Welcome to the Flushing Funhouse, also known as CitiField, home of the New York Mets. They are supposed to play baseball here and occasionally, they do that. Most of the time, though, the antics of the home team barely resemble the basics of the best game ever invented.
Casey Stengel, the first manager of this star-crossed franchise, once observed, “Come to the ballpark. You’ll see something you never saw before.’’ This is a specialty of the Mets. In one ugly week, they managed to push the strange stuff to new dimensions.
Let’s start with Mr. Met, the goofy mascot with the huge-sized baseball for a head. Somebody in charge of the franchise years ago thought it was a good idea to dress some poor soul in this silly get-up and have him cavort around the ballpark, dancing on the dugouts, shooting T-shirts into the stands, all manner of activities designed perhaps to distract the paying customers from what was happening on the field.
Today, the unfortunate person in the Mr. Met costume is on the unemployment line in Queens after being fired by the team. His crime was flipping the bird to a paying customer, not a very nice thing for him to do. There was no explanation for this bit of bad behavior but in Mr. Met’s defense, he has only four fingers, making a middle finger bird flip just about impossible. Somehow, however, he managed and now there is a new employee in the Mr. Met suit with the bulbous baseball head running around the Funhouse.
The next day, the Mets were playing the Milwaukee Brewers when a lazy pop foul drifted near the visiting dugout on the third base side of the field. Wilmer Flores, playing third for the home team, came over, preparing to make the play when suddenly, he found himself tangled up with the Brewers’ batboy, another Mets employee working for the visitors. The bat boy realized he was in the wrong place at the wrong time and started to leave, carrying his stool with him.
Just as Flores prepared to catch the ball, here came the bat boy. The collision included the stool hitting the Mets third baseman in the midsection. The ball dropped untouched and that set of a dandy argument about interference which resulted with Mets manager Terry Collins being ejected from the game. The bat boy, however, was allowed to remain.
For their next bit of entertainment, the Mets welcomed the Pittsburgh Pirates to the Funhouse. Before the game, the Pirates regular catcher, Francisco Cervelli reported sick. This required the Pirates to insert rookie catcher Elias Diaz, who has bounced around the Pittsburgh organization since 2009. His baseball resume included just nine major league games over three seasons with two hits in 18 career at-bats and one lonely run batted in.
These are not Yogi Berra or Johnny Bench numbers. But his modest history was no problem for Diaz against the Mets. He drove in six runs with a bases-loaded double and a three-run home run. The Funhouse certainly agreed with him.
And so, the laugh-a-minute season continues for the poor Mets, who reached the Memorial Day weekend – the first milestone in the baseball marathon – far removed from any playoff contention.
This should not interfere with the entertainment factor. Remember Casey Stengel’s sage advice. “Come to the ballpark. You’ll see something you never saw before.’’
Especially if that ballpark is CitiField.