misery, the umpires stroll off for a review of the play, while TBF is standing in the front row yelling that the runners passed each other on the basepaths and the entire Nats dugout is standing on the field waving their hands over their heads in the HR sign.
There was actually part of me that thought that even after that we could still somehow manage to salvage the game. I am not sure what that part of me is, or was, or how it exactly manifested itself while TBF is packing up his stuff and urging me to be ready to bolt at any second. I do know that once that brilliant in-game tactician, Jerry Manuel, brought the infield in again, I had my doubts. “Take a picture of that,” TBF hollered, “Something this stupid needs to be commemorated.”
And when we did bolt up the stairs and straight onto the elevator that was right in front of us, we had two teenage Nats fans start to snicker and say something about the Mets losing.
“How does it feel in last place, guys?”
They suddenly looked panicked, as though they hadn’t considered the comeback possibilities.
I almost felt bad. I had my “At least I’m not making my October golfing reservations now, like you should be” retort all lined up and didn’t even need it.
Thankfully, the walk to the gate and back to the Metro was peaceful (except for a terrible cover band ruining “Psycho Killer” to the point that David Byrne might want to consider legal action) and there were enough Mets fans on the train that we felt like we had backup had someone wanted to get into it… which, of course, they did not.
The road losses are the worst. They are the worst because you head to the game in such high spirits, you are far from home (even if you’re just in the Bronx), you are decked out to represent, you cannot hide, you are not there to hide. You have to take your knocks while still fervently wishing you could find a rock to crawl under and hide. You deal with feeble taunting or outright inaccurate statements or even completely correct assertions and you are usually on your own with no support. And then you have the entire trip home (or evening in the hotel) to ruminate on the loss you just spent time and money to experience.
This loss was particularly brutal. We knew it, the Nats fans knew it, the media knew it, the other fans of other teams stuck watching our game on FOX knew it, and as comments after the game indicate, Mr. Rodriguez knew it. (I did mutter something on the train about how I hoped that there was some kind of clubhouse justice awaiting him for that brutal outing. We’re still 3 games out of first place, and considering that I expected to write this season off entirely, I will try to be philosophical about it. Especially when the Reds are here, the Braves are coming to town, and I am about to face six long distance road games, where WE BELIEVE IN HOME FIELD ADVANTAGE will not apply.