Tasmainia is wonderful for many, many things, like breathtaking landscape and its utterly unique wildlife. Hotspots, not among them, so excepting a brief encounter with a dialup machine in the attic of a bed and breakfast in Strahan, on Tassie’s West Coast to send out an email or two and set the fantasy teams in order, I’ve been offline.
And now, after a week’s layoff, we’re back on the Aussie mainland, Melbourne, to be exact, and I’m catching up on this and that.
"This" mainly has been the Mets, who have managed to go 3-11 since I left the States, and that includes them taking two of their last three from the Braves. Wow, that’s uglier than I could have even imagined.
Upon checking into the hotel yesterday morning (the boat from Tasmania reached here at 6 a.m. local time), my wife took a nap and I flipped on the TV, and on Fox Sports 2, the ear-piercing tones of Steve Lyons and Matt Vasgersian calling a very, very boring Dodgers-Giants game. But, hey, it’s baseball over breakfast and at least the commercials are different (ie., Australians must not have an ED problem).
With Australia’s loss to England in the Ashes — the first time they lost in this particular cricket tournament in decades, if what I hear is correct — attention has turned to the "footy" finals, between the West Coast Eagles and the Sydney Swans for the AFL (Australian Football League) championship.
I’m trying to take a bit of hope from the Swans — they haven’t won the flag since 1933. For all the years we say wait ’til the next one, that next one does inevitably arrive. Of course, this could be their 2000 for the Swans, going to the brink, just to lose in the finals. But it could be ’86 or ’69, too — it seems like the Mets have been snakebitten for so long. But it’s just part of the game. We’ll be back next year.
Five days away, five straight losses for the Amazin’s. After we checked out the devestating Anzac Memorial in Hyde Park (dedicated, primarily, for Australia and New Zealand’s war dead at Gallipoli in 1915), my wife asked if I was superstitious and had to rush back to the US, with the Mets 0-5 since reaching Australia.
Of course not. Although it’s a bad sign when even Jae Seo is losing.
I quit superstitions during the wonderful baseball season of 1999, during a road trip to Atlanta in late September. Mets were two out in the NL East (and at that point, I believe with a few-game lead in the Wild Card) with about a dozen to play. First night there, I was wearing a Mets jersey and hat, with jeans. 2-1 loss. Second night, no hat, a T-shirt and cords. 5-2 loss. Third night, different hat, different pants and I shaved my beard. 6-3 loss.
And since, I’ve been done with superstitions of all kinds.
Last night I caught a bit of the cricket match between Australia and England — it’s an event that takes place every two years, I believe, and the pubs down here were packed with people watching it. I still can’t get my arms wrapped around the rules, although at one point I could sort of follow.
The guy who pitches for Australia was bringing it as fast as 92 mph, averaging around 88, both of which is faster than Tom Glavine, who I really shouldn’t begrudge since he has done his part for most of the season. OK, it’s better than John Franco.
One thing which was pretty great was when the commentators — nope, no Scooter — kept referring to the guy’s pitches as the "bouncy pitch." Which it technically was (they bounce the delivery off the dirt at the hitter), but still, the tendency to add a "y" or "ie" at the end of words here (footy match for a football game, prezzie for present) just rules.
In trying to describe to Aussies what I do for a living (editorial producer for MLB.com — no, that probably doesn’t make any sense to people who know what mlb.com is either), I’m stuck trying to describe just how Major League Baseball is organized and how the game is actually played. It’s really not too much like cricket — any visitor to the Hall of Fame has seen painted on one of the walls the description of baseball being much more related to rounders than cricket. People seem to be dumbstruck at the salaries baseball players make — I guess Americans and fans of the game are dumbstruck, too, we’re just used to it.
The biggest rugby players down here, I’ve been told, make about $800,000 (and that’s probably Australian dollars, too, which trade at about 80 cents on the American dollar). Felix Heredia — worst pitcher ever — makes $1.8 million, $1 million more than the best rugby player. Of course, the best rugby player in America makes probably zero dollars in America and $24,000 at whatever is desk job is, so whatcha gonna do.
Today calls for a goodbye to beautiful Sydney, a truly remarkable international city. In about 6 hours we take to a boat to sail off to Tasmania, where the British used to put convicts even more dangerous than the ones they shipped to mainland Australia. I have zero idea if there’s easy-to-track Internet down there; one listing showed four hotspots on the island (it’s about the size of West Virginia). There are like four hotspots per city block in New York, so it’s a change of pace.
Hey, Piazza’s back! Not sure what that’ll mean, but I guess it can’t hurt.
Oh, and even though we’re on the other side of the world, we never forget.
… I had no idea the Yankees were playing the Red Sox this weekend until just now. I consider myself spared. My apologies to all back home suffering from what I imagine is absolutely deafening coverage.
Nice work by Seo escaping trouble in the first, too….
The last thing the Mets need is the series they’re in. They don’t need the Cardinals. Not now. The Nationals are as tragic and mismanaged — on the field, at least — as the Mets are. But they’re still a few games away. And now, they have to deal with the Cardinals, who may have the most overrated manager of the last half-century, but they also have one of the best hitters of our generation in Albert Pujols and a pitching staff that just can’t lose.
Yesterday we got Chris Carpenter, and while I missed the whole thing, I bet it was over before it started, as the 5-0 final seems to indicate.
This Mets team is extrordinarily frustrating. Because when they win, they look invincible. And when they lose, I wonder if they’ll ever win again. Remarkably exciting and capable of scoring baskets of runs, stealing more bases than I can remember a Mets team doing. And then for days, they get shut out, scratching out a few singles here and there.
I was thinking about this as I otherwise enjoyed a day at Sydney’s Taronga Zoo, watching orangutans slap each other over an apple, observing a wallaby sit in a corner looking like he was coming down from a bender and dodging birds doing their business in the aviary.
