On Both Sides Of The Coin
It was a cold, cold night in Queens. Just minutes before first pitch, the sky opened up and a great storm blasted through. Torrential rain came down on the stadium as blustering winds sent fans and debris scrambling around nooks and crannies. The storm came out of nowhere and was surely a sign from the Baseball Gods that something was amiss.
I was among the fans seeking refuge in stairwells until the rain suddenly stopped and gave way to bright sunshine. Everything went without a hitch and the game was to start at the regularly rescheduled time. With anticipation, 27,000+ went to their seats and saw a glorious sight:
Max Scherzer. In Citi Field. In a Mets uniform.
Just the thought of such a thing seems wrong. Since being traded to Washington, he was a thorn in the side of every Mets fan, a scratch they could never itch. He always flourished in those confines and even enjoyed a no-hitter there. The Flushing Faithful has spent years cursing his name while all along respecting him for being one of the best pitchers in the game. And we braved 45° temperatures to cheer our asses off for him. It was such a novelty.
He didn’t take the novelty for granted. One after one, he retired Giants in succession. After 3 innings, the words “no hitter” were already being passed around. His command was on point as was the defense behind him. I hadn’t heard Citi Field this electric since last summer, when Jacob deGrom’s abbreviated brilliant outing turned Mardi Gras into a funeral procession. Despite his climbing pitch count, I could hear words being passed around. “He’s going to do it”, “he’s doing the thing” and “we’re witnessing history right now”. After the top of the 6th, when Darin Ruf roped a blooper to left field, only one of those statements remained true.
We witnessed history.
On paper, it was a typical outing for Scherzer. 7 innings with 10 strikeouts and 4 base runners. But for us, it was something so much more. It was a glimmer of hope, knowing that the pitching staff had more than one guy. It showed that the new owner was willing to spend on the right people.
And most of all, the final boss is finally on our side.
The Dodgers were already down by the time I got home. It was to prototypical Dodger loss, where the bats just don’t click whatsoever. Even the fabled Murderer’s Row had some off days. I think. That was beside the point. The Braves had the game lock, stock and barrel, but they kept it close seemingly on purpose. With the Braves up 3-1 in the bottom of the 9th, myself and a sold out Dodger Stadium witnessed a cursed image:
Kenley Jansen. A man on a mission. Walking out of the visitors bullpen.
I knew that it would happen eventually, but I never thought it would be this soon. It was downright awkward. The PA didn’t even give him the benefit of playing “California Love” for him (in hindsight, they should’ve. It might’ve thrown him off his game). Some fans cheered, more fans booed and the others stayed silent. I could feel the pigment in my skin fade. This felt just plain wrong.
Every cutter he threw cut into the psyche of every Dodger fan. You could tell he was breathing fire, as his velocity went up to 96 MPH. I hoped that this would feel just as bad for him as it did for us. That he would just put his glove down and say he couldn’t do it. But this isn’t Pro Wrestling, this is baseball and baseball is a business.
In the end, he had a clean save. He hugged his catcher, another former Dodger legend, Travis D’Arnaud. He was still the same old Kenley, but completely different. The loss felt extremely empty and now there’s a dread knowing that this won’t be the only time this will happen. The show must go on whether we like it or not. What’s important is that Kenley is playing for a team and fan base that appreciates him, which I believe to be true.
We thought that Kenley would be a Dodger for life. The ownership thought otherwise. And this is exactly how every Brave fan felt this week when they had to watch Freddie Freeman hit two home runs off them. And this is how Nationals fans will feel every time the Mets come to town. When fans grow an attachment to a player, letting go is a hard thing to do. But when the other team gains a beloved player, it’s a wonderful feeling.
In one night, in the span of 5 hours, I felt both sides of the coin.
Baseball is fucking weird, isn’t it?