My distinct feelings for the Cardinals go back to 1985. Still young, and in my third or fourth season as a really diehard baseball and Mets fan.
There were six of games left, and the Mets were three games out of first behind the Cardinals of Vince Coleman, et. al. Tall order, eh? But the Mets got to face the Cards for three.
Game 1, Darryl Strawberry hits the homer off the Busch Stadium scoreboard, Ron Darling outduels John Tudor, and the Mets cut the deficit to two. Game 2, Dwight Gooden gets some run support and the Mets take care of Joaquin Andujar for a 5-2 win.
Game 3 is left to Rick Aguilera (Danny Cox for Stl?). And Aguilera lost. He only lost like 4-3, but it may as well have been 10-0. And what could have been a tie for first in the NL East became a two-game deficit again with three to play (in Montreal).
I held out hope that the Mets could sweep in Montreal while the Cubs took care of business in St. Louis. Never happened. The Mets won 98 games and still finished three games out of first.
Now, 20 years later, we’re 11 games out of first in the NL East, 5 1/2 out of the Wild Card and on the brink of falling back under .500. The "Mike Jacobs-David Wright" West Coast trip of last month may as well have been 20 years ago.
I was home in New York in October 1985, enjoying Murphy & Thorne, McCarver, Kiner and Zabriske on radio and Channel 9 (cable hadn’t snaked up our block yet). But earlier in the summer, our family was overseas on vacation. I remember Darryl Strawberry hitting three homers to lift the Mets into a tie for first the day before the players went on strike. I read about all of this in the Herald Tribune.
And now I’m reading all about the 70-70 Mets — most exciting .500 team in baseball, we’ve been saying that all year — from the Internet from Australia. I hate to feel like I’m not missing much, but it doesn’t appear I am. Since I touched down, the Mets are 0-4. And it doesn’t seem like a strong 0-4.
Today’s a day for shopping, a You Am I show in the park later on tonight. The Cubs and Brewers are on the right side of the Wild Card standings for the Mets, but seem to be gaining as the Mets plummet. And the Cubs have already done their dumping.
Like the wallaby coming down from his bender, the Mets of recent years peak too early.
Even in ’99, when we made it into the postseason, we peaked in the summer and then needed Brad Clontz to uncork a wild pitch. No such luck in ’98, and Benitez blowups screwed things up to prevent the ’01 miracle. And last summer, one game out of the East in Philly, we never got closer. This summer, it was a half-game from the Wild Card lead.
It’s just days into spring in Australia, but like the Housemartins sang, I smell winter.
It was at around noon Thursday morning Sydney time, that I threw on ESPN — we get ESPN Australia in the hotel room. The day before, I’d checked the channel and it it was brutal — World Cup qualifiers, an Aussie version of PTI – but nothing to give me even the most remote hope that I could see even two minutes of baseball highlights.
But then, right before we headed out for meat pies at Harry’s Cafe de Wheels in Woolloomooloo and before we were going to take the Bridgeclimb, I flicked the TV on ESPN one more time, and there he was, Vladimir Guerrero taking his sweet swing as Jon Miller and Joe Morgan droned on. Sox-Angels, Wednesday night game of the week on live, Thursday morning!
LIve baseball, I guess it doesn’t matter who it is. Although it was funny — no paid advertisements between innings, only house ads. Baseball must not sell too well in Australia on a Thursday morning.
Then I saw something that induced a "Holy ****!" or something quite like it:
"Mets vs. Braves" — it’s up next. (Of course, I had a picture of it. I’m on vacation — my camera’s never more than a foot away, or a meter, if I say it like they’d want me to).
Back-to-back games, two 7:30ET starts one after another, Mets obviously on tape delay, which probably explained why they never ran the ticker beneath the Sox game with updated scores.
Naturally, I was going to miss the game. But I am on my honeymoon and I was going to miss it in order to climb an iconic structure in an international city (Sydney Harbour Bridge).
But there was still time to catch a few innings post-lunch, pre-climb.
Mets up, 2-0, in the fifth. Glavine looked good — finally — against his old team. I even got to see Kaz Matsui get a base hit, I barely remember what that was like. Sure, it was a total looper over Larry Jones’ head. But whatever, it was a hit.
The Glavine was tagged for a run on a Langerhans hit, but he seemed to escape OK.
And then I had to go.
Naturally, they lost again, this time in extras. I didn’t see a minute of the latest collapse. But it didn’t sound fun.
Thankfully the trip, otherwise, has been.
I really hope I have a race to come back to.
Update: I meant to mention this earlier, but I forgot. Biggest story out here right now has to be about the one unaccounted-for Aussie who was in New Orleans when Katrina hit. No one could find him for a week-plus. Then they tracked him down — in jail. Turned out he was arrested right before the hurricane hit for drunk and disorderly concuct and thrown in prison.
I love that when the Mets play at 7:30 p.m. back East, I can follow them on MLB.TV at 9:30 in the morning out here. I mean, please — the game is over by like noon down here, leaving the whole day to dwell on things like how the Mets just can’t win at Turner Field — like there’s some kind of vapor, choking their bats, choking their chances.
Can we give Pedro a win, like, ever?
Of course, only found about about all this hours later. I DID see the beginning of the game on MLB.TV only to have to leave the hotel to actually enjoy my honeymoon. I mention to the guy sitting at the pub — it’s here I recommend Tooheys and VB — that while the rugby on the TV sure is fun to watch, "you wouldn’t know how Pedro did against Smoltz, would you?" He didn’t.
At least we got some good news, with Victor Zam-banished.
Still, 4 1/2 out of the WC doesn’t bode well.
At least I have a marriage to look forward to.